The Missouri men’s basketball season might have ended Friday, but the team's consistent flow of awards has not ceased.
The United States Basketball Writers Association named first-year coach Frank Haith the Henry Iba Coach of the Year on Monday.
Haith is the second coach in program history to earn the award, which he will receive at the USBWA College Basketball Awards Breakfast at the Final Four on March 30 in New Orleans.
“The players, coaching staff, administration, fans, I mean, all those things play into the success any coach has,” Haith said Monday. “When you have all those things here, I salute Missouri, I salute my staff (and) I salute my players for this honor.”
Haith is the second Missouri coach to win the USBWA’s award and the third to receive national coach of the year honors. Haith's predecessor Mike Anderson, now coach of Arkansas, won the USBWA’s award in 2009 and Hall-of-Famer Norm Stewart took honors from the United Press International in 1982 and from the Associated Press in 1994.
The honor follows up a 30-5 Missouri season that saw program records for regular season wins and Big 12 Conference wins, as well as the school’s second Big 12 Tournament championship. The campaign came to a halt Friday in Omaha, Neb., when the No. 2 seed Tigers suffered an 86-84 upset defeat to No. 15 seed Norfolk State.
Haith was sure not to allow the tournament upset to define his first season.
“I think that when you sit back and really look at big picture, you have to say this team had a heck of a year,” Haith said. “You can’t just disregard the 34 games prior.”
Although at first he wasn’t received enthusiastically by a Missouri fan base hoping to land Purdue coach Matt Painter, Haith quickly won fans over with instant success. Missouri was pegged No. 25 in the preseason AP and Coaches polls prior to losing all-Big 12 senior forward Laurence Bowers for the season with an ACL tear.
Haith's job became more difficult with the transfers of guard Ricky Kreklow and forward Kadeem Green, forcing Haith to utilize a seven-man rotation featuring four starting guards. Missouri responded to the challenges with a 14-0 start prior to ending the year No. 3 in the AP Poll.
“From day one he got us all together and got the chemistry right where it needed to be,” sophomore point guard Phil Pressey said after Haith won the AP Big 12 Coach of the Year Award. “From (the) start we all knew what he wanted, which was to win, so we bought on pretty fast.”
Senior forward Kim English has been the most vocal recipient of Haith’s coaching this season. Following Anderson’s departure to Arkansas last spring, English and Bowers submitted paperwork to enlist in the NBA draft. Both came back, and after Bowers suffered his season-ending injury in the preseason, English made a bold move to the power forward spot.
English has called Haith the best coach he’s ever played for and said his coach doesn’t get wrapped up in personal honors.
“He didn’t care when people said he wasn’t qualified for the job in April, he didn’t care when people said he was a coach of the year candidate in the nation in February,” English said of Haith prior to the Big 12 Tournament. “He is even-keeled, when things are going great and when things are going bad.”