The Walkthrough: Criticism of Stansbury may be misguided

Evan Heichelbech is the sports editor for the College Heights Herald during Fall 2017.

Evan Heichelbech

When WKU men’s basketball Head Coach Rick Stansbury was asked how to stop Marshall from winning in its own building last weekend, all he could do was chuckle and say, “I don’t have the answer to that one,” and how couldn’t he?

The first-year WKU head coach is no stranger to success on the court, but this season has been a challenge for the entire Hilltopper program.

When former Head Coach Ray Harper parted ways with WKU last spring along with key perimeter players Fred Edmond, Chris McNeal and Marlon Hunter, Stansbury took over and was handed a fragmented roster with zero guards in place for the 2016-2017 season. Stansbury had to scramble to get enough scholarship players for the start of the season, and he did so admirably, bringing in three established graduate transfers and seven players in total. But like any team with a collection of players who come in with little to no chemistry together, the Toppers have had a difficult time putting it all together.

Stansbury ultimately didn’t have the answer to stop Marshall at home, where the Herd are a perfect 10-0, as the Tops fell 94-80. WKU now sits at 9-11 on the season, and some fans on social media have started to question if Stansbury is the man for the job. But any criticism toward the head coach is misguided.

Stansbury has coached rosters with McDonald’s All-Americans and he has coached rosters less-talented than the one he is dealing with now, but any evaluation of the job Stansbury has done thus far must be done with caution.

Stansbury was tasked with building a roster as soon as he got the job, and in the wake of losing three forwards in redshirt sophomore Willie Carmichael, and freshmen Marko Stajkovski and Marty Leahy for various reasons, the roster is down to 10 players and the job is only getting tougher.

WKU is currently on a four-game skid, losing four straight contests on the road all by double digits.

If there’s any good news in the short term, the Tops return home on Thursday to play a 5-13 Texas El Paso team that has yet to win on the road this season. But the real good news comes as soon as next season with McDonald’s All-American recruit Mitchell Robinson headlining a haul of talent coming to the Hill in the fall.

Stansbury will essentially have a new roster next season and a chance to prove himself to Topper fans if they still need convincing.

While Stansbury is a seasoned and veteran coach, it’s difficult  to evaluate him as such in this situation. 

Reporter Evan Heichelbech can be reached at 502-415-1817 and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at         @evanheich.