With Kim Anderson’s impending resignation, we will quickly be immersed in rumors and candidates lists. But as we begin to debate who the best person is to lead Missouri basketball back to a healthier place, let’s talk landscape to better understand both where Mizzou basketball is and where it can go.
So how good is the Missouri job? What are the realistic expectations Mizzou fans can have for a coach in 2017? Let’s take a look at what makes a job a good job.
The past matters. Coaches need to feel good about the ceiling of a program, and Mizzou’s ceiling is clearly high. As recently as 2012, the team was a 2-seed in the NCAA tournament and won 30 games. That was the fourth season in a row the Tigers made the NCAA tournament.
In the last 40 seasons, the Tigers have been ranked during the season 23 times, including 18 times in the top 11. Many Missouri fans (and Kansas fans, too) will point to the lack of a single Final Four appearance in program history, but a coach is going to look at the ceiling as being a program capable of top-10 performance.
If you’re a top-10 program, you can contend for a national title. The NCAA tournament is too much of a crapshoot to consider only tournament success.
When I mention facilities, people tend to think of Mizzou Arena. Mizzou Arena is very nice, one of the best in the country.
Where you play your home games is just part of what makes ‘facilities’ important, however. Being able to fill a 15,000-seat arena can make the arena imposing for important games, but when recruits and their families hit campus, it’s just as important to show off your weight room and practice gyms and offices.
(It might be a little bit of a sore subject right now but showing them where they’ll get support from tutors.)
The locker rooms (recently updated), film rooms, meeting rooms, athletic training and support rooms, aqua- and hydrotherapy ... the list goes on. What you see on TV is just a small glimpse into the depth to which the arena goes into supporting the basketball program.
Mizzou’s facilities are amongst the best in the country. More than anything, the Tigers need to get back to winning so they can fill Mizzou Arena with more fans, making it an even more attractive environment to the nation’s top players.
The athletic department is huge. There are 11 people who report directly to the head basketball coach, and depending on how things break down circumstantially, you can probably increase that number to 13-15. That also does not include basketball managers, who are incredibly important, and there are up to 12 or so basketball managers.
There are roughly 23 people in the academics department, 13 in the training department, two psychologists, four people in a “Mental Performance” department. The 11 people who report to the head coach are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the support staff. Having everything you can ask for in order to help you and your team succeed is important to coaches, and Missouri offers that and more.
Mizzou has a lot of things going for it from a regional perspective. Being centrally located in the country is nice from the perspective of a national recruiting profile, but more important is that the state produces good basketball talent and has easy access to talent-rich areas. We know the iffy history of recruiting in St. Louis, but St. Louis and Kansas City provide major metropolitan areas from which good basketball players routinely come.
Missouri has been missing out on a lot of talent in the last few classes, but there’s still potential to land guys in the 2018 and 2019 classes who will make a difference. Carte’Are Gordon is the top-ranked player in Missouri and verbally committed to SLU. But:
- Courtney Ramey, Webster Groves
- Torrence Watson, Whitfield
- Karrington Davis, Chaminade
- Jordan Lathon, Grandview
- Christian Bishop, Lee’s Summit West
All are 2018 Missouri guys who can help transform the roster. Marcedus Leech and Mario McKinney are 2019 guards who will be recruited by everyone in the country.
The ability to not only quickly recalibrate the roster with guys who are from nearby, but also build a supplemental pipeline of players who can contribute to winners is there with the Missouri job.
Mizzou’s best teams of the past were either led by or supplemented by Missouri talent. So not just names like Steve Stipanovich, Jon Sundvold, Anthony Peeler, Kareem Rush, and Marcus Denmon, but also Jevon Crudup, Mike Sandbothe, Lamont Frazier, Kelly Thames, Julian Winfield, Brian Grawer, and more.
This isn’t a “RACROOT MISSOURAH BOYS!” line — this is just talking about finding the necessary talent to win. There’s a lot close by, and that fact makes the Missouri job an attractive one.
Power Conference Competition
The SEC is not without its problems. It’s arguably the worst of the power conferences (I’ve covered this exact topic in more depth before). But there are only so many power conferences and the SEC is still one of them.
League schools have made an obvious investment in basketball over the last few years, and it’s easy to be at least somewhat hopeful for where things are headed. That said, what SEC basketball jobs are better jobs than Mizzou?
It’s easy to say Kentucky is the best job because it is. After Kentucky, I think you’d pick Arkansas as the next best. Florida is the second best team this year, and was the second best program in the league over the course of Billy Donovan’s college career, but before Donovan the Gators had just five tournament appearances. When it comes to resources, history and access to recruits, there really isn’t a clear cut #4, and even #2 and #3 are debatable.
So the ability to build a program which can compete for NCAA appearances on a regular basis and be a thorn in the side of Kentucky is there.
The main reason Mizzou made the move to the SEC is the security of the league and the potential exposure it offered, particularly with the SEC Network. Every game is played on either the main network or SECN+, which grants the kind of regular national exposure you can pitch to recruits.
Couple the SEC Network with the SEC/Big12 Challenge, a current hot ticket, and add in being the northernmost school in the SEC. You have a unique pitch in recruiting.
Money is the biggest factor when it’s all said and done.
- How much can you pay me?
- How much can you pay my staff?
- How much can we spend on recruiting?
Missouri can afford to spend. The SEC move has afforded the school a larger athletics budget than what it had in the Big 12. The money has started to roll in from that, and with coaching salaries where they are, it will be needed.
Maybe the biggest aspect in all this is the new athletic director Jim Sterk. Sterk is known for being a basketball guy from his time at San Diego State and his presence on the tournament selection committee. His reputation in that regard, in giving coaches the resources they need, is sterling.
Mike Alden didn’t have a great reputation in basketball circles, and he was the one who made the last four hires, three of which ended (or are ending) poorly. Sterk will take his reputation on the road, and with the needed budget in hand he would be able to hire the kind of coach Missouri fans want to see hired.
Missouri is not a blue blood. There are legitimately only a handful of those programs. After the blue bloods, there’s a second tier of schools who have tremendous resources (more than Mizzou — think Texas, Ohio State, Oregon) who could become a blue blood with more consistent winning. However, there is a huge group of schools in the next tier, and this is where Mizzou solidly sits.
Think Wisconsin, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Baylor, Cincinnati, Creighton, Florida State, Purdue, Baylor, Virgina, Xavier, South Carolina ... these are all teams in the current AP top 25, and Missouri can be every bit as good as, if not better than, most of those schools. Winning 24 games in two and a half seasons doesn’t change what the Mizzou job can be, and the reasons above are why this is still a good basketball job.
Three years ago, Mizzou turned to a guy who wouldn’t say no or leave, and many feel Missouri isn’t a destination job. But it’s only one good coaching hire away from being just that.
There is, however, a small dark cloud on the horizon, which we haven’t really addressed: the investigation into allegations made by a former tutor, Yolanda Kumar. Some may be worried about what sort of impact this may have in attracting a new coach, but I am not very worried.
For one, there has been a precedent set by the NCAA when investigating recruiting violations and when investigating academic issues. Missouri has felt the brunt on the recruiting side recently, but there have been far worse academic issues at Notre Dame and North Carolina (I say this not knowing the full scope of Mizzou’s issues, obviously, but I feel pretty confident in saying it won’t be as bad as UNC), and both of those schools haven’t been hit with painful penalties.
Missouri can also point to the amount of turnover in the athletic department as a reason to lessen any punishment on top of that. So it’s certainly something to watch, and we won’t know how it will impact any forthcoming coaching searches. But for now, I will call it a minor issue.
Note: originally posted on January 17, 2017.