Frank Haith: What To Expect (Part One)

Haters Gonna Haith

The announcement has been made, the objections have been put on record, and it's official: Frank Haith is Missouri's new basketball coach.  We can praise or pan this pick all we want, but it's done.  And at this point, after 24 hours of reading and researching, it's really not hard to see Mike Alden's thought process on this one; one can disagree with the thought process, but it's all out there in the open.  And really, it all ties back to what Alden said he was looking for all along:

  • A Focus on Academic SuccessAs mentioned yesterday, in Haith's tenure, all but one Miami player who was around long enough to graduate, did just that.  He had players on the ACC's all-academic team (last I checked, there are some very good schools in the ACC), and he seems to pass all of the relevant tests here.
  • Ability to recruit on a national level.  Haith is basically Cuonzo Martin plus time.  It's hard for me to grasp how someone who wanted Martin would object to Haith, honestly.  Haith had more experience as an assistant and more of a record of recruiting success.  Martin helped ink Purdue's successful 2007 recruiting class; Haith helped Wake Forest land Rodney Rodgers in the 1990s, helped Texas A&M land a rare McDonald's All-American a few years later, and kept landing big recruits all the way to Texas' LaMarcus Aldridge and Daniel Gibson.  His recruiting at Miami was at least solid (I go back and forth on just how solid, but again, Martin landed nobody spectacular in Springfield either).  His resume has everything Martin's has, only he took a really tough major-conference job as his first head coaching gig instead of Missouri State.  But we'll come back to that.
  • A mentor of good behavior on and off the court.  As far as I can tell (and if somebody has links saying otherwise, pass them along), Haith has done everything above-board in his career, and his kids had minimal legal issues in Miami (again, pass along any evidence to the contrary).  In every testimonial I've read, people talk about the class with which Haith has carried himself in his career.  He should be a wonderful representative of this university.
  • A dedicated work ethic.  It should be pretty obvious that if Haith has proved nothing else in his long and diverse career, it is dedication to his craft.  He's coached at Elon and UNC-Wilmington, Texas and Texas A&M, Wake Forest and Miami.  He has worked his way up the ladder, and he has won a lot of advocates along the way.

From the qualifications laid out at the beginning of the search, Haith has met most of them.  It was all there in yesterday's official MUtigers.com release:

"We're very pleased to have such a well-rounded and respected man lead our basketball program into the future," said MU Director of Athletics Mike Alden. "Frank has demonstrated throughout his career that he fits the criteria we were looking for. He's graduated 21-of-22 of his players while at Miami. He is recognized as one of the top recruiters in the nation and his Midwest ties fit very well with what we're needing right now. His entire reputation is based on building young men of character, and his work ethic is above reproach. Frank has the character and integrity we are looking for, and he's someone who is very excited to be a Missouri Tiger. And of course, we feel that all of these qualities combined, when given the opportunity at a program with a proud tradition and resources such as ours at Mizzou, that he's going to win at a very high level," he said.

The only possible objection to Haith's hiring is simple: he hasn't won enough.  Which, last I checked, was somewhat relevant to the job of coaching.

If Missouri were making this hire in 2004, when Haith was only a super-successful assistant, it's doubtful that any of us would be complaining too much.  And in terms of Haith's Miami experience, it's clear from even the initial official quotes that Mike Alden is hitching his wagon to the simple fact that nobody can win big at Miami.

"Certainly, he has had some success at Miami and he's going to have a lot more success at Missouri," Alden said. "When you identify people, you have to provide them with tools. That is one thing we have at Mizzou is we have outstanding tools. That isn't always the case and I don't think that necessarily was the case for Frank (at Miami). When he comes here to have access to that with his skill set, we believe that he's gonna win at a very high level."

Ken Pomeroy agreed back in 2004 when Haith took the Miami job in the first place.

Frank Haith recently made the jump from associate head coach at Texas to head coach at Miami Florida. However, his chances for success in his first head coaching job are slim. I think it's safe to say that Miami comes into the ACC at the bottom, having won a combined 25 games over the last 2 years. The problem Haith faces is that the ACC is a conference with a glass ceiling. If you're at the bottom, you're not going up.

Looking at Haith's experience at Miami, one can perhaps see more clearly why Shaka Smart would turn down N.C. State to stay at VCU and why Brad Stevens would turn down just about every job in the country to stay at Butler.  Major conference jobs can offer more money, but they can also completely decimate your resume if the situation is not right.  If you're in a situation that feels right, you should think long and hard before leaving it.

