MU’s Mike Alden under pressure to make quick, smart basketball coach hire

04/19/2014 3:52 PM

04/19/2014 5:00 PM

Mike Alden has been here before.

For the fourth time since becoming Missouri’s athletic director in 1998, Alden is in the market for a men’s basketball coach after Frank Haith jumped ship Friday for the same gig at Tulsa.

“It’s unusual at this time to have a vacancy in college basketball, but I think that what we want to make sure we don’t do is rush the process for the sake of rushing it,” Alden said at a news conference Friday at Mizzou Arena. “We want to make sure we work it and that we move fast, we hustle, but that we’re very diligent in our efforts.”

After Haith’s unexpected departure, Alden is perhaps under more pressure than ever to make a quick but smart hire that also will appease a restless fan base, an effort complicated by the fact that Southeastern Conference rival Tennessee recently began a coaching search.

Three years after taking the reins of the Tigers’ athletic department, Alden hit a home run when he hired Gary Pinkel as the football coach

Pinkel’s 13-year run at Missouri includes 102 wins, a program record for coaching victories, and at least a share of four Big 12 or SEC division titles.

Alden’s track record hiring basketball coaches isn’t as exemplary.

Asked how confident he was that Alden would make the right hire in the coming weeks, Rick Meyer, a Missouri fan from St. Charles, Mo., who was tailgating outside Memorial Stadium on Saturday before the football team’s Black and Gold Game said, “Mine’s low.”

“Maybe five out of 10,” said Bill Gall of St. Joseph, who would love to see the Tigers hire VCU coach Shaka Smart.

Meyer said he thought Central Missouri coach Kim Anderson, who played at Missouri and was an assistant coach on Norm Stewart’s staff also “would get a lot of support.”

“In hindsight, he (Alden) can’t do much worse,” Gall said. “Anything might be an improvement.”

That sentiment certainly exists among Tiger fans, but it’s probably not a fair assessment.

While revisionist history suggests that Alden has gone down swinging with his first three hires after Stewart resigned in 1999, the first two men’s basketball coaches Alden hired, Quin Snyder and Mike Anderson, guided the Tigers to the Elite Eight — as far as Missouri has ever advanced in the NCAA Tournament.

Snyder was a bright, up-and-coming coach when Alden plucked him from Mike Krzyzewski’s staff at Duke for the unenviable task of replacing Stewart, a Hall of Fame coach who had been at Missouri for 32 years.

Snyder led the Tigers to a 126-91 record before resigning late in his seventh season. His tenure started well with four straight NCAA Tournament appearances, including a run to the Elite Eight in 2002.

Of course, Snyder’s time is remembered more for the Ricky Clemons fiasco, which landed the Tigers on probation for three years and essentially became Snyder’s undoing.

Anderson was another hot commodity when Alden lured him away from Alabama-Birmingham in 2006.

Missouri reached the Elite Eight in Anderson’s third season. But after going 111-57 in five seasons, he bolted for Arkansas, where he had served as an assistant for seven years under Nolan Richardson.

That led to Haith’s hiring — an unpopular choice from the start, especially after his name was linked to the Nevin Shapiro booster scandal at Miami.

Still, Haith won 30 games that first season, including a Big 12 tournament championship, and received national coach-of-the-year honors. His 53-16 mark is the best in Missouri history in a coach’s first two seasons.

Haith’s legacy was tainted by back-to-back postseason flops in the NCAA Tournament round of 64 followed by a subpar 2013-14 season, when the Tigers’ school-record run of five consecutive tourney appearances ended.

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