Yesterday was an eventful day, and we didn’t really know it.
Michael Porter Sr’s three-year contract with #Mizzou expired yesterday and will not be renewed in its current capacity. There are discussions about a role for Porter continuing with the program or in the athletic department in another role.— Gabe DeArmond (@GabeDeArmond) May 1, 2020
Michael Porter Sr’s contract was a three year deal for $1.125 million, which expired on the last day of April this year. No disrespect is meant towards Porter Sr, who is by all accounts a fantastic guy, but the deal for Missouri has largely been a sour one. They gambled on Michael Porter Jr and Jontay Porter being able to restore Mizzou basketball, and bridge the rebuild of the program. And while the first season went about as well as you could hope considering the back injury MPJ sustained, the following seasons have been torpedoed by additional injuries and the program is only moderately better than it was.
Porter Sr was hired to bring Michael Jr and Jontay into the fold at Missouri. The plan was to go all in on 2017-18 and try to cover over the bruises of multiple years of roster neglect, bring in as much top end talent as possible to put around Michael, and get the fan base re-invested. For the most part the plan worked...
Season tickets sky-rocketed, and Mizzou Arena was packed for the Tigers opening game against Iowa State. All seemed right with the world... with just one caveat. The whole reason for this set-up, Michael Porter Jr, saddled himself to the bench for 38 of the 40 minutes played. And we wouldn’t see him again for the remainder of the regular season.
Sure Missouri made the NCAA tournament, but they were quickly bounced by an underrated Florida State team. Then the predictable happened, MPJ announced he was leaving college for the NBA, and Jontay declared as well. Jontay returned, but tore his ACL just before the season. So Missouri paid $1.125 million for 861 minutes of game action in the 2017-18 season.
Porter Sr has value on his own, but independent of his talented family, he was an inexperienced assistant coach. The “hire a family member” situation can work out, and Mizzou’s financial gamble paid off nearly immediately in the form of season ticket renewals. But the investment was fleeting. It was expected to pay off over a long term, instead it left the program short on players and in need of a change up.
Martin flipped Porter with long-time staff member and friend, Marco Harris, hoping to inject some juice by shuffling chairs. But even that move accomplished very little.
So what happens from here?
I think it would behoove Missouri to keep Porter Sr around. He’s skilled with people, and understands how the game works. Even if Missouri doesn’t need him within the basketball program he would be a huge asset for the school in and around the community.
As for how the roster changes? Whether or not MPS is a part of the program is probably less important than how Cuonzo Martin deals with the makeup of his staff, and most importantly if he opts to move Harris back into an Operations role or if they pursue an outside source to fill in for the 3rd assistant role.
The clamoring for Kim(mie) starts now. https://t.co/cCugEkNQyX— Matt Harris (@MattJHarris85) May 1, 2020
One thing, freeing up around $375,000 from your annual budget is no small thing.
However, these times are no ordinary times. The coronavirus pandemic has done a number on the economy, and not playing sports has had an adverse affect on the potential income for Universities and Athletic Departments.
So does Missouri even have the financial flexibility to replace the previous contract?
Matt, perhaps semi-jokingly, brought up a move to go after Kim English. But that doesn’t work well for Kim’s timeline. English is one of the most astute young basketball coaches in basketball, and he’s also likely acutely aware of timing and the kind of job he wants to end up in. If Missouri is an eventual landing spot for Kim, it’s likely too soon. There might’ve been a window a year or two ago for him to slide onto the bench as an assistant, but he’s in a better power conference job right now. And he’s member of a coaching staff winning big time recruiting battles.
English’s next job will likely be as a head coach. There aren’t many better assistant jobs he can move into, unless another school gives him a prime bench spot and a hefty raise and a bump in title. But English also fits the profile of the kind of addition which might help.
Still, if Kim English is going to eventually land back at Missouri, right now is too soon. Martin may have his hands tied with the budget, and the focus will be on maxing out this season. The program needs to instill some excitement and faith back and there’s opportunity to do that this season.
With or without Porter Sr, Missouri’s basketball program has an important offseason ahead. A healthy season could move Mizzou back into the NCAA tournament conversation for the first time since MPS brought his heralded sons to the roster in a whirlwind of a few months in the spring of 2017. Since then the high has transformed to a hangover. Perhaps this move is the first step in the program cure for the hangover?