It has been a little bit under three full days since Frank Haith's departure for Tulsa became officially official. When it comes to his replacement, we don't really know much more than we knew Friday morning, but let's walk through some recent links and check on the hot-list hot list.
First up, Dave Matter's outstanding, comprehensive piece at the Post-Dispatch this morning. Matter covers previous coaching searches (and the candidates at the time) and walks through the current batch of alleged candidates. He also talks about a few other things, like the "midwest."
Missouri is very concerned with finding a coach who’s "the right fit" for its fan base and the school’s culture. That’s been expressed to me several times the last few days — and it’s not just throwaway AD talk. Missouri believes its fans are longing for substance, for disciplined play, selfless play and a greater commitment to defense. The phrase "blue collar" came up several times in a recent conversation. That doesn’t mean Missouri wants to hire Larry the Cable Guy or even a coach with roots in the Midwest. But there’s a sense among the administration that Mizzou has gotten away from its roots — too much sizzle not enough substance.
Not going to lie: I hate this talk. Hate it. I'm not picking on Matter here -- I'm picking on those who have used the term enough that Matter had to reference it. This reeks of after-the-fact rationalization. Mike Anderson's style was built almost entirely around "discipline" and a "greater commitment to defense," and Mizzou fans began to sour on him the moment he stopped winning as much. Missouri needs to hire the guy who will win the most and for the longest period of time. Whether that's by allowing 45 points per game or by scoring 90 ... whether his basketball style is rooted in mid-Missouri or Alberta ... if Missouri is good, Missouri fans will embrace him.
Quin Snyder didn't fail because he wasn't Midwestern enough. And Missouri certainly wasn't very fun to watch this past year, attendance didn't necessarily suffer because of that -- it was suffering from the opening tip of the season. (And since last year's team had the best passer in Missouri history, the whole "selfless play" thing only gets so far.) Playing hard and losing will still get you in trouble, and while "they play hard" might buy you 5% more slack when your team is struggling, that's not something that will get you very far. Coach well, and you'll be embraced. And yes, coaching well probably means you have plenty of "substance."
Now ... that said, if a certain style of play is more conducive than others to landing talent Missouri can land, maybe that's something that can be taken into account. But I'm not sure what that style is. Missouri's best defender of the last decade (and perhaps longer) hailed from Marietta, Ga. Not very Midwestern.
For the most part, the hot lists from sources close to Missouri seem to center around the same names -- Gregg Marshall at the top, guys like Chris Mack on the second tier, guys like Archie Miller perhaps on the next. Let's just say that this list doesn't quite jive with any I've seen.
Missouri names from this weekend: Ben Howland, Richard Pitino, Josh Pastner, Shaka Smart, Rick Barnes, Mark Turgeon, Jeff Capel— Coaching Changes (@CoachingChanges) April 21, 2014
These "coaching rumors" accounts do tend to have decent sources, so I'm not going to automatically dismiss this list simply because I hadn't heard of @CoachingChanges before. That said ... it's certainly odd to me that the folks at PowerMizzou, etc., had yet to mention four of the seven names on the list (Pastner, Barnes, Turgeon, Capel), had only mentioned a fifth (Pitino) in passing, and had already confirmed that Smart has said no to an initial gauging of interest.
Aside from the general hilarity of convincing Rick Barnes that the Missouri job was better than Texas, this list seems, to me, to be full of backups. It's quite possible that the search firm Mizzou uses -- as mentioned in Matter's piece, it's usually Bob Beaudine's group -- pinged some of these names while crafting a list of candidates. And hey, the last hire was completely out of the blue. So yeah, if or when Marshall says no, maybe we hear about a Turgeon or Capel getting involved (I'll reserve my opinion of those names until they become a bit more realistic). But I won't put much stock in this for now.
Search firms are dumb
I hate that athletic directors pay tens, or hundreds, of thousands of dollars just to cover their collective asses in coaching searches. Texas paid over $250,000 for a search firm to recommend Charlie Strong to athletic director Steve Patterson in the Longhorns' football search. Meanwhile, Charlie Strong was the Vegas favorite for the job from the moment it opened; so basically, Texas paid $250,000 to have a guy look at Bodog. An intern could have come up with the same list for almost nothing. In smaller sports, I can see the need for extra help. For this one, just spend an hour on the internet, then make some calls. Or at least don't get a search firm involved until after the obvious names have turned you down. (And hey, maybe that's exactly how Mike Alden uses the firms. We have no idea.)
But that was just a personal rant. I digress.
The hot-list hot list
So what are the collective hot lists telling us that they didn't on Friday? Let's take a look. (And since you can find indirect confirmation that Smart said no, I'll take him off.)
