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Men's basketball: Search begins to replace CU Buffs assistant Rick Ray

Apr. 11—Finding the right players to fill the open spots on the roster isn't the only matter on Tad Boyle's to-do list this spring.

The Colorado men's basketball coach confirmed with BuffZone a report last week from national college basketball reporter Jeff Goodman that assistant Rick Ray is leaving CU to be part of the new staff at Vanderbilt. As of early Thursday afternoon, Vanderbilt had not officially announced the move, but Boyle said he already has spoken with a few potential candidates to replace Ray.

Boyle hasn't had to search for new assistants frequently during his 14 seasons at CU, but he has said in the past he usually keeps a shortlist of potential assistant prospects for whenever the need arises. Boyle also said this week the elevated level of coach movement in today's game leads to a wealth of qualified candidates on the market.

"I do still keep that list, but Rick Ray wasn't on that list when he became available. The point is, you never know who is going to become available," Boyle said. "The one thing I always say about coaching at Colorado, is that you're always going to be able to get good players. It's the same way with coaches. We lost a good coach in Rick Ray. But we're going to be able to go get another good coach."

Boyle hasn't had to hire a new assistant since he hired Ray ahead of the 2020-21 COVID season, which ended with an NCAA Tournament berth for the Buffs. Ray spent four seasons with the Buffs, a run that included two appearances in the second round of the NCAA Tournament as well as a pair of NIT berths. Ray was part of a staff that helped the Buffs post the team record in season free throw percentage (.819 in 2020-21) and 3-point percentage (.391 this season).

Ray replaced Anthony Coleman, who spent just one season as an assistant at CU (2019-20) before returning to Arizona State.

While it is a lateral move for Ray at Vanderbilt, he returns to a region that, geographically, will be familiar territory. Prior to his time at CU, Ray spent five seasons as the head coach at Southeast Missouri State, from 2015-16 through 2019-20. In early 2023 Ray won $300,000 in a settlement with Southeast Missouri State after the school initially attempted to fire Ray for cause, denying him the remaining financial terms of his contract.

Before his stint at SEMO, Ray spent three seasons as the head coach at Mississippi State. He served as an assistant coach during stints at Clemson, Purdue, Northern Illinois and Indiana State.

As the Buffs look to fill two roster spots this spring — and perhaps more, depending on the final NBA draft decisions of Cody Williams and KJ Simpson — Boyle reiterated he doesn't believe there is a need to be hasty in finding Ray's replacement, despite the busy carousel of spring recruiting. Part of that confidence is derived from the stability of CU's other assistants in Bill Grier, who has been with the Buffs for eight seasons, and associate head coach Mike Rohn, who has been part of Boyle's staff since he took over at CU.

"We have good people in place," Boyle said. "We have recruiting going along fine and we'll make sure we get the right person in place."