Bulldog Maroon & White

a Mississippi State sports blog

Mississippi State Assistant Robert Kirby Vies For Grambling Gig

Posted by Kyle Weidie on May 12, 2008

It was reported late last week by the News Star out of Monroe, Louisiana that Mississippi State Bulldog assistant, Robert Kirby, was in the running to be the head basketball coach at Grambling University. Kirby was mentioned along with Cameron Dollar, an assistant at the University of Washington, and Roman Banks, an assistant at Southeastern Louisiana, as the top candidates. Current North Texas assistant, Tic Price, has removed his name from consideration. The Clarion-Ledger has confirmed that Kirby has had an official interview.

The job at the Grambling, Louisiana school became available when Larry Wright was fired after nine years of service. Wright was born in Monroe, LA, but attended high school in Washington, D.C. at Western High, known today as the Duke Ellington School of the Arts. Wright starred at Grambling as a player for three years in the early 70s, earning SWAC accolades such as freshman of the year, all-conference (twice), and finally, conference player of the year in his junior season before declaring for the 1976 NBA draft.

Larry Wright was selected 14th overall (Grambling’s only NBA 1st round selection in history) by my hometown Washington Bullets, and was apart of their 1978 NBA Championship team where he provided key minutes at the point off the bench. Wright went on to play for the Detroit Pistons and then in Italy, where he earned European player of the year honors and went up against the likes of current New York Knicks coach, Mike D’Antoni.

After being a Grambling assistant, an NBA scout and a high-school head coach, Larry Wright was appointed head coach of the Tigers in 1999. Unfortunately for Wright, he never brought his playing day success to Grambling as he had only two winning seasons and amassed an 88-161 record. This past season, the Grambling State Tigers finished 7-19, 7-11 in the SWAC.

Once could say that Mississippi State’s Robert Kirby is long overdue for a head coaching job. He has been an assistant for the Bulldogs since 1998. Prior to ’98, the Memphis native was an assistant among the college ranks for 16 years honing his coaching skills at schools like the University of Houston, Southeastern Louisiana, and Arkansas-Little Rock. Kirby also had a stint as a Mississippi State assistant from 1989-1993.

After 26 total years in the assistant coaching game, Robert Kirby’s coaching experience dwarfs that of the other candidates. Roman Banks has been the top assistant for Southeastern Louisiana for the past five season (associate head coach for the past three). Banks was previously an assistant at Southern for six years as well two years as head coach at Southern University-Shreveport, a junior college.

Cameron Dollar, after being a player on UCLA’s 1995 National Championship team (which defeated Miss. State 86-67 in the Sweet 16), entered his career in coaching as an assistant at UC Irvine in 1997. At age 22, Dollar became a head coach at an NAIA school, Southern California College. He served as a part-time assistant for the Georgia Bulldogs in 1999 before becoming a full-time assistant at St. Louis University under Lorenzo Romar. In 2002, Dollar became an assistant under Romar at Washington and has been there since.

Robert Kirby has been Rick Stansbury’s top recruiting assistant during Stansbury’s 10-year head coaching tenure at Mississippi State. Kirby has been more than instrumental in procuring the talent for a very successful program. Should he depart, he will be sorely missed. But as a Bulldog fan and someone who knows Robert Kirby personally, I can only wish him the best of luck as he is more than deserving of the opportunity to man his own ship. I recall Kirby being up for the head coaching position at Jackson State University in 2003. That time, Jackson State went with experience in Tevester Anderson, who previously served as head coach at Murray State for five years. This time, Grambling should do the same, go with experience.

[UPDATE: Coach Kirby has spoken with Gregg Ellis of the NE Mississippi Daily Journal about the Grambling position. Nothing ground-breaking…..just that it’s an opportunity, Grambling has some new facilities making it a more attractive program, and that there is no set time-table on a hire.]

[UPDATE 2:  On May 15th, Robert Kirby took his name out of the running for the Grambling job. FoxSports.com reported that Grambling hired former South Carolina assistant, Rick Duckett.]

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