Alden's fourth coaching search begins

2014-04-21T22:20:00Z 2014-04-24T14:16:08Z Alden's fourth coaching search beginsBy Dave Matter dmatter@post-dispatch.com 314-340-8508 stltoday.com

UPDATED, 10:20 p.m.

COLUMBIA, Mo. • A couple developments in the Mizzou coaching search. 

ESPN's Andy Katz reported Monday afternoon that Central Missouri coach Kim Anderson "is being termed one of a few finalists for the opening." The story cites an anonymous source and does not list any of the other finalists.

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MU officials said over the weekend the search would not begin in earnest until Monday - but by Monday afternoon they already have a finalist? Also, early indications from sources involved was that Anderson was not expected to be a serious candidate for the job, much less a finalist on the first day of the search. Missouri athletics director Mike Alden interviewed Anderson in 1999 for the head coaching job when he instead hired Quin Snyder and has since overlooked the former Big Eight player of the year and longtime Norm Stewart assistant in the past two head coaching searches. 

On Monday night, Central Missouri spokesman Mike Knipper issued this statement on behalf of Anderson: “The team just returned from having a great meal in Jefferson City with Governor and Mrs. Nixon. I am the coach of the Mules. At this time, I will have no comment on any other jobs.” 

Perhaps Anderson is now a serious candidate. But if there are multiple finalists, why would the source reveal Anderson but not the others? There's an undercurrent of Mizzou fans hoping Anderson gets the job - a Facebook page called "Kim Anderson for Mizzou Men's Basketball Coach" had more than 1,300 likes Monday night - and maybe Katz' report was related to the pro-Anderson faction.

Meanwhile, the Tennessee Vols reportedly have a coach. And it's the same answer to a Mizzou trivia question: Who was the last coach to beat Frank Haith during his MU tenure? The Vols have agreed to terms with Southern Miss' Donnie Tyndall, according to ESPN.com and CBSSports.com. Tyndall's Southern Miss team eliminated Missouri from the NIT last month. 

Missouri assistant basketball coach Tim Fuller will consider the head-coaching job at Florida A&M if he’s released from his Mizzou contract, a source close to the situation told the Post-Dispatch. FAMU, located in Tallahassee and a member of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, has targeted Fuller for the position, as first reported by CBSSports.com. 

FAMU recently fired third-year coach Clemon Johnson, who was making $150,000 annually. FAMU’s athletics director is a familiar name for Mizzou fans: Hall of Fame tight end Kellen Winslow.

Fuller’s Missouri contract expires June 30. He makes $270,000 at MU. According to his contract, Fuller must obtain prior written permission from athletics director Mike Alden and the head coach or MU chancellor R. Bowen Loftin before he can terminate his contract. 

Fuller has been serving as MU’s interim coach since Frank Haith accepted the head coaching job at Tulsa last Friday. Fuller, 36, is the only full-time assistant who has been with Haith all three seasons at Mizzou. Promoted to associate head coach in 2012, Fuller was acting coach during Haith’s five-game NCAA suspension to begin the 2013-14 season. He coached the Tigers to five wins over Southeastern Louisiana, Southern Illinois, Hawaii, Gardner-Webb and IUPUI. 

Hired away from Rick Pitino’s Louisville staff, Fuller has been Haith’s top recruiter since coming to MU. Among the recruits he’s landed is forward Jakeenan Gant, the reigning player of the year in the Georgia, one of two signed recruits for MU's 2014 class, along with Namon Wright, a guard from Los Angeles.

Fuller was a walk-on player at Wake Forest, where he first met Haith, who joined the staff as an assistant coach during Fuller's playing career. 

The FAMU Rattlers have made three appearances in the NCAA Tournament, as a No. 16 seed each time. 

Fuller, director of basketball operations Bryan Tibaldi and video coordinator Toby Lane are still on staff at Mizzou, while assistant coach Dave Leitao and strength and conditioning coach Todor Pandov followed Haith to Tulsa.  

For the fourth time in 15 years, Missouri athletics director Mike Alden is looking for a head basketball coach. Mizzou basketball searches might as well be considered Olympic events. They happen roughly every four years and can be wildly unpredictable and equally controversial. 

In the next week or two — let’s hope not longer — Mizzou will have its medal ceremony and Alden will loop the gold around the neck of his chosen winner. 

