Five days-plus after University of Missouri men’s basketball coach Frank Haith made his escape to Tulsa official, the search process either is a brilliant stealth campaign, a clinic in diversionary tactics or just clunked up in gridlock.
Pick one, any one of those assessments, and you might be right.
The same goes for candidates. Mizzouliterally is taking applications
on the University of Missouri system website.
If I had to hazard a guess in the void right now about whose potential candidacy MU is exploring with the most energy, I’d say Ben Howland.
Why? Well, why not? And because he guided UCLA to three Final Fours and is available, maybe even at a reasonable price.
But mostly just because his camp is eerily silent, and his agent hasn’t returned a number of messages from The Star.
So there is no real basis to suppose Howland, of course, but that sort of speculation remains what we’re left with as MU has bunkered down even as supposed other candidates “emerge.”
An informed source continued to say Wednesday that presumed prime target Gregg Marshall of Wichita State and his camp have not been contacted by MU or anyone affiliated with the search.
Along with that, the brief surge in political traction that UTEP coach Tim Floyd enjoyed also crumbled by Wednesday night.
Three sources in position to know told The Star that Floyd had not been contacted by MU despite an ESPN report Tuesday night that characterized him as a “strong candidate” for the job.
The Floyd ruckus came and went in a flurry, but Marshall’s name still seems to remain on people’s minds.
It probably shouldn’t.
Even as we acknowledge it’s almost impossible to know anything with certainty, even if you believe Marshall isthe
man for the job, one of the few things that seems safe to reason now is that it won’t be him.
There are many more and better reasons to believe that than that he will.
For starters, he has no compelling rationale to leave a school — which adores him, rewards him handsomely (about $2 million a year in base pay and semi-automatic incentives) and that he’s taken to the Final Four and a No. 1 NCAA Tournament seed — and try to overhaul a program in flux.
He’ll almost certainly want too much money for MU to afford, especially after the school has drained its donors for hundreds of millions in facilities in its transition to the Southeastern Conference.
Moreover, Mizzou is coming off what might be considered a contentious contract extension process with coach Gary Pinkel and his staff. Money was part of that.
Marshall likely would demand about $3 million year and a long-term deal. Those figures would put him near what Pinkel is making.
And wouldn’t that then mean Pinkel has to be given more yet in appreciation of what he’s done for the program over the long haul?
Nothing is impossible, of course, but if Marshall becomes the Mizzou coach it would represent an incredible bridging of gaps.
So what else do we think we know?
Mostly just that this is all a hazy maze and that nothing should really shock you.
This is where we’re supposed to recite a few more names, maybe Xavier’s Chris Mack, Nebraska’s Tim Miles, Louisiana Tech’s Mike White or Stephen F. Austin’s Brad Underwood. But there is nothing to base any interest in them by Missouri as of Wednesday night.
Missouri, through a search firm, has contacted Central Missouri’s Kim Anderson though.
A report by ESPN’s Andy Katz on Monday said Anderson “is one of a few finalists for the opening, according to a source with direct knowledge.” Katz went on to say “a decision on the next Missouri coach could be made within a week.”
This report has all the tracks of coming from inside MU, in part because of the specifics.
But it raised questions, too, most notably why did it only name Anderson?
It would be nice if it could be read at face value, because I think Anderson would be a very good hire for a lot of reasons and merits serious consideration.
Still, the skeptic in me can’t shake the idea it was a shrewd trial balloon, cast to try to gauge sentiment towards Anderson, who just coaxed the Mules to the Division II championship but has been given virtually no consideration for the job three times before.
That’s the theory of several interested observers from major programs.
“I think (athletic director Mike Alden) is floating it and getting the pulse of the people,” said one, adding, Alden “right now is probably reading blogs and doing all that, getting the pulse of that leak.”
So we still don’t know anything Missouri doesn’t want known. That even applies behind-the-scenes to well-placed sources normally kept apprised.
Frustrating as it might be on fans and media, that kind of discretion and discipline is the right move by MU.
That’s especially true after the inadvertently transparent process last time around became a fiasco.
Alden invested everything in Purdue’s Matt Painter only to be virtually publicly jilted as potential alternatives such as Cuonzo Martin, then at Missouri State, made other moves.
Mizzou had to scramble and ended up with Haith, whose name inspired little faith in the fan base and bailed for Tulsa after three years rather than take his chances on what would come after a fourth year at MU.
News of the hiring of Haith was a stunner after Missouri’s search group went dark in the wake of Painter’s snub.
But it was a stupefying for all the wrong reasons.
Let’s hope that the public lull now means a more methodical, meticulous plan that leads to a better outcome — even as we can only guess what that will be.