On Mizzou basketball… what happened, and what comes next. No predictions here. Just a hope and a wish that Mizzou will succeed.
1) After a meeting Friday with Athletic Director Desiree Reed-Francois, Coach Martin left as former Coach Martin. In response, we were treated to another round of tributes, exalting the man’s personal qualities and saluting his sincere desire to shape his players and value them as people. This signal of media virtue was predictable, but here’s what I don’t understand: isn’t it possible for virtuous coaches to win many college basketball games? Winning on the court and winning the game of life…these things are not mutually exclusive.
2) A man of character can have a successful win/loss record, clinch conference titles, and guide his team through runs in the NCAA Tournament. A good man can be a good coach and build a solid program without sacrificing his principles. It happens all the time. And in the brave new world – with transfer portals and NIL money – getting access to good players has never been easier. A coach with ethics can play the hustle game because it’s fair game and by the rules. You don’t have to “cheat” to get there. Incentives can now be offered in the open. You don’t have to be dirty, but if your nails get bitten a bit, no one will sound the police sirens. So, I repeat: it is not a choice. You don’t have to be a charlatan to, say, get into the Elite Eight. Just play the new system to make it work. Good grief. Cuonzo Martin was an old-school basketball coach, and that was worthy of respect. But an old-school coach who can’t or won’t adapt to college basketball’s dramatic transformation will be left behind.
3) Missouri left Martin for obvious reasons: 28 losses in their last 43 games. Have a .368 winning percentage in SEC games over the past four seasons, and that includes play in the conference tournament. Chaos of the list. A deterioration in recruitment. Bad results in transfer portal. A lack of interest in cultivating NIL as a necessary recruiting tool. A boring and rambling offence. A collapse of Martin’s strength – defense. An average losing margin of 14.7 points per game this season. Embarrassing crowds for home games. The disgust of big donors. There is more, but we can stop there.
4) Martin has taken the Tigers to two NCAA tournaments in five seasons, which is good. But that hardly represents any sort of major achievement. As I write this Sunday, it’s before the unveiling of the field for this year’s NCAA Tournament. But in Martin’s first four seasons — which included both trips to March Madness — 129 different programs made it to the NCAA Tournament. And 70 of 129 have won at least one game, including Murray State, Liberty, Abilene Christian, Belmont, Marshall, UCF, North Dakota St., North Texas, Radford, Fairleig Dickinson, UMBC, Cal-Irvine and Norfolk State.
5) Martin went 0-2 in the NCAAs as Missouri coach. Missouri’s down-and-out program hasn’t won in the NCAA Tournament since 2010. From the 2011 tournament through last season, 132 programs have at least one win in the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers are the only Power 6 program in the nation to appear in a minimum of five NCAA tournaments between 2011 and 2021 and not win a game.
6) And the next coach? Some coaches are better than others. The ideal coach is an excellent scout, an elite tactician and a prolific ticker seller. Can Mizzou have a guy like that? I’m going to be ridiculously polite here and repeat something I heard from our Japanese hosts during the Nagano Olympics when I made a request that couldn’t be met: “It would be difficult.” In other words: forget it, bubba.
7) So if we were to prioritize a quality over other considerations, it’s an easy call: get a manic recruiter if possible. And make sure the money is available to pay the best assistants who will recruit like crazy. And the coach must have the golden touch with the transfer portal and NIL incentives. Because if you get enough good to great players, the team will win many games. And if the team wins many games, fans will come back to the Mizzou Arena in large numbers.
8) Oh, yeah… and maybe this coach will bring some fun offense to CoMo? It would be nice. Missouri fans have suffered enough.
Here’s what I mean: In the combined eight seasons of Mike Anderson and Frank Haith, the Tigers had an average ranking of No. 30 in the nation for KenPom offensive efficiency. Considering that 335 teams are included in the rankings, this average of No. 30 is quite fabulous.
Then this: In eight seasons of basketball under Kim Anderson and Martin, Mizzou’s average KenPom ranking for offensive efficiency was No. 145. If the empty seats in Mizzou Arena could walk out on their own and leave the game… who would blame them? Mizzou fans deserve a little entertainment.
9) I don’t know why the discussion about the next trainer is partly framed as, “Mizzou should go get an outraged villain trainer because all that matters is winning and we know EVERYONE cheats so let’s go -y and let’s get nasty and dirty. Let’s take a few seconds to chill our heads, shall we?
ten) Look, I don’t care if Missouri Chancellor Mun Choi and the DA want to sue Rick Pitino, Gregg Marshall or Sean Miller. Let me change that: Actually, I would care because Miller has a disturbing NCAA investigation on his head for all sorts of slimy deals to Arizona. And if he is tagged with severe penalties, those penalties would follow him to Missouri and be imposed on the program. And if the goal is to go after a recruiting ace, Gregg Marshall could be radioactive given the nature of his sacking by Wichita State. (Unless potential recruits are impressed with his punching ability and choke hold.) The dismissal came after a months-long investigation into allegations that included multiple verbal and physical incidents against former players and Staff. Pitino turns 70 this fall, seems happy at Iona, and has plenty of skeletons in the dressing room where he keeps his designer suits.
