COLUMBIA — Missouri coach Gary Pinkel met with the media Tuesday morning, intent on making a few things clear.
By TEREZ A. PAYLOR
The Kansas City Star
First off, he said, no one is as disappointed with MUs 5-7 record this season as he is. And in the same vein, no one is more excited about next season, a fact that became painfully obvious when Pinkel was asked if he gave any thought to stepping down after MUs first losing season since 2004.
No, no, I love what I do, said Pinkel, 60. I dont know where all that started. My daughter called me and said I hear youre retiring. I said I am? Well, not me.
Rumors swirled on the internet over the weekend about Pinkels job status, rumors that were eventually shot down Monday when Mike Alden confirmed that Pinkel will return for his 13th season.
In the midst of it all, Pinkel maintains he arrived at work Monday, ready to continue his routine and work toward the future.
I couldnt wait to get into work Monday morning, Pinkel said. I got in early, lifted weights at 5 in morning and (did) my workout. I have a responsibility here to build this program and build a respected national program. Weve done pretty good until his year, and we slipped a little bit. Its my job to get it back.
When asked if circumstances in his personal life like his DUI last November and well-publicized divorce over the past year have been a distraction, Pinkel was adamant they have not been, and that he has learned how to compartmentalize.
Yeah, Ive been a head coach 22 years, Ive raised a family with kids what you do is you go in and do your job, you focus on what you do, Pinkel said. You dont let anything interfere with you taking care of the job you need to do, and I have no problem doing that.
Though fans complained loudly both on message boards and Twitter about Missouris lackluster end to the season (which included back-to-back losses to Texas A&M and Syracuse), Pinkel indicated a sense of tolerance about that, effectively hinting that it speaks to the job hes done during his 12-year tenure of raising the bar.
I feel fine that fans are upset that were not going to a bowl, that we didnt have a winning season, Pinkel said. I like that, thats the way it should be. As you know, we used to cheer when we played someone close several years ago, and that drove me crazy.
Pinkel also made it clear that despite the rough season, he doesnt anticipate making any changes to the staff. And when asked directly if he expects some responsibilities to get be shifted around, he said he did not, though he would not hesitate to make a change if need be.
Hiring the wrong person is not what destroys your business, Pinkel said. What destroys your business is keeping that person in your organization. So personnel, to me, is huge. Ill never have anybody working for us thats not good enough to be here.
Pinkel said he sees a lot of head coaches around the country who have tough years and start firing guys, but added that will never be him because coaches dont go from good to bad in one year.
But while Pinkel maintained his belief in the need for stability, theres no doubt theres some change you simply cant avoid. For example, he strongly hinted that he expects star junior defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson to declare for the NFL Draft.
If I was a betting man, I would expect hed go, said Pinkel, who said Richardson will likely be a first-round pick (in which case, the staff encourages kids to declare).
Per Pinkels custom, he said, there will also be an open competition at every position in the spring, and that includes quarterback, where James Franklin is the incumbent after a largely disappointing, injury-riddled year.
Theres not a pecking order here, Pinkel said. You deserve to start if you win the job, and our players know that, and our players respect that.
To reach Terez A. Paylor, call 816-234-4489 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/TerezPaylor.