Does it really matter who the Missouri Tigers hire as their new basketball coach? That may depend on who you talk to and what their view of the Missouri program. In the few days since Mike Anderson finally accomplished his goal and bolted from Missouri (yes that’s an editorial statement), here are some quotes from local and national analysts in interviews I have conducted.
“The fact is, Arkansas is a better job than Missouri’s.”
“Missouri just isn’t an elite program.”
“Missouri has never won anything. They find a way to be competitive and that’s it.”
“Why would someone want to leave a job in a good situation for Missouri?”
“Nobody looks at Missouri as a dream job.”
All the comments point to the same question…….Why?
Why isn’t Missouri an elite program? Why can’t the Missouri job compete with the Arkansas job? Why has Missouri not won? Before hiring a new Head Coach, these questions must be answered and addressed or it just won’t matter who the Tigers hire.
Mike Alden said the right things in the wake of Anderson leaving. He said Missouri needs to be a destination place. He said they need to find someone who can recruit at the national level and take the winning at Missouri to another level. While it all sounds good and in the right direction, will the steps be taken to make it happen?
The Missouri Tigers must change the attitude and culture surrounding the program and it has to come from within. Build on the momentum left from Anderson. The program must develop the swagger and belief that they can be one of the top programs in the country, and there is no reason they can’t. The next hire for Missouri must be someone committed to stay. It became very clear Anderson was going to test whatever waters flowed his direction until the “Dream Job” opened up. Missouri needs to find someone willing to make Missouri their “Dream Job”. Missouri needs someone to embrace the legacy of Norm Stewart and become the next head coach for 25 years. The Tigers need to find a coach with the rare skill set of both coaching intelligence and loyalty, and in the end they will need to pay for it. (Yes, easier said than done but those decisions separate the elite from the rest)
In today’s economic climate of college coaching, that process may mean paying more early on to lock into the right guy, but once you find him, keep him. Make the contract one that penalizes bolting on the program, yet handsomely rewards staying and finding success. The Tigers have a facility now that is up to par with some of the top programs in the country. That excuse no longer exists. Boosters are there to help with what is needed. They are the big dog in the state and in a very good conference. When you put it all together, there is nothing to hold Missouri from becoming elite except themselves. Can you do it with integrity? Yes. Can you do it without cheating? Yes. Will it take some time? Yes.
Mike Anderson deserves all the credit coming his way for revitalizing the Missouri Program and making it relevant again. His desire to interview for other jobs and eventually leaving makes you wonder if he might have been his own worst enemy in finding another level at Mizzou. But that does not detract from where the program is today and what he did with it in just five years. It is better.
Now the Tigers have the chance to build. And it is solely on their shoulders to do so. They can make the job a destination job. They can make Missouri a place coaches want to go. They can give a level of loyalty and demand a level of loyalty in return. The biggest question is, are they willing to do it? If they do, another level will be found. If not, it frankly just won’t matter who they hire.
(Note: As this was written, rumors and reports lead to Missouri hiring Matt Painter from Purdue, or at least making him their first choice. If they get him, you have to believe pasrt of their sales pitch was doing what was necessary to move the program forward and the contract will show if the administration is taking the first steps in proving they want to be elite. If Painter stays at Purdue, Missouri needs to make sure they take their time and get the hire right on plan B. Sometimes plan B becomes more successful than plan A, but no shortcuts, panic, or compromising the ultimate plan, aids in making the process a success.)