Some jobs are not built for success, and even if you succeed at a higher level than most at one of those jobs, like Haith did at Miami, the simple act of not winning big (whether it's possible to or not) ruins you as a candidate in people's (especially fans') eyes.

Miami's program is one with minimal fan support and an iffy overall athletic department, sharing a conference with basketball heavyweights like Duke and North Carolina and a large cast of more well-supported, historically successful programs like Maryland, N.C. State, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, etc.  But fans don't want to know about gray area and context -- they just want to know that their incoming coach is a winner.  And that's the one thing Haith hasn't proven.  Can anybody win big at Miami?  Who knows?  But Haith didn't, therefore he's not "a winner."  Cuonzo Martin?  He won a conference title at Missouri State.  And even if that is easier than winning big in the ACC, he still won something.  Haith?  Doesn't qualify yet.  And whether it's fair or not, that's not going to change until Haith wins.

All this said, I'm really glad the curators approved Alden's contract proposal with minimal drama last night.  The simple fact is, it's Mike Alden's job to choose coaches, and he has done it very well through the years.  You have to go back to the 1990s to find when he didn't do it as well.  This hire feels like much more of a risk than, say, Gary Pinkel or the Kreklows, but if Alden followed the same list of qualifications in this case as he did then, then Frank Haith earns the benefit of the doubt from me. 

Alden knows Missouri fans by now; the outrage might have been a little more shrill than he expected, but he had to know what he was getting himself into making this choice ... and he thought the choice was good enough to make it anyway.  And if he's wrong, he's the one who will catch hell for it.  For that reason, if this makes sense, I admire this pick more than I like it.  We'll find out if it was a good choice soon enough, but it sure was a brave one.  It shows extreme confidence in the potential of both Frank Haith and the Missouri athletic department as a whole.

---

Okay ... all that said, it's time to look at what we can expect from a Frank Haith team starting next fall.  We might not know who is going to be on the team next fall yet, but there will be a team, and Haith will be the leader of it.  Below are Miami's offensive and stats, broken into four categories: 2003-04 (the season before Haith took over), 2005-11 (all seven years of his tenure), the first three years, and the last four years.  We'll look at offense today, and we'll look at defense and some other tidbits tomorrow.

Miami Offensive Stats


2003-04
(Pre-Haith)
2005-11 First Three Years
Last Four Years
Pace (No. of Possessions)
69.1 65.8 65.0 66.4
Points Per Minute
1.75 1.78 1.73 1.81
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.04 1.09 1.08 1.10
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.22 1.25 1.19 1.29
2-PT FG% 49.6% 47.7% 47.2% 48.1%
3-PT FG% 33.8% 36.6% 35.1% 37.5%
FT% 70.5% 70.3% 69.2% 71.0%
True Shooting % 53.6% 54.1% 52.5% 55.3%






2003-04
(Pre-Haith)
2005-11 First Three Years
Last Four Years
Assists/Gm 13.5 12.5 11.9 12.9
Steals/Gm 8.5 6.4 6.9 6.1
Turnovers/Gm 15.4 13.2 12.7 13.6
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.43 1.43 1.49 1.40


2003-04
(Pre-Haith)
2005-11 First Three Years
Last Four Years
Expected Off. Reb./Gm 12.4 12.4 12.7 12.1
Offensive Reb./Gm
12.9 13.2 14.0 12.6
Difference +0.5 +0.8 +1.3 +0.5

Ken Pomeroy Offensive Stats


2003-04
(Pre-Haith)
2005-11 First Three
Years
Last Four
Years
Efficiency 91 41.3 44.7 38.8
Effective FG% 137 145.3 192.7 109.8
Turnover % 203 103.7 46.0 147.0
Off. Reb. % 58 45.1 30.0 56.5
FTA/FGA 293 199.3 285.7 134.5

Haith's time at Miami shows that there are a lot of ways to build a good offense.  With Mike Anderson in charge here, Mizzou fans learned the value of ball control and pace.  Haith's teams did not play fast and did not dominate in terms of ball control, but they still rated pretty high on a year-to-year basis because they were great at generating second-chance opportunities (and because they were playing pretty tough schedules).  They took decent shots, and if they missed them, they got the rebound.

