Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.
Is it possible for a head coach to be on the hot seat the day of his hiring?
Hook Frank Haith up to a lie detector and the answer would surely be in the affirmative.
Unless there were dozens of prospective candidates that privately turned down Missouri after Matt Painter abstained, Haith was certainly a curious second choice. While Miami doesn’t provide nearly the facilities or unending fan devotion as their ACC counterparts, a 43-69 career conference mark normally doesn’t result in a job upgrade. There’s no captivating NCAA Tournament run to highlight, either; Haith reached one NCAA Tournament in seven seasons at the helm and fell in the second round. In the eyes of Missouri AD Mike Alden, Haith’s wealth of experience as an assistant in the Big 12 at Texas A&M and Texas supersede the aforementioned red flags.
To make matters even more tenuous for the new Missouri coach, Haith’s name was mentioned in Nevin Shapiro’s bombshell allegations regarding the Miami football and basketball programs. Shapiro alleges that Haith had full knowledge of a $10,000 payment from Shapiro to secure the services of heralded recruit DeQuan Jones. Haith claims the allegations are “not an accurate portrayal of my character.” If the accusation did occur, Haith could be terminated for reasons that have nothing to do with conference record or on-court performance.
Despite this doom-and-gloom picture I just painted, there are actually plenty of reasons to be eager for the season to begin in Columbia. This team clearly has the ammunition to win a Big 12 that lacks a clear frontrunner with Baylor’s point guard issues, Kansas more vulnerable than at any time in the last decade and Texas A&M going through a coaching transition. In fact, with eight of their nine main contributors returning, Haith is walking into the best situation of any new head coach.
Haith needs to win at Missouri sooner than later
Team Outlook: There are tantalizing players lining the Missouri roster, but the only way the Tigers can truly make the next step into elite status is by improving their lackluster defense and winning more than one conference road game. A top-15 defensive team in 2010-11, Missouri fell to #65 last season and won just two road contests at Oregon and Iowa State. Hiring a coach whose Miami team placed ninth in the ACC in defensive efficiency is a head-scratcher. Marcus Denmon had a fantastic junior campaign, scoring nearly 17 PPG, shooting 50% from the field, making 45% of his threes and turning the ball over on a meager 8.2% of his possessions. Despite being undersized, Missouri is most effective when Denmon is teamed with Mike Dixon, a plucky 6’1 guard who posted elite assist and steal rates as a sophomore. Kim English has never been a model of efficiency, but he really scuffled shooting the rock in 2011-12 and needs to improve significantly. The frontcourt is bolstered by double-double threat Ricardo Ratliffe and the reliable Laurence Bowers, while Phil Pressey is a sparkplug off the pine. There’s depth, talent and plenty of promise on this roster. Whether they can adjust to a new system and toughen up on the road are lingering questions.
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