For this list, we'll use the following:
(Gabe's list is behind a paywall, so I should mention that he goes into pretty great detail about why certain candidates are or aren't realistic.)
|Coach||Current job||Matter (4/21)||Coaching Changes
|The Trib (4/19)||PowerMizzou (4/21)||TOTAL|
|Gregg Marshall||Wichita State||1||1||1||3|
|Mike White||Louisiana Tech||1||1||1||3|
|Jeff Capel||Duke (assistant)||1||1|
It's pretty clear at this point that Gregg Marshall is the No. 1 name on the list until he says no. Whether he officially says no, or whether we just hear from "SOURCES" that he said no, we should know one way or another pretty quickly. After that, it appears Howland is the most common name getting listed. And it's not hard to see why. He has more Final Fours on his résumé than Marshall, first of all, and as Matter pointed out, to the extent that defense is a desire among Missouri fans, UCLA certainly plays defense.
But there's the little issue of that Sports Illustrated report.
Now ... I'm big into the idea that a job defines itself over time. At Miami, Frank Haith had almost no choice but to end up buddying up with Nevin Shapiro. And at UCLA, there are all sorts of pressures to recruit this or that guy, look the other way for this or that, etc. And over the course of a decade at UCLA, you can fall into traps. Howland certainly did. And in a new locale, with "midwestern" (ahem) recruits, maybe the disciplined ways of his early UCLA teams (and late Pittsburgh teams) re-emerges. Maybe he learns from his mistakes. People do that. Howland has a ton of wins on his record -- 77 at Northern Arizona, 89 at Pitt, 233 at UCLA -- and he's almost certainly a better coach than his last few years at UCLA want to suggest. If he ends up being the guy, I'll talk myself into him, if for no other reason than, as Matter mentioned, "MU officials have looked into the published story." If they look into it and still decide that he's not a character risk, and that he will succeed here, I won't be completely sold, but I'll be okay with the idea.
Still ... that whole "the logo doesn't come off" thing that Alden has been pressing hard of late, as a re-emphasis of character, would lead me to assume that, even if Howland is on the list, he isn't No. 1 (past Marshall). I could be wrong.
He's Tennessee's leader at the moment, but there have been some snags in negotiations. That means he's technically still on the table ... if not for very long.
I'm not sold. He inherited a stout program from Sean Miller and indeed made the NCAA's in each of his first three years on the job; he made the Sweet 16 twice in that span. That's awesome. But in years 4-5, as the program became completely his, Xavier has gone 38-27. They eked into the NCAA Tournament this year but here are Xavier's KenPom rankings in his time at XU: 17th, 39th, 48th, 77th, 59th. This year's team was young and should improve next year, but considering it would cost quite a bit to pull him from his alma mater, I'm not completely sure it would be worth the cost.
I still don't think we get him, but he was topic of conversation in the Links post as it pertains to perceptions changing over time. Three years ago, a lot of folks were lukewarm on him, and now he's far and away the slam-dunk candidate for every school with an opening. I'd forgotten most of what I had to say about him when I profiled him three years ago -- we are perpetually dealing with an incomplete set of information, and guys' fortunes change in a short amount of time -- but I'm proud to say that it mostly holds up.
Ties to the Midwest: He coaches in Wichita. That's about it. Before leading the Shockers, most of his career centered in the southeast. (Does this make him a reasonably viable N.C. State candidate?)
Ties to Missouri: Well ... with Winthrop, he beat Mizzou, 51-46, at Hearnes in late-1998. Does that count?
Does He See Mizzou As a Destination Job? Obviously it's good that his alma mater is a small school; that's one bullet dodged. He might be the type to want to head back toward the south one day, though. Above everything else, however, he's a loyal guy -- he was successful at Winthrop for ten years (presumably seeing advances from other schools along the way), and he doesn't necessarily seem in a hurry to leave WSU. If he does end up here, he will likely view is as a long-haul decision. [...]
Thoughts: I like Gregg Marshall quite a bit. Really, he's Scott Sutton with more proven upside and program-building ability. But if we're looking for someone with midwestern ties ... he doesn't have them. To some, that's important; to others, not so much. What absolutely does matter, though, is recruiting, and we won't know he can (or can't) do it at this level until he proves it one way or the other. He's my favorite of the mid-majors so far, but ... none of them have the combination of Marshall's coaching and Gregory's recruiting just yet...
Honestly, the media's just being irresponsible at this point. On Friday evening's 6pm coverage of Haith's resignation, KOMU led with Haith, then mentioned that Mizzou fans love Kim Anderson. And it continues with folks no longer associated with the media.
Mizzou fans love him because he was a great player here and a strong Norm assistant. It makes perfect sense. But if he's not a legitimate candidate, stop talking about him. People have sentimental attachments to #truesons, and that's fine, but continuing to mention him just gets people's hopes up and conditions them to be disappointed when he doesn't get the job. And if he didn't get the job the last three times, he probably won't this time, nor would have have a ton of reason to want the job. (And at some point, I'd like to see a list of successful D2 coaches that moved on to massive success at D1. Maybe there are lots of names, but I'm struggling to think of more than about one.) So let's move on. I wasn't even going to mention him here, but the above Twitter post got me sucked back in.