This is the point in a coaching search in which we begin losing perspective. Why is this taking so long, our restless brains begin to wonder, even when we know that it’s only been about a week, that the NCAA Tournament hasn’t even started yet, that no one else has hired a coach either (in fact, a few schools that might end up firing their coaches haven’t even done so yet), etc. We want a resolution right now, even though we know we shouldn’t expect one.
In the absence of resolution, however, we get reassurance.
First of all, it dawned on me this weekend: This is one hell of a time to be looking for a new coach. Sparse attendance at Mizzou Arena, combined with a new athletic director looking to make a splash, certainly increase the odds of the school spending big on a hire. But even beyond that, think about the list of coaches we think are being considered as compared to what we perceived to be the 2011 list.
You’ve got far more experienced versions of Gregg Marshall and Cuonzo Martin. You’ve got 350-game winner Tom Crean. You’ve got wafted rumors of near-300-game winner Scott Drew looking to get out of Waco.
Granted, Missouri might not land any of those guys, but even the mid-major headliner — almost certainly Kevin Keatts of UNC-Wilmington — is at this very moment more exciting and potentially more proven than anyone we profiled back in 2011.
(Yes, Shaka Smart was on the 2011 list, but when I profiled him, VCU was merely in the 2011 Sweet 16. Yes, this is a technicality, but Keatts’ pre-UNCW, Pitino-heavy pedigree is probably more impressive than Smart’s, too, so there.)
Plus, Missouri doesn’t appear to be considering a Division II coach this time around. So, uh, there’s that, too.
This search could yet go into some strange directions, and I could end up at some point feeling pretty silly that I thought the names above were actually possible — uncertainty is the rule, after all — but the top names appear both more proven and more realistic. That’s a good place to start.
“You’ve got an arena that gets loud really quick,” [Jim Sterk] said. “With some exciting things going on that can be a great atmosphere for basketball. (Coaches) have seen it.”
Even coaches around the SEC. Tennessee’s Rick Barnes was Texas’ coach when he coached his first game at Mizzou, back at the Hearnes Center in 2000.
“When I think of Missouri I think of them as a basketball school,” Barnes said. “They’ve had great respect for basketball there. I have great respect for their fans. They appreciate great basketball. ... When they get that thing going, they’re as good as any group of fans you’ll play in front of.”
By most accounts, Jim Sterk is looking for an honest-to-god major-conference veteran this time around. Considering what the league has added in recent years, that should almost be a requirement.
During the last three seasons, the SEC has added Barnes, White, Ben Howland (Mississippi State), Bruce Pearl (Auburn), Avery Johnson (Alabama) and Bryce Drew (Vanderbilt) to a stable of coaches that already included Kentucky’s John Calipari, South Carolina’s Frank Martin and Arkansas’ Mike Anderson, among others.
Now, it’s Missouri’s turn.
“Any job that has that much basketball tradition and history and is in a league like the SEC deserves to get the very best coach they can and not try to round the corners,” ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla said.
This could all still go south, and Mizzou could still end up taking a risk on a mid-major guy without as much experience (or, as in 2011, a power conference veteran without as much success). But a week or so into the third coaching search of the decade, I remain optimistic.
This has been your daily affirmation.
(2017 signee C.J. Roberts, by the way: still in wait-and-see mode.)
So yeah, this was a mostly awesome weekend in the Mizzou universe.
- Karissa Schweizer, two-time national champ. Schweizer won the indoor 5K on Friday and finished second in the 3K on Saturday. Her 18 points were enough to power Mizzou to eighth place overall ... with 18 points.
- Baseball’s win streak: 15 games and counting. Mizzou swept Appalachian State with wins of 4-0 on Friday (Tanner Houck pitched 8.2 shutout innings), 7-1 on Saturday (Michael Plassmeyer gave up one run in seven innings), and, via another Robbie Glendinning walk-off single — with two strikes, no less — 3-2 on Sunday. The Tigers are doing what really good teams do: control most of a given series and scratch and claw out a win when things aren’t going as well. And they’re now 15-and-freaking-1.
- Gymnastics took down No. 12 Kentucky. Season-best beam and floor scores fueled a comeback victory for the No. 15 Tigers, who now have this coming weekend’s SEC Championships to prepare for. That they’re maintaining a top-15 level without Morgan Porter is awesome in a sense — goodness knows Britney Ward has stepped up — though it also makes you wonder what they’d be doing with Morgan Porter.
- Tennis took down No. 17 Texas A&M. Freshman Mackenzy Middlebrooks came back from a set down in the No. 6 singles match to steal a three-setter and give Mizzou a 4-3 win. The Tigers then nearly matched this result but fell, 4-3, to No. 29 LSU. This is a really competitive, deeper-than-normal Mizzou squad.
- Women’s Golf finished sixth at Arizona State. Emma Allen and Jess Yuen each posted top-20 finishes.
- Softball verrrrry nearly split with No. 1 Florida. Sigh. The Tigers got knocked around by the 22-1 Gators, 6-0, on Saturday, but Cheyenne Baxter’s masterpiece almost allowed them to earn one back on Sunday. She gave up a run in the first, and that was it. But that was one more run than Mizzou could find. 1-0, Florida. Game 3 is tonight at 6 pm CT on the SEC Network.