With the identity of the next Missouri basketball coach still unclear as of 4:47 p.m. Sunday (hey, it could change in a couple minutes), front and center in the murky coaching search is this: a closed University of Missouri System Board of Curators meeting is set for 1 p.m. Monday.
The meeting is "for consideration of certain confidential or privileged communications with university counsel, negotiated contracts and personnel matters," so it presumably regards approving a contract for the man who is to replace Frank Haith as Missouri’s next men’s basketball coach.
Former Tiger and current Central Missouri coach Kim Anderson is a finalist and there seemingly is another candidate (Ben Howland?) or two who have eluded a vast media dragnet.
It seems improbable that MU would have called the meeting if it weren’t certain it would have its man by Monday.
Of course, this is ever-unpredictable Mizzou, and a Mizzou apparently furnished now with black helicopters or a Romulan cloaking device for its coaching searches. So it’s impossible to really know what the meeting will address or yield.
Still, the announcement seems to reflect another change in approach this time around by athletic director Mike Alden.
The first change, of course, has been the maddening silence:
Beyond what can only be assumed was a strategic leak of Anderson’s name to ESPN on Monday, Alden evidently has ordered a gag order on anyone who knows anyone who knows anyone involved in the search.
That has seemed a reaction to the clumsy way things unfolded in 2011, when Mizzou said "Matt Painter or bust" and busted.
That nearly public embarrassment crumbled into a scramble that ultimately led to Haith at Miami.
However you felt about Haith, who was the national coach of the year in 2011-12, the integrity of the search suffered from what was known about the investment in Painter.
Then the haste in pursuit of Haith meant his candidacy wasn’t even known to the curators.
At the time, I was working at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and then-curator David Wasinger told me the morning after the news broke that seeing Haith’s name in the paper was the first he’d ever heard of Haith whose contract the board had to approve for it to be finalized.
"The board is going to have a lot of questions," Wasinger, a St. Louis-based attorney, said then.
He also called for fans and alumni to let their feelings about Haith be known to board members around the state before the meeting that night. Sources at the time said several curators were slammed with feedback, most of it anti-Haith.
In the end, the board took less than two hours to approve a five-year, $7.5 million contract for Haith.
But the disconnect was just another element of an awkward start for Haith and a puzzling search by Alden, who no doubt was told the curators would appreciate being in the loop next time around.
This time, it appears they will be as fans and media are the ones left guessing.