Slow and steady.
That’s how Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops turned a program that was 2-10 when he took over into a 12th-ranked, 6-1 SEC East title contender.
Missouri head coach Barry Odom opened up his press conference Tuesday by praising the patience Kentucky’s administration has had with Stoops, and how that in turn produced a winning program.
“He was given time to do it and he’s done it the way he wanted,” Odom said.
Odom famously (or infamously, depending on how you look at it) delivered his fiery “State of the Program” speech following an embarrassing loss to Auburn last year. During it, he stressed he needs time to build a winning program — just like what Stoops has done at Kentucky.
“I wanna get one thing real straight: I’m gonna win here,” Odom said in Sept. of 2017. “We will win. This is a turnaround.”
He goes into detail about how when he was captain of the Missouri football team in the late 1990’s, it took then-head coach Larry Smith 14 years to turn things around. But he did it, and Odom was a part of it.
He then goes on to talk about Gary Pinkel: “Fast forward — 2004. Everybody wanted to run Gary Pinkel out of town. OK, that’s pretty damn foolish because he’s become the winningest coach in program history. That was a turnaround. It took time.
“That’s where we’re at, OK? It’s a turnaround. And I don’t like it. I want to win right now, but that’s not the hand I’m given. We’re doing a lot of really good things in this program... We’re not winning games yet, but we will. I’m the man to go get it done.”
Odom’s speech seemed like a ploy to save himself from getting canned at the time, but Missouri rattled off six straight wins and the program had life. It had promise. It had a fan base backing its head coach.
Odom was right. One can’t expect to win right away with the team Missouri had last season and they can’t expect to compete for a conference championship right now with the way Georgia, Florida, Alabama, LSU and Co. are playing this year. But the pieces are slowly coming together for Odom, and the talented, young core is exciting as it’s been in years.
So who’s to say Missouri can’t rattle off back-to-back wins against No. 12 Kentucky and No. 9 Florida and carry that momentum to a 9-3 season? Even if that doesn’t happen, it seems like Odom has the charisma and attitude that makes guys want to play for him. Pinkel had that trait, and Missouri’s current head coach is no different.
Don’t be surprised if the Tigers make another run at an SEC East title next season — that is, if they can figure out the quarterback situation (Kelly Bryant, we’re looking at you!).