Before we get to the latest buzz on Alden Search 4.0, a quick recap of his past hoops hires.

In 1999, Alden replaced Mizzou legend Norm Stewart with 32-year-old Duke assistant Quin Snyder, the Annakin to Mike Krzyzewski’s Obi-Wan. Stewart announced his retirement on April 1; Snyder was introduced in Columbia on April 7. Before then, here are the other candidates the P-D listed at the time, with their current positions listed in parentheses if they've since changed jobs: 

Tommy Amaker, Seton Hall (Harvard coach)

Kim Anderson, Mizzou assistant (Central Missouri coach)

Bob Bender, Washington (Milwaukee Bucks assistant)

Mike Brey, Delaware (Notre Dame coach)

Tom Davis, former Iowa coach (retired)

Larry Drew, Lakers assistant (Milwaukee Bucks coach)

Phil Ford, North Carolina assistant (out of coaching)

Gary Garner, SEMO (Dakota State coach)

Rick Majerus, Utah (died in 2012)

Buzz Peterson, Appalachian State (fired from UNC-Wilmington)

Skip Prosser, Xavier (died in 2007) 

Kevin Stallings, Illinois State (Vanderbilt coach)

In the final stages of the search process, former UMass and New Jersey Nets coach John Calipari pulled himself out of the running — perhaps because he was eliminated first — leaving Alden with the choice of Snyder and Tulsa coach Bill Self. We know what happened next. 

In 2006, after Syder’s promising reign unraveled on and off the court, Alden turned to Alabama-Birmingham’s Mike Anderson. Snyder was fired with a few weeks left in the season on Feb. 12. The season ended March 9. Anderson was introduced on March 26.

Here were the other possible candidates the P-D listed after the season:

Dana Altman, Creighton (Oregon coach)

John Beilein, West Virginia (Michigan coach)

John Calipari, Memphis (Kentucky coach)

Tom Crean, Marquette (Indiana coach)

Jamie Dixon, Pittsburgh 

Billy Gillispie, Texas A&M (out of coaching)

Karl Hobbs, George Washington (UConn assistant)

Bob Huggins, former Cincinnati coach (West Virginia coach)

Rick Majerus, former Utah coach (died in 2012)

Chris Lowery, SIU Carbondale (Kansas State assistant)

Greg McDermott, Northern Iowa (Creighton coach)

Skip Prosser, Wake Forest (died in 2007)

Lon Kruger, UNLV (Oklahoma coach)

Three years ago, Anderson bolted for Arkansas on March 24. The P-D listed four possible candidates:

Matt Painter, Purdue 

Mark Fox, Georgia

Ben Jacobson, Northern Iowa

Cuonzo Martin, Missouri State (new Cal coach)

Painter was interested and came close to accepting the job — until he didn’t. Painter turned down MU’s offer on March 30 and agreed to a new contract at Purdue. Alden reportedly talked to Tubby Smith next … then delivered the biggest curveball of his career as he unveiled Miami’s Frank Haith on April 5. 

Which leads to Alden Search 4.0. Missouri officials are expected to begin the search in earnest on Monday, after the holiday weekend. Here’s what I’ve gathered in the few days since Haith stunned Mizzou and accepted the head coaching job at Tulsa: 

 As of Saturday, several coaches or their representatives had already reached out to Mizzou about the position. Among those who have expressed interest, the Post-Dispatch has learned, is Texas El-Paso’s Tim Floyd. Floyd, 60, is 70-50 in four seasons at UTEP with zero NCAA Tournament appearances. Floyd’s best years were from 1988-98 at New Orleans and Iowa State when he led his teams to five NCAA Tournaments in nine years. Then he gave the NBA a try and missed the playoffs three out of four seasons with the Chicago Bulls. Next he returned to the college game at USC, where he had four winning seasons in four years but resigned in 2009 after he was reported to have made improper benefits to a former player’s runner. All that said, I don’t suspect there’s mutual interest from Mizzou. Moving on …

• Missouri will begin its search with the biggest name in the field: Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall. On Sunday, Marshall’s agent told the Post-Dispatch that Missouri had not made contact with him or Marshall about the vacancy. That doesn’t mean a third-party search firm has not made some initial contact. Alden has historically used national consultant Bob Beaudine to assist in coaching searches and he could go that route again. 

