Q: Did you read the article(s) talking with Tim Fuller by Sam Snelling in the RMN? Your thoughts please?
A: A couple thoughts I'll share here. A lot of ground was covered in that interview. First, I'll say this: I contacted Fuller several times to talk about the season and his situation with the program, as did others who cover the team. He never responded, which isn't surprising. He stopped responding to me midway through the season. I think it's telling. I would have definitely asked about the Jakeenan Gant recruitment, his nine-game NCAA suspension and Fuller's role in that situation and how it impacted his departure. Maybe he wasn't willing to discuss the Gant situation in the interview he did with RMN. I don't know. Otherwise, he sure seemed to blame a lot of people for what's happened at Mizzou the last few years, including some veiled shots at Anderson. He shouldered some of the blame, but I know this much: His comments directed at other coaches quickly made their way through the college basketball coaching community. Missouri's program came off in a bad light, and coaches elsewhere took notice. I've had private conversations about the piece with people in the coaching world, who for obvious reasons didn't want to comment publicly, but Fuller didn't make any friends with some of his comments. And it's not a stretch to say some of his comments might have hurt Anderson's search for his replacement.
Some reactions to this (and other, similar comments made elsewhere):
4 Years in Columbia
Shortly after the news leaked out that Fuller wasn’t going to return to Missouri next season, we reached out to him to see if he was interested in telling his story of his time at Mizzou. He accepted the invitation.
1. As you saw, almost every topic was on the table for discussion, but Fuller said he was not allowed to talk about a few of them. Gant's suspension was one of those.
2. When Sam shared the audio of the interview with me, we discussed a lot of different options for how to present it. Five-part, year-by-year effort? Topic-by-topic (like the outtakes we've been sharing, only much lengthier)? In the end, I recommended that we run it mostly as one giant piece. First, we could make it pretty with the feature treatment, which was nice. Second, by presenting so much of it at once, we could share more of the vibe of the conversation as a whole.
Let's be honest: depending on mood, we could have gone in any direction with the content of this interview. Tim Fuller spends 1,000 words blaming himself for everything bad that has happened over the last four years! Tim Fuller spends 2,000 words burning every bridge -- blaming Flip for Transferpalooza! Blaming Haith for guilting him into taking this job! Blaming the players for Norfolk State! Blaming Kim Anderson for not coming up with an identity! Blaming the athletic department for him losing the Florida A&M job! Et cetera.
Because we have no prearranged length or subject restrictions, we were able to get creative with how to present this. Sharing so much of the interview at once allowed Sam to show how the conversation unfolded overall. That softened some of the things that could be considered knife-edged toward colleagues. It also allowed readers to see that Fuller didn't come into the conversation with (much of) an agenda -- he simply answered the questions that Sam asked. (Did he want to make himself look as good as possible? Probably. But you kind of accept that to some degree from the start, and you read it through that filter.) And Sam's agenda was to walk through the three years of the Haith era and the first year of the Anderson era, start to finish.
And it resulted in one of the best pieces Rock M Nation has ever done, maybe the best.
3. Granted, we agreed from the start that people would still see whatever they wanted to see from the piece. The reaction from around the Internet has been both predictable and hilarious. Sam was Fuller's fluffer! He didn't ask the hard questions! Fuller blamed everybody but himself! He threw everybody under the bus! He made the entire basketball program look stupid! Sure.
4. We warned the athletic department that this piece was coming, that the piece wasn't going to be perfectly complimentary to the athletic department or anybody else, but that it was going to be presented fairly. It was. And the only way Sam's feature put anything or anybody in a bad light -- the department, the basketball program, Frank Haith, Mike Alden, Kim Anderson, anybody -- is if you either think people are perfect or you want people to think these people are perfect. They're not. Even if you want to believe that (and you shouldn't), the impressive trailing off of results from 2012 to 2015 should remind you that there has been plenty of bad luck and bad decisions involved with Missouri Basketball of late. Sam set out to ask Tim Fuller about some of the positive and negative developments of the last four years, and Fuller answered his questions.
Has this hurt Missouri's efforts to find a Fuller replacement? Possibly, but only if, again, a prospective assistant was thinking Missouri was a perfect place before last Friday. Spoiler alert! It's not! Mizzou won nine games last year! And will it hurt Fuller's efforts to find a new job? Possibly, but a) both he and his lawyer signed off on the content that was shared, and b) it will only hurt him if a prospective employer thinks he's an emotionless Recruiter Bot who doesn't make mistakes and doesn't have opinions. Really, a piece like this is more likely to be used as justification for thinking something you were already thinking. If you liked Fuller before this piece, or if you thought the Mizzou assistant position was an exciting one, there's not much here to change your mind. But if you were already wavering...
I understand the kabuki dance that is media and perceptions and whatnot, but if this piece has had a negative effect in this regard ... well ... so be it. This interview and the process of writing the piece were executed in an above-board, ethical, rational manner. I'm proud of the it, I'm proud of Sam, and I haven't lost any sleep lately (at least, not because of that). This will stand as a historical document helping us to further understand the last four years of Missouri basketball. It's not all pretty, but neither was the product on the court.
The main goal for this site has always been to share more information and open people up to shades of gray. In that sense, this was one of the most Rock M posts Rock M has ever done. If all you want to take from it is that Sam didn't ask the hard questions, or that he threw Phil Pressey/Kim Anderson/Mike Alden/whoever under the bus, then go ahead. It's the Internet, and you can think whatever you want. But both Fuller and the piece itself provided infinite shades of gray and showed that smart people can make mistakes, that unrelated circumstances can play huge roles in a coach's success, and that coaches, administrators, and everybody else involved are human beings who are impacted by mistakes, good/bad luck, et cetera. I'm incredibly proud of the piece. Even if it evidently destroyed Missouri basketball.
To the links!
Another easy win
An enormous series starts on the other diamond
Post-Dispatch: Tigers ride power surge into first place
And in basketball...
PowerMizzou: Two visits left for Walton
A hell of a season on the mat
And if you're interested in signing up for premium membership at FloWrestling...
FloWrestling: All Access MIZZOU (Episode One) - Tiger Style
FloWrestling: All Access MIZZOU (Episode Two) - One More