University of Missouri opened in 1839. Not sure anything since has been more unknown than where the #Mizzou coaching search will end.— Gabe DeArmond (@GabeDeArmond) April 25, 2014
Almost exactly one week after the Frank Haith-to-Tulsa rumors began, the coaching search became annoying. Without any new names or rumors, we just started rehashing. What about Ben Howland? What about Kim Anderson? Was Mike Anderson a good hire? Et cetera. Mike Alden and the other people involved in the coaching search have done such a good job of keeping things under wraps that we were officially bored. It's not the worst place in the world to be -- the last search certainly wasn't boring, and that certainly wasn't a great thing -- but it's still ... boring. Even the late-night explosion of potentially ridiculous rumors ("Anderson will be hired in the morning!") was recycled.
That said, today could (COULD) be the opposite of boring. The search is ongoing, and according to my SOURCES!!, those involved in the search are pretty happy with its progress. An interview or interviews are still likely to take place today. That could mean complete formality; maybe they've honed in on Kim Anderson (or whoever) and just want to run some things by him before making the official announcement. It could mean that they're being interviewed; maybe Gregg Marshall's coming to town with a "Tell me why I should leave Wichita" approach. That we have no real idea is impressive. (And damned FlightAware isn't really filling in any gaps yet.)
So what do we know as the search enters Day 8?
1. Gregg Marshall still (possibly) hasn't said no
"What a turnout," Marshall told the yellow-clad fans who attended. "We get 10,000 in here for every game, but to have this type of crowd for a banquet is unbelievable."
Marshall took the microphone again at the end of the night, and though he never addressed rumors that have mentioned him as a candidate for the coaching vacancy at Missouri, Marshall didn’t sound like someone who was thinking of leaving.
"There’s some work left to be done," said Marshall, who declined interview requests following the event. "The best is yet to come."
If he's staying, he'd say, "There's some work left to be done." (He didn't have to say anything of the sort!) If he's leaving, he'd say, "There's some work left to be done." (Passive voice!!) Kabuki!
There's a chance that he quietly turned Missouri down days ago and it hasn't reached the media yet. There's a chance he's headed to Columbia today. Again, that we don't know is really impressive.
One of the reasons Gregg Marshall stays put at Wichita is that the administration takes care of him. [...] He's sort of on a seven-year rolling contract. It's paying him a base salary of $1.75 million, and with incentives, bonuses, etc., it goes over $2 million. [...]
Now certainly Missouri could be very interested in Gregg Marshall. But one thing I've learned in covering the story of the Missouri coaching search is that they're not going to pay more than they're paying Gary Pinkel, the football coach, who is making $3.1 million. So even to start with a lot of these head coaches who are out there, Missouri would have to start at around $2.5 million. It's not that they can't pay it, but they'd have to obviously manage their money. And if they're going to push that salary up close to $3 million, then more than likely that means Gary Pinkel would be getting a raise. They have to manage this, certainly get a high-quality candidate that fits Missouri but also fits economically.
That Gary Pinkel is going to remain the highest-paid coach in the athletic department makes perfect sense. Football is the biggest money driver, and Pinkel has built the football program up to an impressive degree. He has had an immense role to play in the athletic department's overall success (both in terms of finance and results). Men's basketball is an obvious No. 2, but considering the way money is made and distributed, the football coach should be making the most. That's just the way it is. And since Pinkel just got a raise barely a month ago, he's probably not going to get another one.
That probably caps what Missouri is likely willing to spend at around $2.7 to $2.8 million. Maybe you get to $3.0 ... hell, maybe you get to $3.09 just for symbolism. Or maybe you craft a base salary for Marshall around $2.75 and pack the contract with incentives (and, perhaps more importantly, lots of years). That's fine. But it makes sense that there's a cap on what Missouri can/will pay even Marshall, especially after averaging barely 9,000 in attendance last year. Obviously a Marshall hire would solve any and all attendance issues in the short-term, but we have to acknowledge that attendance is an issue on the table -- for reasons both legitimate and not -- and makes paying more than $3 million for a basketball coach a potentially risky investment, especially if Marshall (or whoever) were to have a shaky season or two.
All that said ... it's Day 8, and we haven't officially heard that Marshall has said no. i thought it would happen by about Tuesday. (And again, maybe it did.) That's something in and of itself.
2. Howland might not be off the board
Both Gabe Dearmond and Dave Matter mentioned Howland yesterday as a name that shouldn't be scratched off. Since Marshall is still, as far as we know, on the board, we're still trying to figure out the jockeying for the No. 2 spot, and if it's not Kim Anderson, it really might be Howland.
Howland's been a pretty divisive name for Missouri fans this week. He's won many, many games in his career, and he's younger than Kim Anderson. He's a potentially elite defensive coach; his 2003 Pitt team ranked second in Pomeroy's defensive efficiency ratings, his 2007 UCLA team ranked third, 2006 UCLA ranked fourth, and 2008 UCLA ranked fifth; the later teams struggled in this regard, but that was probably because of personnel and not "He forgot how to coach defense." He's a solid recruiter, and again, he's a known winner.
But, again, his average record was only 20-13 over his last four seasons at UCLA, and his average overall Pomeroy ranking in that time was 68th. (Missouri's averages over the last two years: 23-12 and 55th.) He's a mostly proven commodity, but until he produces another really good team, there are question marks. There are also question marks regarding the infamous Sports Illustrated piece describing his failings. But we've already covered that.
I guess at this point, the main question about Howland is, is he No. 2, behind Marshall and ahead of Anderson? Is he No. 3, only to be dealt with if Anderson contract negotiations fall through?
3. No pretty boys
I love Fran Fraschilla. But he's had some ... interesting opinions about the current Mizzou opening.
4. Circumstances matter
We've argued a lot through the years about the status of the cupboard that Frank Haith inherited. It set the table for his first-year success, and it contributed rather directly to his second- and third-year regression.
You absolutely, positively do not make a hire based on a specific class of recruits. Maybe it's a tie-breaker, like age. If you cannot decide between two candidates, then you go with the one more likely to retain/land/whatever specific recruits or retain specific players on the team.
But still, circumstances matter. If the new hire is able to retain Jakeenan Gant and Namon Wright (and maybe Kevin Punter) and nobody transfers, then he inherits a rather well-stocked cupboard. He won't be walking into a Year 1 situation as favorable as Frank Haith's, but he also won't have one inherited player for Year 2 and zero for Year 3 like Haith.
The new guy could have Johnathan Williams III, Wes Clark, Torren Jones, and Shane Rector for three more years and Gant and Wright for potentially four. He'll have only one senior next year (Keanau Post), so he'll have nice continuity for Year 2, but he'll also have at least a couple of scholarships to give in the 2015 class. You'd love for there to be a little more proven talent for the guy walking in the door, but projecting a few years out, things look pretty good here ... if he retains the players currently on board. If the new guy loses Gant and Wright, and there's a transfer or two -- always a possibility, even if the new guy is fantastic -- then there's quite a bit of rebuilding to do.