COLUMBIA — Frank Haith lived a fairy tale as Monday rolled into Tuesday, sort of like Cinderella in reverse.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
As the clock struck midnight, Haith was officially reinstated as the Missouri basketball coach.
“It feels great,” Haith said Tuesday morning in a teleconference with reporters. “I came over to the office last night around midnight and spent about an hour in there just going through some stuff. It feels good, really good, to be back.”
Last month, the NCAA suspended Haith, who is in his third season with the Tigers, for the first five games of the season — his punishment for failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance during his tenure at Miami.
From Nov. 8 to Nov. 25, Haith couldn’t have contact with his coaching staff or Missouri’s players. It made for a long 18 days.
“I missed the guys and I missed doing what I do, so it’s truly a blessing to be back on the court with these young men and the coaching staff,” Haith said.
The Tigers went 5-0 during Haith’s absence. It wasn’t easy at times for Missouri to get to that record, but it was probably even more taxing on Haith.
Haith said it was very tough “just being separated from what you do and your team for about 18 days, not being there and being a part of what I’m hired to do, and that’s have an impact on young people’s lives. To have that taken away from me, it was the hardest thing (in my career), sure, by far.”
The Tigers also missed Haith.
“I can’t wait to have coach Haith back,” said junior Jordan Clarkson, a transfer from Tulsa who has yet to play a game with Haith on the bench. “I miss him, man.”
Junior Jabari Brown expects Haith’s return to provide a spark.
“We were playing for him while he was gone, so we’ll continue to do that now that he’s back,” Brown said. “It’ll be like another burst of energy.”
Associate head coach Tim Fuller, who assumed head-coaching responsibilities with Haith unavailable, was thrilled to be able to turn the program over with an unblemished record.
“I will finally be able to sleep,” he joked.
Fuller also said that he has a new appreciation for Haith’s job and looks forward to seeing Missouri continue to evolve with all of the pieces back in place.
“The guys are definitely ready for coach Haith to come back,” Fuller said. “It was kind of a housesitting thing or a babysitting thing for me, just to manage everything. Now that he comes back and everything’s intact, he’ll be able to put his stamp on it and help us move forward to the place we need to go. I’m thankful that he’s coming back.”
Haith vowed to turn the suspension into a positive as best he could. He spent a lot of time on the road recruiting but also enjoyed being a family man during the NCAA’s recruiting dead week.
He said he “was not a good person to be around” when watching the Tigers’ games alone at home during the suspension, but he also got a different perspective on the team.
“I was able to see a lot and learn a lot about our team, about everything,” Haith said. “It’s helpful to me to come back to the team and be able to share with them the things that I learned watching them from afar and talking to people that watched our games.”
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.