With the NCAA’s five-game suspension of coach Frank Haith nearing, someone other than the Tiger’s head coach will have to usher Missouri into the 2013-14 season.
Haith is expected to name a replacement at his weekly press conference Wednesday. Here are the candidates to replace him:
Fuller is only 35 years old but has already had a heck of a résumé for an assistant coach. Fuller’s career as an assistant has included stops at Louisville, Fairfield and Wake Forest, where he was also a standout player for the Demon Deacons before he got into coaching. Haith coached Fuller during his playing days in Winston-Salem, N.C., when Haith was on the Demon Deacons staff as an assistant. While at Wake Forest, Fuller coached Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul.
Fuller was a part of Haith’s main staff when he arrived at MU and has served as Haith’s main recruiter for the past three seasons. Fuller is a major reason why the Tigers had a top-20 recruiting class last season and are in the mix for another one this season.
Fuller was named one of the top 10 assistant coaches under the age of 40 by ESPN and his official title on Haith’s staff is associate head coach. Since Fuller’s title makes him one step below Haith, he is considered the favorite to take the reigns during Haith’s suspension.
Leitao is going on his second season on the Tigers bench after joining the staff last season. Leitao has had a long and successful career with accolades at every stop, highlighted by winning Atlantic Coast Conference coach of the year in 2007 while head coach at Virginia. Legendary coach Jim Calhoun recruited Leitao back when he was at Northeastern and enjoyed a successful career there both as a player and coach. Leitao was named head coach at Northeastern in 1994 after serving as an assistant at Connecticut under Calhoun for a few seasons. Leitao left his alma mater to return to UConn where he would help recruit and coach current NBA players like Ray Allen, Caron Butler and Emeka Okafor. Leitao also coached current Huskies head coach Kevin Ollie.
Leitao coached at DePaul from 2002-2005 where he led the Blue Demons to an NCAA tournament appearance and two trips to the NIT. He then moved on to Virginia where he became the first African-American head coach in school history. Leitao was head coach of the Maine Redclaws in the NBA’s D-League before Haith hired him as an assistant last season.
With Leitao’s resume and head coaching experience, Haith picking him over Fuller makes plenty of sense because of Fuller’s inexperience. Learning under a coach like Jim Calhoun doesn’t hurt you chances either.
Phelps is the most recent addition to Haith’s staff as this is his inaugural season with the program. Phelps was most recently the head coach at Drake where he became the winningest coach in program history during his five years there. While at Drake, Phelps composed a record of 77-86 in his five seasons, which included two trips to the CollegeInsider.com postseason tournament.
Phelps served as an assistant coach at North Carolina State for 10 years all with coach Herb Sendek. While on the Wolfpack’s bench, Phelps helped lead the program to a school record five straight NCAA tournament appearances including a trip to the Sweet 16 in 2005.
Phelps then went on to Arizona State for a few seasons before he went on to Drake. While at Arizona State he crossed paths with current Houston Rockets guard James Harden for a season.
With Phelps still getting fully acquainted in the program as a member of Haith’s staff, it doesn’t seem logical for Haith to select him as his replacement for his five-game suspension.