Coaching searches are a crapshoot. Your job as the athletic director is determine what your pool is, interview as many of the people in your pool as possible, and pick who you think is the best person to win big at your school. Most of the time it doesn’t work out, and the coach ends up getting fired or taking another job before they can be fired.
So the likelihood that Missouri is hiring their next Norm Stewart is remote if nonexistent. Too often fans and media get caught up in the chase and looking for what is going to be exciting. But sometimes it’s best to step back, and make this about something simple. Hire the best basketball coach.
Power Conference experience. High level recruiter. Splash name. There are a million different boxes to check when it comes to a coaches resume. But sometimes you just need to go find the best basketball coach you can find.
Rutgers was one of the worst Power Conference jobs. Eddie Jordan, Mike Rice, Fred Hill, Gary Waters, Kevin Bannon, Bob Wenzel, the list of coaches at Rutgers who couldn’t get the job done is a long one. Jordan had an NBA pedigree, Rice was a coaching lifer, Hill was an in-house hire and Jay Wright disciple. But after Rutgers fired Jordan they went after the hot name on the carousel in Dan Hurley. Hurley took one look at everything surrounding the program and said “No, thanks.”
After looking around and seeing what the pool was, Rutgers hired Steve Pikiell. Pikiell had been at Stony Brook for 11 seasons. He did well there, four regular season championships and one tournament championship, but it was hardly heralded as a home run hire. All Pikiell has done since then is build a winner at Rutgers, the same way he did at Stony Brook. Now he’s recruiting better and also going to NCAA Tournaments.
Rutgers hired the best coach. He rewarded them with making Rutgers relevant again.
Maybe the best coach available is Matt McMahon.
McMahon should get more respect than he’s gotten from some of the comments I’ve seen and heard from Mizzou fans. He’s more accomplished than Todd Golden and Kim English. He’s developed multiple NBA level guards. And he’s won as a head coach at a high level over multiple years.
This season was McMahon’s 4th regular season conference title and the third time his team has won the conference tournament. He’s had 3 seasons of sub-100 KenPom ratings, and while Ja Morant helped, this season has been his best one. In season seven, McMahon has fully built the roster he wanted with athletic mobile bigs, fast attacking guards, and they went undefeated in conference play and were awarded only their second single digit NCAA tournament seed in school history. The last single digit seed, season one under Steve Prohm with a roster built by Billy Kennedy.
So I don’t think it’s fair to compare McMahon to Prohm. Prohm’s best season was with someone else’s players. McMahons best season was 100% his players.
He doesn’t check all the boxes, but truthfully nobody does. The job of the Athletic Director is the know the pool of candidates, interview those candidates, and pick the best one. I don’t get to interview the coaches, but I watch their teams. And I like watching Murray State play basketball. I’ve liked watching them for years. They’re tough, they defend, they run good offensive stuff. And McMahon has fixed his wagon to identifying and developing guards.
So tell me, why wouldn’t you want someone like that running your basketball team?
Teams with good guard play win in the post season. Teams with good guard play win more games than they would otherwise. This season Matt McMahon found/developed a worthwhile big in K.J Williams (who was the Conference player of the year) and they took off.
The recipe: Find good guards and develop them, hit when you find the right big man.
That’s something sustainable at any level. And it would be sustainable at a place like Missouri.
Now we get to the point of this post where I left to go record a podcast. And came back to the news from Pete Thamel reporting Dennis Gates was the guy at Missouri. And it all changed so fast.
If McMahon isn’t the choice I’ll be fine. If Kim English isn’t the choice I’ll be fine. Missouri needs to hire the best coach they can hire, and if they think that coach is Dennis Gates then we’ll #TrustTheProcess and see how it goes. Dennis Gates is by all accounts an accomplished guy. I have my own trepidations that he’s the best fit for Missouri, but then again we don’t get to make those decisions.
Desiree Reed-Francois and Mun Choi make those decisions. There’s no tanking in College Sports so you have to believe they think this is the right hire. We’ll see how it goes.