I guess Choi and Reed-Francois will avoid exploring this particular snake-filled garden. Why? (A) Because I wouldn’t want to insult them by assuming otherwise. (2) I guess they are smart enough to understand that snakes can harm careers. (3) Who needs legal invoices? Doesn’t Mizzou have income problems? Unless I misjudged Choi and DRF, Missouri won’t go there.
11) And like I said earlier in this article, you don’t need a bandit to win at college basketball. It’s not as if the Millers, Marshalls and Pitinos are the ONLY options available to hire a new coach who will be a strong and successful new leader of an emaciated program.
Here’s another related opinion: If Choi and Reed-Francois want to go that route that leads to hiring a thief, that tells me they’re unsure of their ability to identify and hire a coach who can win. without Mizzou officials worrying about it. the FBI or other law enforcement officials reporting to administrative offices. If Choi and Reed-Francois think the only way to win is to go rogue, then they’re admitting their weakness and lowering their personal standards. And I don’t think they will…because they don’t have to. The management of UM must take it out on her and trust her judgement. There are plenty of good coaches. Go find one. You don’t need to bend down.
12) The name game doesn’t interest me that much, because pretty much all of these things turn out to be trips straight out of Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds. But if those speculative, utopian mentions of Dana Altman have any substance, then call Dollar Bill Laurie, fuel up the private jet, and offer the Oregon coach anything he wants to become United’s next coach. . The same goes for looney-tunes wishes on Baylor’s Scott Drew.
13) I’m not advocating that a mid-major coach be Missouri’s choice. I have an open mind about all of this. But I have to say, I get a kick from Mizzou fans automatically excluding him, like hiring a mid-major coach is way short of Missouri. Yes indeed.
14) The snobbery is out of place but comical. Sure, we’ve seen plenty of mid-major guys flop at the Power 6 level. We’ve also seen mid-major guys have exceptional success leading a power conference team. We also know that Norm Stewart, the greatest hoops coach in Mizzou history, was hired away from northern Iowa.
Just to use an example, I’m not going to cross Matt McMahon (Murray State) off the list just because he’s won and earned so many positive mid-level reviews.
15) Sunday morning I watched Top 50 shows. And while I haven’t looked at the backgrounds of all 50 coaches, I’ve compiled a representative list of major mid-term home runs.
– Villanova has hired Jay Wright from Hostra.
– Baylor has hired Scott Drew from Valparaiso.
— Alabama hired Nate Oats from Buffalo.
–Kansas hired Bill Self after coaching two mid-majors, Oral Roberts and Tulsa.
– Duke hired the young army trainer named Mike Kryzewski.
–Purdue has hired Matt Painter from southern Illinois.
– Arkansas hired Eric Musselman from Nevada.
– Texas Tech hired Chris Beard from Arkansas-Little Rock. (Beard coaches Texas now.)
–Iowa hired Fran McCaffrey from Siena.
– Virginia Tech has hired Mike Young from Wofford.
– Buzz Williams was a head coach for a year at New Orleans, was an assistant at Marquette and landed head coaching positions at Marquette, Virginia Tech and Texas A&M.
– Providence hired Ed Cooley from Fairfield.
– Connecticut hired Dan Hurley from Rhode Island.
– Wake Forest hired Steve Forbes from East Tennessee State.
–Ohio State hired Chris Holtmann from Butler.
– Chris Holtmann, Ohio State, at Butler
– USC has hired Andy Enfield from the Gulf Coast of Florida.
–Colorado State hired Niko Medved from Furman; before that, he coached Drake for one season.
16) I don’t know why Missouri would automatically exclude aides like Jerome Tang of Baylor, a recruiting dynamo. When Sean Miller self-destructed in Arizona, the Wildcats smartly hired Gonzaga’s assistant, Tommy Lloyd. Boise State also hired a Gonzaga assistant in Leon Wright. There and many more examples of top assistants who have made a winning leap to a head coaching position. There is no reason to exclude assistants.
Good luck Missouri. Don’t fear the wrath of message boards or Twitter. Opinions are everywhere, so it’s best to do what you truly believe is the best. I hope the search will lead to a new day and a new path for Mizzou basketball. We all want Mizzou basketball to recruit again. Count again. To entertain again. To go dancing again. It’s been too long.
Thanks for reading …