The Great Missouri Basketball Coaching Search of 2022 is fully underway and the rumor mills are churning.
One name I’ve seen spit out quite frequently amongst the Mizzou fan base is former Arizona head coach Sean Miller. And I would say just one thing on Miller: Just say no.
I don’t think Missouri is interested in Miller, but if they are they should move on quickly. There are plenty of good coaches out there and Miller is far from a silver bullet to success at Missouri. Let’s pretend for a moment that Miller doesn’t have any pending NCAA penalties against him. Miller wasn’t as good as we want to remember at Arizona.
Miller was the head coach at Arizona from 2009 up until last year in 2021. He missed the NCAA tournament 4 times, and was on the sidelines during the UCLA transition from Ben Howland to Steve Alford and even Mick Cronin. Basically, he was there during the Howland descent, and while Alford was okay, and before Cronin had revved up. He was there during the UCLA vacuum. Considering Lute Olsen took the Wildcats to 23 straight NCAA tournaments, won a national title, and turned Arizona into a power in the west, all Miller did was really ride that wave.
Miller sat on the bench of what is the best program out west right now, and while he was there Gonzaga took that mantle.
Miller has also never had to build a non-elite program. He took over Xavier from Thad Matta who went to a similar job at Ohio State, in a tougher league, and performed better.
Now you can talk about the Level 1 violations that could very likely land Miller with a show cause. Which means you’d be paying a coach to not have any affiliation with the program for an undetermined amount of time. If Miller knew his fate that would be a different deal. If Mizzou was suddenly going to up their budget into the $12 million range, I could see a scenario where Miller had some success. But Miller isn’t a do more with less kind of guy. He’s a buy the best players and achieve appropriate amounts kind of guy.
Yesterday, LSU finally fired Will Wade. They were waiting on the NCAA notice of allegations which would give them clearance to fire Wade with cause, meaning they wouldn’t have to pay him his buyout. But also consider that’s not why Arizona fired Sean Miller. Arizona fired Miller because he was tainted and stopped winning at the level they expected.
I made it known yesterday I’d prefer to see Missouri pursue someone like Niko Medved. A proven program builder, who’s had success at multiple stops, and crafts an interesting offensive approach. But I’m not opposed to the retread route, I just feel like Miller is a miss.
But what kind of retreads should Missouri get excited about?
It’s a legit question. Retreads have a miss rate as much as a hit rate. Rick Barnes was a retread, so was Ben Howland, so was Cuonzo Martin. If you’re hiring the next Rick Barnes then I think there’s reason to get excited. If you’re hiring the next Ben Howland? A lot less so.
Sean Miller feels a lot closer to Howland than he does Barnes. So how can you replicate the hiring of someone like Rick Barnes? You want to look at a level of sustained success vs a high peak and a bit of a flameout, coupled with a lack of NCAA allegations.
There are a few names I find intriguing. John Beilein is probably at the top of the list. I think you’d also check in with Thad Matta.
So why Beilein? He’s been connected to the Missouri job in the past, most notably when Quin Snyder was on his way out. At the time Beilein was coaching at West Virginia, and doing a great job there, but Missouri hired Mike Anderson, and Beilein waited a year and took the Michigan job. At Michigan, he was terrific. He won a LOT, in a very tough league, and he had 11 players drafted, and 9 still in the league today.
But consider after Steve Fisher left Michigan, the program didn’t sniff the NCAA Tournament until Beilein’s second season. That was 10 years of no trips. And after making it just once in the first three years, he made 9 of 10 tournaments with five of those being protected seeds. and two Championship game berths.
So he’s clean as a whistle, wins at a high level and not currently working? WHERE DO I SIGN UP?
The drawback is Beilein is 69 years old, and hasn’t been coaching now for the last few years after a failed attempt to try the NBA. Turning 70 next year would beg the question how long he plans on coaching, and if he’d really want to take on a program that needs to be rebuilt. Not only that, but any connection to Missouri is loose. Basically, he’s a known St. Louis Cardinals fan. That’s about all I could find. It is easy to get to Busch Stadium from Columbia. Another drawback is we have no idea if he would even bother taking the call. But he’s definitely in the category of “you gotta try”.
If you’re looking for a 10-12 year solution, Beilein isn’t the guy. But I’d contest you don’t need that. You need a 5-6 year solution. Missouri needs to reset and be relevant again.
Thad Matta, if healthy, can be that right retread. John Beilein is for sure.