It may not be as soon as next month at Missouri, but Barry Odom knows his day is coming.
Odom, who is in his first season as the Tigers’ defensive coordinator, is speculated as a candidate to replace outgoing coach Gary Pinkel, who announced Nov. 13 that he had follicular lymphoma and would resign at season’s end.
Odom said that if he doesn’t get the job, he is confident he will land a head coaching job somewhere soon.
“I’ve said that, and I’m not afraid to say it,” Odom said. “I’ve said it a number of times. I’m going to be a head coach. I don’t know when, don’t know where, but, yeah, that’s what I want to do.”
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Obviously, Missouri would be the dream destination. Odom is a 1999 MU graduate and still ranks No. 7 on the program’s all-time list with 362 career tackles.
“I really won’t let my mind go there, but, yeah, it would be such a great opportunity to represent this athletic program and university and state,” Odom said. “It would be awesome. No question.”
For the time being, Odom’s focus is on preparing for Arkansas at 1:30 p.m. Friday and the quest for bowl eligibility.
The Tigers, 5-6 and 1-6 in the SEC, need a win to guarantee their 10th bowl game in the last 11 seasons.
“This time of year, throughout the country, there’s a lot of talk,” Odom said. “I owe it to this football team to stay focused and to try to get us in position to play our best game defensively.”
That’s really all any of Missouri’s assistants can do. Each is auditioning for a job next season, whether it’s on the next MU coach’s staff or at another program.
“I just try to do the best job I can do,” defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski said. “People recognize that I do a good job, so hopefully things will work out well.”
Returning MU players certainly hope for some continuity.
“Those coaches are successful at what they do,” sophomore safety Anthony Sherrils said. “I would hope any coach would come in a keep them on staff, because they’ve been successful. We’re one of the most winning programs under these coaches, so I would hope that they stay around.”
The reality is that significant changes are coming for the Tigers’ assistant coaches one way or another.
“One of the most difficult things, when you do what I did, you rock the world of all your coaches,” Pinkel said.
Historically, he’s been exceedingly loyal to his assistant coaches — including Kuligowski, cornerbacks coach Cornell Ford and running backs coach Brian Jones, who all followed Pinkel from Toledo, and associate head coach/quarterbacks coach Andy Hill, who has been on Missouri’s staff for 20 years.
“When I talk to other coaches around the country, they say, ‘You worked for one guy for 25 years? How did you do that? How does that happen? Nobody has had that,’ ” Kuligowski said. “Next year, it won’t be 26.”
Kuligowski and his wife, Mary, wed in April 1991. He started as a graduate assistant on Pinkel’s staff at Toledo a few months later.
“I’ve been with coach Pinkel just about as long as I’ve been married to my wife,” Kuligowski said.
Asked how shocking Pinkel’s cancer revelation was along with word he’d resign on a scale of 1 to 100, Hill said, “Like 100. It was very shocking. With an exclamation point.”
Pinkel didn’t tell his assistant coaches he had cancer, fearing word of his condition would leak publicly and adversely affect recruiting effort.
“You can imagine me recruiting if people knew I had cancer,” he said. “You wouldn’t have a chance.”
It’s hard enough answering questions for those players who had committed to Missouri before the announcement.
Pinkel said he has spoken to 95 percent of them, urging them to keep their options open but at least meet with the new coach after he’s hired before making a decision.
Those players are eager for answers, particularly about who the next coach will be.
“I don’t have answers,” Kuligowski said. “We’ve just got to see how the whole thing plays out. I don’t have any answers for the players. I don’t have any answers for my family right now. We’ll just keep coaching them real hard, and something good is going to happen.”