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Mizzou Basketball Coaching Search: Setting the Table

Before we set about reviewing the candidates, would-be candidates, and should-be candidates, here's an e-mail exchange RPT and I had last night about the opening itself.  The coaching profiles begin at 10am.

RPT: So, Bill, for the first time in Rock M Nation's history, Missouri is looking for a coach for one of its primary revenue sports. But before we begin (continue?) throwing out names, I feel like there are a couple of memes floating out there we need to address. Where should we begin?

Bill C.: We're all looking for "loyalty" in the next hire, but that does NOT mean it has to be a guy with a Mizzou background.  Dan Devine grew up in Wisconsin, went to school in Minnesota, and coached in Michigan and Arizona before finding his way to Columbia.  Gary Pinkel grew up in Ohio and coached in Washington.  We all feel spurned because Mike Anderson "went back home," but "home" means something different to everybody.

RPT: Before we "move on," I feel like we need to address the "he was all about the money" sentiment. Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Anderson turn down not one but two offers exceeding that of the one he accepted at Arkansas? Don't let the way things transpired fully distort what we knew all along: When the Arkansas job came open, Missouri was going to find out where Mike Anderson stood. It just so turns out he stands in Fayetteville.

As far as loyalty is concerned, I feel like you hit it in your Mike Anderson legacy post. We're getting to a point where five years is becoming a long time in college athletics. But that works both ways. You're going to be just as loyal to a school as it is to you. How loyal was Oklahoma to Jeff Capel after an Elite Eight run?

I think the thing that's concerning me most from the current chatter of new candidates is the extreme amount of recency bias. Luckily, I don't feel like it will be a paralyzing concern for Mike Alden, but let me say this: Folks, there have been more Sweet 16s played than the one in 2011. There were qualified coaching candidates well before you turned on TruTV.

Bill C.: Oh, how I will miss you for the next 11.5 months, Hardcore Pawn commercials.

I really do view this sort of like I view a break-up I went through after my freshman year at Mizzou.  It was a strong two-year relationship, it had good moments, and we remained friends down the line ... but that doesn't mean I was anything but super-pissed off, embarrassed, humbled, etc., at the time.  I vented, said things I didn't mean, etc., and it took me a while to move on.  But then I did.  Mizzou fans are mad at Mike Anderson because they're embarrassed, humbled, etc.  Because he wanted someone other than us.  That is, in turn being reflected on everything -- that he didn't stay for the press conference (no departing coach does), that he ditched his players (like he did his UAB players when he came to Mizzou), that he's all about the money (he's not), etc.  The bottom line is, we're the scorned lovers, we're going to be pissed for a while, we're going to vent, etc.  And if Arkansas ever plays at Mizzou, we're going to boo the ever-living s*** out of him.

As long as Mizzou rallies behind the new guy, and I assume they will, then I'll be fine with some of the venting right now...and here's to hoping the new guy continues the program's momentum.

Speaking of the new guy ... what do you think?  Find a guy with a similar style who can minimize the transition for the returnees?  Risk short-term setbacks by ignoring the "style" aspect?

RPT: I can not stress this enough: Do NOT hamstring yourself by hiring somebody simply for the system.

If it so happens that the best candidate happens to play a similar system, then bully for us. As much as I love the current players and as much as I enjoy watching the up-tempo, athletic style of play, when you use short-term thinking to try to protect short-term results, you're probably going to have a coach that hangs around only for (SURPRISE!) the short term. I would hope that whoever Missouri brings in will be qualified enough to properly utilize the unique talents of Bowers, Denmon, Dixon, Flip Pressey (PLEASE), et al., but this shouldn't be the primary concern for Mike Alden (nor do I think it will be). Despite the fact that we've already established (in this post, no less) that this ends up being a short-term business, your focus still needs to be long-term.

So, in that vein, sorry Bruce Pearl?

Bill C.: I'm quite curious how a specific line from Mike Alden translates to the coaching search: "The next coach has to be someone who wants to be at Mizzou. This is a destination job."  Obviously that's just somewhat boilerplate, but I do wonder how the Anderson experience will affect the search.  If Anthony Grant were available and Mizzou were interested, would they cool on him because of the Florida connection?  Cuonzo Martin and Purdue?  Things like that.  And ... I mean ... what questions do you ask to find out if someone really wants to be at Mizzou?  "Hey, Shaka Smart. Do you want to be at Mizzou?" "Of course!" "Really?"  "Yep!"  "Absolutely positive?"  "I think so." "Pinkie swear?" "No. Sorry for wasting your time."

RPT: The inherent difficulty in this is that "competent AND content" is a rare breed. Missouri is a fantastic job, but it is not a premier, blueblood position. Is anyone that views Missouri as a final destination going to be qualified to last long enough to warrant it actually being the final destination? Or do you face the fact that some of the most qualified and capable hands your team can be in are likely those who view Missouri as a fantastic career move and a way to leverage resources into tremendous potential for attention? Mizzou fans are simultaneously lucky AND spoiled to have had a "Missouri man" in Norm Stewart, and to a lesser extent, Gary Pinkel. I don't know that this is going to be the case with the new hire, and for as much as I'd like to tell myself otherwise, it may be for the best.