The events of last week with the Missouri Tigers men’s basketball program was a surprise to me but is a great opportunity for the Tigers to start anew.
Frank Haith left the Tigers to take over a Tulsa program that will be making a transition from Conference USA to the American Athletic Conference next season.
While we may never know the real reasoning behind Haith’s departure, I have two theories: Haith saw how bad next season could be for the Tigers because Jabari Brown and Jordan Clarkson chose to enter the NBA Draft following their junior seasons, or Haith knew his job was on the line and elected to be proactive in finding a new position.
With or without Haith, next season could be a long one for the Tigers. Not only did they lose Brown and Clarkson, but Earnest Ross graduated and the team let go of Louisville transfer Zach Price, who could have been an impact player next season, after two recent arrests.
Ryan Rosburg and Johnathan Williams III are the team’s only returning starters, but neither has proven he can be a Division 1 scorer, and the reserves from last season — including Wes Clark, Torren Jones, Keanau Post and Shane Rector — showed promise but are huge question marks for next season.
So, the time is right to make a change. Under Haith, the Tigers won 20 or more games each season but lost in the opening round of the NCAA tournament in his first two years and didn’t make the tournament last season.
Who would be a good fit for the Tigers?
Several names have been thrown out there, including Central Missouri head coach Kim Anderson, who led the Mules to the NCAA Division II championship last season. The Sedalia native played and was an assistant coach at Missouri under Norm Stewart. However, the Tigers haven’t shown interest in Anderson in previous coach searches.
Gregg Marshall, of Wichita State, and Archie Miller, of Dayton, are the two big names out there, and many schools will try to woo them away from their current positions. These two appear to be long shots for Mizzou, unless it is willing to pay them handsomely.
Here’s a list of other coaches whose names have been rumored as possible candidates:
— Donnie Tyndall, the second-year coach at Southern Miss, led the team to 27 wins and a trip to the NIT quarterfinals in his first season. Last winter, he led the Conference USA squad back to the NIT quarterfinals, beating Missouri 71-63 in the second round, and 29 wins that tied a record for most wins in Southern Miss history.
— Matt Painter, who had reportedly accepted the Mizzou job in 2011 but decided to stay at Purdue, is again on the rumor mill. In nine seasons at Purdue, he led the Boilermakers to six NCAA tournaments and a pair of Sweet 16 berths. However, they fell to 15-17 last season.
— Michael White, of Louisiana Tech, led his team to a 29-8 record and tied the school record for most wins in a season this winter. Tech tied Tulsa for the regular-season Conference USA title.
— Shaka Smart is best known for leading Virginia Commonwealth to the final four in 2011. His team reached the second round of the NCAA tournament the past three seasons. He is 137-46 in five years at the Atlantic 10 school.
— Ben Howland coached at UCLA for 10 seasons. Howland led the Bruins to the Final Four three years in a row (2006-08), but he was fired after reports surfaced that he had poor relationships with his players and his methodical style of play didn’t mesh well with the Hollywood heavyweights.
— Pat Kelsey led a struggling Winthrop program to a 20-win season and an appearance in the Big South championship game last season.