What's interesting to note here is how Miami's offensive identity changed over time.  In Haith's first three years, Miami was a poor-shooting team that didn't draw any fouls whatsoever, but they were great on the glass and didn't turn the ball over much.  In the last four years, Miami's offense improved overall because they took better shots and drew quite a few more fouls ... but their rebounding numbers sank slightly, and their turnover numbers regressed considerably.  They seemingly became a more guard- and perimeter-oriented team.  What this tells me, among other things, is that Haith does not run a "system" of sorts, like we were maybe accustomed to during Mike Anderson's tenure; his offense shifts and adapts based on the personnel at hand.  With the seemingly guard-oriented team he will be inheriting next season, I would expect Missouri's numbers to resemble those from Haith's later years at Miami rather than those from his earlier years (only, hopefully, with the turnover numbers from the early years).

Correlations

With a healthy sample size of seven seasons, I wanted to do one other thing with Miami's numbers here.  I added very simple measures of both experience and talent (as it pertains to recruiting rankings), and I looked at the correlations between the factors above and the talent/experience on hand.

For Experience, I simply assigned a number value to each of the top ten players in Miami's rotation.  A freshman was a 1, sophomore 2, etc.  Over Haith's seven years, these ten players garnered scores between 22 (in 2010-11) and 30 (in 2008-09).  About as simplistic as you can get.

For Talent, I did basically the same thing.  I added together the star ratings for each of the top ten players in Miami's rotation.  A two-star player was a 2, et al.  (Unrated players got a 2 as well.)  Over Haith's seven years, Miami had a "talent" rating between 26 (in Haith's first year) and 35 (2009-10).

Below are some of the stronger correlations I found.

3PA/FGA

There was a 0.70 correlation between the "talent" on hand and the number of 3-pointers Miami attempted.  This confused me until I realized one simple thing: of the seven four- and five-star players Haith landed at Miami, six were wing players (shooting guards or small forwards).  So more "talent" on hand meant more of a focus on perimeter stars like James Dews.

Does this mean we're going to go through another episode of "(Random Missouri Coach) Can't Land An Elite Big Man!!!"?  We'll see.  It's obviously hard to tell if Haith "can't" land a big man, or if he just never did.  (Obviously Otto Porter would be a good place to start in this regard.)

Turnovers

The strongest correlation of anything was the minus-0.74 correlation between Miami's "talent" and the number of turnovers they committed.  The more recruiting stars, the more turnovers.  Again, this is mostly due to where the talent played.  Haith's early teams didn't turn the ball over much at all, so I assume he will do decent things with Missouri's not-so-turnover-prone roster next year.

(Speaking of which, if Phil Pressey does stay at Mizzou for next season, he and Mike Dixon will provide Haith with two more really good point guards than it appears he had at Miami.  He had Denis Clemente, but Clemente transferred after two years; he had Guillermo Diaz, but Diaz really wasn't a true point guard.  Dixon and Pressey both put on their scorer hats at times, but they are very strong in the assists department.  We talk about the good situation Mike Anderson is inheriting at Arkansas -- he supposedly has issues with elite recruiting, but he's inheriting an elite recruiting class; well, something similar might be happening with Haith and Mizzou.)

FG%

There was a 0.69 correlation between "talent" and the effectiveness of Miami's shooting.  They turned the ball over, and they took more 3's, but they also made a ton more shots.  Though it came with iffy ball-handling, Miami's overall offense did improve with the upgrade in talent, and it came mostly in the shooting department.

A/FGM

Another strong correlation: 0.69 between Assists Per Field Goal Made and "talent."  Again, it likely has to deal with quality of the guys on the perimeter.

FTA/FGA

Here's an interesting one.  There were very few strong correlations between any of these categories and overall experience (we'll see in tomorrow's post that quality defense was much more closely tied to experience, offense to talent).  The strongest one was the 0.54 correlation between experience and the number of fouls Miami drew.  I guess that makes sense if you think of drawing fouls as a "craftiness" skill.  At the same time, there was a 0.57 correlation between the same measure and talent.

Offensive Rebounding

When the "talent" improved on the perimeter, Miami's offensive rebounding numbers sank.  There is a minus-0.57 correlation between offensive rebounding rate and the talent on hand.  So ... he needs a couple of low-rated blue-collar guys on hand then?  Not sure what to make of this or how seriously to take it.

 

In all, these correlations are probably more useful as entertainment than as hints into the upcoming Haith tenure.  If he recruits a wider array of blue-chippers (i.e. good recruits at more than just the SG and SF positions), then the correlations might not apply too much.  Tomorrow, we look at defense (in which case the correlations will become much more useful) and why Miami was pretty poor in close games.

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