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Mizzou Basketball Coaching Search: Now What?

As Missouri fans, we are a guarded lot; I don't think I have to remind anybody that the rug could still be pulled out from under us on this one. But this process has moved so much further than I expected when I wrote my original Matt Painter profile (in which I said "Why would he actually come here? ... I see him using Mizzou for leverage more than I see him actually considering the job, but I'd be happy if I were wrong.") last Thursday. It would be thoroughly disappointing if this were to fall through now, but credit still goes to Alden for moving on this like an assassin. Purdue still has time to save the day, but by the time they realized this was a real threat, it appears Alden had made some serious inroads. He's taken something 90% of Rock M readers initially thought was a lost cause and made it Mizzou's battle to lose. Now he needs to close the deal. Otherwise, this would simply be Example No. 317 of Mizzou exceeding expectations in a very disappointing manner. (On the bright side, it would give Mizzou fans solid ammo in the "Who's the miserablest?" competition we waged last night with visiting Purdue fans...)

Taking a result no Mizzou fan expected, forcing them to believe it will happen, then suddenly yanking it away at the last second? I think we may have just witnessed the coaching search version of Tyus Edney. I can't imagine this is nearly as scarring for fans long-term (unless Mizzou falls into a long funk), but the concept is the same. The Crazy Old Testament Sports God didn't stop until 90% of Mizzou fans believed it would actually happen ... then stopped it from happening. Mizzou fans really are a guarded lot, but we continue to get sucked into believing ... and then we feel rather stupid all over again.

So. The search now begins. Unless Mike Alden had been preparing to be turned down and was secretly pursuing another coach already, chances are we have until after the Final Four to find out who Mizzou's new favorite is. Let's see what we know -- and what we think we know -- thus far.

Matt Painter

Just to make it official, I guess.

And just to throw it out there ... for those who think Painter was bluffing this whole time, remember what was reported about Painter's due diligence. Why would he have called so many high school and AAU coaches and done so much research if he was just trying to get a raise out of Purdue the whole time? I don't think there's any doubt Painter took this very seriously ... but as we still thought it could yesterday morning, loyalty, in the end, won out.

Ben Jacobson

Obviously we haven't heard anything about a new list of candidates -- other than the one presented last night by Sports By Brooks (Shaka, Doug Wojcik, and Chris Mooney), but ... I'll wait to hear from somebody who hasn't been wrong about almost everything related to the Mizzou coaching search. So we basically start now where we left off on Monday's Where Do We Stand? post. Taking the odds I laid out then, and removing the "50% Painter" thing, here's where we start, I guess:

  • Ben Jacobson (50%)
  • Shaka Smart (20%)
  • Gregg Marshall (10%)
  • Other (20%)

Last week, reporters close to Mizzou (Gabe Dearmond, I believe) mentioned that the athletic department had put out a feeler on Jacobson. For all we know, Mizzou's already moved on, but that's the only concrete piece of information we have right now, and it puts Jacobson in first place heading into the weekend.

I really go back and forth on Jacobson. I think I like him from a long-term perspective, but I'm less sure about the short-term. Moving from Mike Anderson's style to Jacobson's is only reasonably likely to succeed -- again, here are UNI's statistical tendencies under Jacobson:

The quality of UNI's performance has been up and down from year to year, but the bones are pretty consistent. They play slow, slow, slow ... they block out like crazy ... they're almost nonexistent on the offensive glass ... they neither force nor commit turnovers ... they take and allow a lot of 3-point attempts ... they draw fouls but don't commit many. They are more patient than aggressive, taking few chances but positioning themselves to capitalize on any mistake you make.

Under Jacobson, Mizzou's pace would turn 180 degrees, and their focus -- defensive rebounding and efficiency instead of pace, explosiveness and ball control -- might result in a 'success in fits and starts' season next year as players adapt to such a turnaround in styles. I still don't think you can focus on the short-term when making a hire like this, but ... with a fanbase now quite a bit more demoralized than it was even a week ago (and it wasn't exactly the model of excitement then), the short-term might become at least a bit more of a concern.

Shaka Smart

I still don't think Shaka Smart is a tremendously likely candidate -- for one reason or another, I still think Mike Alden is more likely to go with somebody with a higher level of experience -- but obviously his odds increased, too, just from the fact that Painter went off the board. If short-term reaction is a bit more of a concern, then it does become at least slightly more likely that somebody like Smart would be chosen due to both the buzz he would create for the program (there is no hotter name right now, obviously) and the smaller shift in style his hiring would present for next year's returning players. We'll see.

