Rick Ray enters his third year as Southeast Missouri’s head coach. In his second season a year ago, Ray led Southeast to a +10 increase in the win column as the Redhawks were the 22nd Most Improved Team in NCAA Division I Basketball. The Redhawks finished at 15-18 overall and second in the Ohio Valley Conference West Division with a 9-7 mark after going 5-24 and placing last in the OVC in 2015-16. Southeast made its 15th all-time OVC Tournament appearance with Ray winning the first game he coached at the event when the Redhawks erased a 14-point deficit to beat Tennessee State in overtime.
Statistically, Southeast showed dramatic improvement from the previous season. The Redhawks ranked among the top-five in the OVC in several categories, including steals (1st, 7.7), assist/turnover ratio (5th, 1.1) and 3 point field goals made (5th, 8.0). Southeast made its biggest jump from the 2015-16 season to this past season in turnover margin (8th to 1st), 3-point field goal percentage (last to 2nd) and free throw percentage (last to 2nd). Nationally, Southeast went from 331st to 49th in free throw percentage and 336th to 59th in total 3-point field goals made, while making significant improvement in many other areas during the 2016-17 campaign.
Additionally, Ray coached a pair of All-OVC selections in guards Antonius Cleveland and Denzel Mahoney. Cleveland earned first-team honors, became the first Southeast player to make the national College Slam Dunk Championship and agreed to a deal with the Golden State Warriors. Mahoney was the league’s Freshman of the Year, a second-team pick, All-Newcomer selection and OVC All-Tournament Team honoree. It was the first time the Redhawks had multiple All-OVC selections since 2013-14 (Tyler Stone, Jarekious Bradley).
Following the 2016-17 campaign, Ray received a two-year contract extension that runs through the 2020-21 season.
Ray was introduced as the 20th head coach in Southeast Missouri men’s basketball history on April 13, 2015.
Ray is the first African-American head coach in the 109-year history of the program.
A tireless worker, Ray is structuring his program to achieve success both on the court and in the classroom.
In his first summer on the job, Ray challenged his players to excel academically and they did so by accumulating a 3.38 grade point average, the program’s highest in a summer term.
Twelve of the 15 players enrolled in summer classes posted a 3.0 or higher GPA. To take it even further, Ray convinced other players to remain on campus and finish what they started. As a result, seven players graduated. Nino Johnson, Jarekious Bradley, Darrian Gray and J.J. Thompson, along with former players Corey Wilford, Waylon Jones and Dainmon Gonner all earned their bachelor degrees.
The next summer, the Redhawks recorded a 3.33 GPA with six players achieving a 4.0 and 11 notching a 3.0 or higher GPA.
Ray’s 2015-16 team was the first to play in a newly-renovated Show Me Center, which has served as home to Redhawk Basketball since 1987.
One of the best basketball arenas in the Ohio Valley Conference, the Show Me Center received a new state-of-the-art center-hung video board, brand new telescopic seating, a new exterior roof and additional improvements to lighting and sound systems. All renovations were completed for the 2015-16 campaign.
Prior to Southeast, Ray spent three seasons as head coach at Mississippi State. He led the Bulldogs to a 2-2 mark in the SEC Tournament, including an upset win against Vanderbilt
in 2013-14. Ray helped the development of two All-SEC freshmen in Craig Sword and Gavin Ware, as his recruiting classes received national attention. In addition, Ray had a 100 percent graduation rate during his tenure at MSU.
Certainly no stranger to NCAA postseason play, Ray has been an assistant at three different institutions that enjoyed success at the highest level.
Before arriving in Starkville, Mississippi, Ray spent two seasons at Clemson, where he was associate head coach to Brad Brownell. Ray also spent four successful years on the staff of Matt Painter at Purdue. He began his Division I coaching career at Indiana State, serving seven seasons.
All three programs participated in the NCAA Tournament.
While at Clemson coaching in the highly-competitive Atlantic Coast Conference, the Tigers won 38 games during Ray’s two-year stint as associate head coach. In 2010-11, the Tigers finished the year with a 22-12 overall record and 9-7 mark in the ACC en route to making the NCAA Tournament for the fourth-straight season. Clemson advanced to the second round of the tournament that year.
Ray was an assistant coach from 2006-10 under Painter at Purdue, where the Boilermakers won 103 games during his first four years on staff, including 15 victories over Top 25 competition. During his tenure, Purdue advanced to the NCAA Tournament each season and made the Sweet 16 his last two years there.
In 2009, the Boilermakers won the Big Ten Tournament and secured a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament. A year later, Ray helped the Boilermakers to 29 wins, tied for the most in Purdue history for a single season. Purdue earned a No. 4 seed and lost in the round of 16 to eventual NCAA champion Duke during the 2010 NCAA Tournament.
Ray was part of the 2006-07 Purdue staff that signed arguably the top class in school history, a group that was rated No. 5 nationally by Scout.com and No. 6 by Rivals.com. That class included All-Americans Robbie Hummel and JaJuan Johnson and current NBA player E’Twaun Moore.
While at Purdue, Ray was on Painter’s staff that also included Cuonzo Martin, who recently completed his second season at Cal, and Paul Lusk, who is head coach at Missouri State.
Ray coached at Missouri Valley Conference member Indiana State for a period of seven years (1997-2004), helping ISU to consecutive 20-win seasons and NCAA Tournament appearances in 1999-2000 and 2000-01. In 1999-2000, the Sycamores compiled a 14-4 record in the MVC and won the regular season title. ISU then won the MVC Tournament the following season. The Sycamores later upset No. 4 seed Oklahoma in the first round of the 2001 NCAA Tournament. In addition, Ray was part of the ISU staff that defeated perennial power Indiana in back-to-back seasons.
Following his time at ISU, Ray spent two seasons (2004-06) as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Northern Illinois. In 2005-06, the Huskies were regular season Western Division champions in the Mid-American Conference for the first time in school history with a 17-11 overall record and 12-6 ledger in the MAC.
Ray began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, a Division II program. He helped orchestrate a seven-win turnaround during his second season in 1996-97.
A standout player for Grand View College (Iowa), Ray was an All-American Scholar-Athlete and honorable mention all-conference performer in 1993.
He earned his undergraduate degree in applied mathematics and secondary education from Grand View in 1994. Ray received his master’s degree in athletic administration from Nebraska-Omaha in 1997.
Those type of heralded credentials helped Ray make the transition to head coach. In 2013, he was the recipient of Grand View’s Distinguished Alumni Award.
Born in Gardena, California, Ray moved to Kansas City, Kansas with his family when he was six years old.
Ray and his wife, Breyana, have two sons, Deacon and Mason, and a daughter, Katriece.