Here’s what we know about Marshall: It’s going to take a lot of money to pry the national coach of the year away from his situation at Wichita State, a program that’s in position to have another big season in 2014-15 at a school that doesn’t have a football program and showers its attention on Marshall’s powerhouse hoops team. In September, Marshall agreed to a new contract that pays him $1.75 million on a rolling seven-year contract, which means his current deal is through 2021. That salary figure is what Haith was scheduled to make next season at Mizzou. It will clearly take more to land Marshall — perhaps as much or close to Gary Pinkel’s new $3.1 million figure? 

Bob Lutz, a columnist for the Wichita Eagle, has his finger on the pulse of Marshall’s program as much as anyone, and Lutz has a hunch Marshall would be interested in Mizzou. He wrote last week:“The bottom line is this: How deep is Missouri willing to dig for basketball success? It has a great facility and a hungry fan base, although crowds at Mizzou Arena have suffered since the Tigers departed the Big 12 for the SEC. Basketball’s popularity seems to have diminished in Columbia now that the Tigers are in a devout football conference. But Missouri hasn’t gotten basketball right since Stewart retired. There were flashes under Quin Snyder, Mike Anderson and even Haith, who led Missouri to 30 wins in his first season three years ago. But success has not been sustained.

“Marshall would be a transformative hire for athletic director Mike Alden, who’s hired MU’s last three coaches. Marshall’s that good. He would win, no doubt about it. The questions then become: How much is Missouri willing to pay in salary and number of guaranteed years? And could Marshall, who is sleeping in a warm and cozy bed at Wichita State, be enticed enough to leave for Missouri? Or anywhere else?

“Missouri isn’t the best basketball job in the country, but it’s a good one. And Marshall fits the Tigers’ fan base, which is exhausted by being reminded that the school they love rarely wins anything big. Gregg Marshall has one more Final Four than the Tigers.”

You can read the rest of the column here.

As for the rest of the field …

• Missouri is intrigued by former UCLA coach Ben Howland.

Here’s the question, at least one among several, with Howland: What happened at UCLA? This exhaustive 2012 Sports Illustrated piece by George Dohrman spelled out issues that might have contributed to Howland’s fall from grace in Westwood. MU officials have looked into the published story. Howland turns 57 next month. Before things began to unravel at UCLA he had a reputation for highly disciplined teams that played relentless defense. He led the Bruins to three consecutive Final Fours from 2006-08. He’s a West Coast guy but his best teams were hardly flashy. 

Missouri is very concerned with finding a coach who’s “the right fit” for its fan base and the school’s culture. That’s been expressed to me several times the last few days — and it’s not just throwaway AD talk. Missouri believes its fans are longing for substance, for disciplined play, selfless play and a greater commitment to defense. The phrase “blue collar” came up several times in a recent conversation. That doesn’t mean Missouri wants to hire Larry the Cable Guy or even a coach with roots in the Midwest. But there’s a sense among the administration that Mizzou has gotten away from its roots — too much sizzle not enough substance. 

And don’t interpret that language as some kind of racial code. Two of the most tenacious, hard-nosed teams down the stretch this year and during the NCAA Tournament were Tennessee and national champion Connecticut — both led by African-American head coaches.

(Ironically, these are the same values Haith told reporters three weeks ago that he wanted to define his fourth Mizzou team. The product on the floor had gotten away from those ideals at Mizzou. Haith recognized that but hadn’t done much to deliver change. Example: Team play and on-court results have been trending downward for two years yet three underclassmen played well enough offensively as individuals to convince themselves they were ready for the NBA draft.)

Back to the main point. On the surface, Howland would appear to match some of these ideals. His teams at Pittsburgh and UCLA had postseason success with a no-nonsense, rugged style. He’s definitely on the radar.

• Speaking of getting back to Mizzou’s roots, I don’t sense Central Missouri’s Kim Anderson has much of a chance. Shoot up Alden with truth serum and he might tell you he should have hired a younger Anderson years ago, but the newly crowned Division II national coach of the year and national champion turns 59 in a few weeks. And hiring him now would essentially admit a mistake in not hiring him earlier. Missouri is not necessarily set on hiring a young coach, but Anderson might be on the wrong side of 55. And who’s to say Anderson would be interested in taking over at his alma mater? He’s too much of a gentleman to ever admit it, but Stewart’s former apprentice can’t be thrilled that Alden has passed him over three times already. 

