The Frank Haith Era has officially begun at MU. Haith, who was officially named Missouri’s men’s basketball coach Monday night, was introduced to the public at a news conference Tuesday morning.
“It’s truly an honor to be here with you today,” Haith said. “I feel like I’m the luckiest man in the world. I have felt the passion already and that’s why I’m here.”
In his first meeting with the players early Tuesday morning, Haith stressed the importance of family and relationships.
“Yesterday was the toughest day I’ve had, because I had to tell those guys in Miami that I was no longer going to be their coach,” Haith said. “So, I know what [the Missouri players] felt when Mike [Anderson] told them that he was leaving for Arkansas. But I told them, I’m not going to be Mike Anderson, I’m going to be Frank Haith.”
Haith also told the players that he intends to pick up where Mike Anderson left off in terms of building the program, but that they have to buy into his system to be successful.
“What he did here for five years, he’s taken this program to be very competitive nationally,” Haith said. “We have great, great people along with really good players. We will win here. We will win big and that was expressed in that meeting this morning with these guys. We want to win and we want to win big. We talked about how that happens, the commitment they have to make, and I think they understand that.”
With a record of 129-101 at Miami over his seven seasons at head coach, Haith’s hiring drew some harsh criticism. Despite the backlash from many of the fans, Haith said he was actually encouraged by their reaction.
“I don’t look at the negativity I’m hearing so far as a negative, I look at it as a positive because that’s why I’m here,” Haith said. “That’s what I want. I want that passion because I want to win. I want to cut down nets. I am not taking it the way you think I should take it. I take it as a positive. I’m excited about doing that here. I’m excited about what we have here to get that done.”
Junior Ricardo Ratliffe admitted that he had little knowledge of the incoming Missouri coach.
“I really didn’t know anything about him,” Ratliffe said. “He sent me a couple of letters while I was at Junior College, but I didn’t really respond to them or anything because he never came to visit me or anything.”
Despite not knowing too much about his new coach, Ratliffe said he is ready to play for coach Haith.
“After this morning I had a lot more faith in him and after this, I just got even more,” Ratliffe said. “I’m just ready to grow a relationship with him so we can get ready to win next year.”
Junior Lawrence Bowers, who entered his name for the NBA Draft Monday afternoon, agreed with Ratliffe’s positive assessment and said he was “looking forward to playing for [Haith]” and that fans need to start supporting the new head coach.
“He said a lot of great things. I’m already looking up to him,” Bowers said. “On the outside, people need to give him a chance. I have been hearing a lot of negativity and why we hired him and stuff like that, but he hasn’t had a chance and I really believe he’s going to do a good job.”
The success of Haith’s tenure as Missouri’s head coach will depend largely on how well he is able to recruit.
With three scholarships available for this season and six more becoming available for next year, Missouri Athletics Director Mike Alden stressed the importance of finding a candidate who was capable of recruiting on a more national level.
In order to achieve Alden’s goal of recruiting on a national level, Haith believes that he must first lay the groundwork within the state of Missouri.
“We have to do the job in this state,” Haith said. “From Kansas City to Saint Louis to all over this state, we’ve got to do a great job, but I do think Missouri is the caliber of University to recruit nationally. Our foundation must start here in the great state of Missouri.” While Haith emphasized the importance of “hitting the ground running,” he also knows this is not a process that should be rushed.
“We’re going to make good decisions,” Haith said. “We’re going to be patient in what we do recruiting wise. So, understand this: we’re not going to just take guys to take guys. We’re going to do our due diligence in recruiting guys, evaluating guys that fit what we’re trying to do here.”
Haith has started to contact and reconnect with a few coaches in Saint Louis and said he plans to begin talking with coaches in Kansas City in the coming days. NCAA coaches can start talking with recruits on Thursday.
With his assistant coaches remaining at Miami, Haith must find new coaches to complete his staff.
There was speculation that former Texas A&M coach Melvin Watkins, who was an assistant under Mike Anderson, would remain at Missouri and join Haith’s staff. However, Haith told reporters after his news conference that he expects Watkins to retain his position on Anderson’s staff in Arkansas.
Haith also anticipates Phil Pressey, as well as everyone else who is on the team to return to Missouri next season.
Bowers and Kim English had entered their names into the NBA Draft, but did not hire agents, meaning that they can still return for their senior seasons. They have until May 8 to make a decision.
With so many seniors on the team, Haith is excited for the future of the program, but said it is important to figure out who the team’s leaders are.
“We just gotta find leadership and I’m trying to figure that out,” Haith said. “Where are our leaders on this team? Because that’s going to be important for us too.”