The Final Four is a giant networking opportunity, and if Alden is planning on going after someone who isn't coaching on Saturday and potentially Monday -- i.e. Smart or Brad Stevens -- then we could start hearing some buzz pretty quickly. If Smart is a candidate, however, then it could be mid-week next week before we get any true concrete news about Mike Alden's pursuit. The longer we go without news, the better chance I think Smart has.

Gregg Marshall

Smart has the buzz, but Marshall's team has been playing tremendously well in the postseason as well. Wichita State trounced Washington State on Tuesday (just like they did Nebraska a couple of weeks ago) and will play Alabama tonight in the NIT finals. Marshall's style would result in almost as big a shift as Jacobson's, so again, if short-term results are part of the equation, maybe he gets less of a look (especially since, technically, we don't know if he's getting a look at all). But the amount of tactical strength WSU has shown in the NIT thus far is still appealing -- when things click, it's gorgeous -- and I still wouldn't be surprised to find out he's on the short list sometime in the next week.

Scott Sutton

Granted, KOMU's credibility took a hit yesterday (and then took another hit last night in our eyes), but to the extent that we can believe Chris Gervino's reporting, he did still mention that Sutton was on the initial hit list with Matt Painter and Brian Gregory. So I'm keeping him on the list, even if I figure he's a backup plan to the backup plan to back up Alden's backup plan.

Chris Mack

It might be worth putting out some feelers this weekend, just to see if the coach who allegedly turned down an eight-year offer from Tennessee might be interested in a Mizzou program that has money to throw around and won't be seeing NCAA sanctions shortly. But I still don't think it's too likely he emerges as a candidate. We'll see.

Randy Bennett

The more I think about it, the less I figure he'll move to the midwest. I wouldn't mind being proven wrong, but I'm just not seeing it right now.

Josh Pastner

Pastner just signed an extension with Memphis, meaning he's probably off the board ... not that we know if he was actually on the board to begin with.

Other Names

We threw together an initial list of 12 names last week, and as we cross names off, we acknowledge the fact that new names might emerge. Here are a few for whom I might need to be writing coaching search profiles in the very near future:

  • Doug Wojcik, Tulsa. He has stabilized Tulsa's program after a couple of quick coaching changes, and he has ties throughout the midwest.
  • Anthony Grant, Alabama. From a style perspective, he would be a wonderful fit for the current roster; his ties are mostly based in the southeast, but if the short-term becomes more of a consideration, so does Grant, I think.
  • Steve Alford, New Mexico. Not my favorite name on the list, to say the least, but he was a candidate five years ago, so he could always emerge again now.
  • Chris Mooney, Richmond. If Sports By Brooks' connections are actually right about something regarding Mizzou for once, then Mooney might get put back on the list despite recently signing an extension with the Spiders.
  • Kevin Stallings, Vanderbilt. He's a Collinsville, IL, native with a strong coaching pedigree (even though he spent five seasons in Lawrence, ahem) and solid success at both the mid-major (Illinois State) and major conference levels. He's succeeded with higher admissions standards at Vandy, and he might (might) be able to succeed at an even higher level here.
  • Mick Cronin, Cincinnati. It appears his current salary ($750,000/year, I think, unless the figures I found were outdated) is not commensurate with his level of success, so he could always be an option. He has a strong pedigree -- an assistant under both Bob Huggins and Rick Pitino -- and saw success at Murray State before getting hired to rescue Cincinnati; but a) he's a Cincinnati guy, and b) I assume pursuit of Cronin would probably just result in another Mizzou target getting a big raise to stay where he is. We'll see.
  • Any number of assistant coaches. It is really difficult to pull together an accurate list of viable assistants (and any relevant information regarding style, recruiting, etc.), so I've been avoiding too much speculation in that area. It's always possible that some assistants emerge as options, however.
  • Brad Stevens, Butler. Okay, I'm putting him on the "maybe" list, but I've got a philosophical question to ask here:

    You're Mike Alden. You almost pulled a humongous upset in the Matt Painter chase, but since you came up short, the fanbase is demoralized (and when the insecure Mizzou fanbase gets demoralized, it gets embarrassed ... and when it gets embarrassed, it gets angry). A "safe" hire like Ben Jacobson might further demoralize the base, but another public whiff (complete with more snark from the Dan Wolkens of the world) would devastate it. We've all been saying that Alden should "make Stevens tell him no" before moving on, but ... if you're in Alden's shoes, do you take that risk? Do you take one more swing for the fences before choking up on the bat after two strikes? Can you afford to do that, or should you play it at least a bit safer now? Does the risk now outweigh the possible reward?

    I don't have an answer here, but I want everybody to acknowledge the risk of pursuing someone like Stevens (and acknowledge that your athletic program is paid for, in part, by said demoralized fanbase) before answering the poll question below.