• What about Painter? Three things have happened since Alden fell head over heels for the Purdue coach in 2011 that now make him a long shot.

One, Painter rejected Mizzou’s interest and parlayed it into an eight-year contract at Purdue with a big salary bump. Alden hasn’t forgotten. Two, Alden and Purdue athletics director Morgan Burke are chums and for the last year have served as national spokesmen for their Division I athletics director peers. Burke is the president of the Division IA Athletic Directors' Association. Alden is the president of the National Association of Collegiate Directors. They’ve worked together closely on initiatives to reorganize the national structure of college athletics. As two industry sources indicated this weekend, that relationship would be awkward if Alden poached Burke’s basketball coach. Three, Painter has lost some luster the last two years. Purdue finished last in the Big Ten this past season. 

And don’t assume Alden might do his pal Burke a favor by hiring Painter before Purdue would have to fire him. According to this story, Purdue owes Painter the full compensation left on his contract if it fires him, which would be about $12.5 million heading into next season.

• The Queen City has two candidates. Alden can check a lot of boxes with either Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin or Xavier’s Chris Mack. They’re proven winners during the regular season with consistent postseason appearances. Their teams are known for playing a rugged, disciplined style. They’ve worked at respected programs: Xavier and Wake Forest for Mack; Murray State, Louisville and Cincinnati for Cronin. Both are in their prime coaching years: Mack is 44, Cronin is 42.

In both cases, Alden would have to pull them away from home: Mack is an Ohio native and Xavier alum; Cronin is a Cincinnati native and a Cincinnati alum. 

With Mack, there are some ties to Mizzou. He and current interim coach Tim Fuller missed each other by a few months at Wake Forest in 2004 — Mack left Wake in the spring to join the staff at Xavier; Fuller came to Wake in September — but they are both part of the Skip Prosser coaching tree. Also, Mack’s current Xavier assistant Rick Carter was on Haith’s staff — with Fuller — during the 2012-13 season. 

California and Wake Forest showed interest in Mack recently and Mack has since insisted that he’s happy at his alma mater. "I've had several opportunities to make more money over the last four or five years,” he recently told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “Some of the opportunities have remained under the radar and some haven't. I've always felt so much better about the entirety of the situation at Xavier than I have about any other perceived opportunities.”

"At the end of the day, Xavier's where my heart is. It's not about money. It's about the right fit. I like what we're building at Xavier, and it's what I'm completely committed to.”

As for Cronin, he’s rebuffed interest from North Carolina State, Nebraska and Virginia Tech in recent years. "I make no secret about where I'd love to be," Cronin told the Enquirer recently, "but I also have some dreams for our program, some facility upgrades and some focus shifting from our administration on doing things for the men's basketball program which in turn will generate revenue for our entire department allowing us to compete with what's going on around us.”

That sounds like two coaches who are happy at their alma maters … but just three weeks ago Haith was talking up his returning core at Mizzou and the program’s bright future. 

• A handful of younger, less seasoned coaches are on Mizzou’s initial radar, including Louisiana Tech’s Mike White and Dayton’s Archie Miller. Missouri wants to impress its fans with the hire and fully recognizes the sagging attendance at Mizzou Arena. Can a lesser known rising star from a low profile mid-major revive the base? That’s a question the administration has to ask itself. (Several outlets have reported that White has become Tennessee's prime target.) 

• What about an assistant coach? If there’s an assistant who will get a look, Mizzou’s Fuller will likely be the only one on the radar. And my sense is Alden definitely prefers someone with head-coaching experience. But Fuller could still be an asset for the staff, especially when it comes to retaining the two signed recruits, Jakeenan Gant and Namon Wright.

The same goes for director of basketball operations Bryan Tibaldi, who I’m told is working tirelessly to keep Gant and Wright on board. Whoever Alden hires, Tibaldi, who turns 30 this summer, merits a spot on the staff in some capacity. A former walk-on at Michigan State, Tibladi spent two years on Tim Izzo’s MSU staff as a grad assistant then spent two years on the Chicago Bulls’ staff as a video coordinator and in the front office. Former Mizzou players swear by Tibaldi’s intelligence, work ethic and Xs and Os knowledge. 

That’s all for now. Check STLtoday for more as the search unfolds.

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