Hoops coach Frank Haith leaving for Tulsa
Tigers will search for new coach for second time in three years.
Apr. 17, 2014
Men’s basketball coach Frank Haith will leave Missouri to take the same job at Tulsa, a source close to the Tulsa program confirmed Thursday.
Missouri Athletic Director Mike Alden also confirmed the departure Friday.
“Our charge now is to go forward and identify the next basketball coach at Mizzou,” Alden said.
On Thursday, Alden granted Haith permission to explore a job opening at Tulsa. Haith flew from Columbia Regional Airport to Tulsa International Airport that afternoon where he met with UT officials.
Friday morning, Alden said, Haith informed him via text message that he would take the head coaching position.
“This morning he indicated to me via text message that he was going to be leaving Mizzou,” Alden said.
Haith met with the team Thursday at 2:45 p.m. to discuss the Tulsa opening and said he would call them the next day to discuss the status of the meeting, sophomore forward Ryan Rosburg said.
Friday morning he too received a text from Haith that he would not be returning to MU.
“I think everyone is just kind of shocked,” Rosburg said. “Everyone doesn’t know what to expect. This is the last thing I thought would happen today. I was expecting some assistant coaches to leave. Everyone has new opportunities and stuff. I just wasn’t expecting that.”
Tulsa is expected to announce Haith’s hiring and seven-year, $1.85 million-contract in a 1 p.m. news conference.
“Why he may choose to go to the University of Tulsa, you’d have to ask Frank,” Alden said.
The departure marks the end of Haith’s tumultuous tenure with the Tigers where he posted a 76-28 record in three seasons.
He was on contract with MU until 2017 and set to make $1.7 million next season with a $50,000 bonus.
Associate Head Coach Tim Fuller will become the program’s interim leader until Alden brings on a successor, who will be the fourth Missouri basketball coach in a decade.
Mike Anderson, thought to be the long term replacement for Norm Stewart, left the position after five years in 2011 for Arkansas.
Alden said that in Haith’s three years, Missouri’s program is on better footing than when Anderson departed.
“I think that the foundation was not as strong three years ago, I don’t think, as it is right now with the foundation base in recruiting and the current student athletes we have at Mizzou that Frank and Dave Leitao and Tim Fuller and Bryan Tibaldi and all those guys had built,” he said.
Haith was named the Associated Press Coach of the Year in 2012 after posting a 30-5 record with Anderson’s recruits. The Tigers claimed a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament that year but fell to No. 15-seed Norfolk State.
Haith would never win an NCAA tournament game in his time at Missouri. His only postseason win came in the 2014 National Invitation Tournament against Davidson. The Tigers lost the next game to Southern Miss at Mizzou Arena.
In 2013, he led Missouri to a 23-11 record with a star-studded team of transfers but lost in the first round of the tournament to Colorado State. Mizzou (23-12) failed to qualify for the tournament in 2014 after limping to a 9-9 Southeastern Conference record.
From the outset of his hiring, when Alden plucked him from Miami, Haith battled unpopularity and scandal.
He lost 26 more conference games with Miami than he’d won. He’d only appeared in one NCAA tournament. The NCAA suspended him for the first five games of the 2014 season for his role in a recruiting scandal at Miami involving Ponzi scheme facilitator Nevin Shapiro.
In March, Missouri assistant coach Mark Phelps left for a promotion with Marquette. Earlier that month, both of the Tigers’ leading scorers, junior guards Jabari Brown and Jordan Clarkson, declared for the NBA draft.
The Tigers also lose 14 points per game from forward Earnest Ross, who graduates in May. Transfer forward Zach Price was kicked off the team in April after police say he assaulted Ross and Ross’ girlfriend twice within 13 hours.
Freshman forward Johnathan Williams III is the leading returning scorer, averaging 5.8 points per game.
As the Tigers struggled at the season’s end, pressure mounted on Haith to reach the NCAA tournament and turn the direction of the program. Some college basketball analysts said the 2015 season could have been his last at Missouri if the Tigers continued struggling.
“All of us have a sense of urgency on how important it is that we perform academically, socially and competitively each and every year and I know had that conversation with Frank, and made sure that he knew that as happy as we are with the success we have at Mizzou, we alway want to have more,” Alden said.
Tulsa finished in a four-way tie atop the Conference USA standings and won the conference tournament. The Golden Hurricane lost to UCLA in the round of 64 in the NCAA tournament.
Concern now turns to retaining prized freshmen Williams and guard Wes Clark, both of whom may be apt to transfer now that Haith has departed. Four-star recruit Jakeenan Gant may also decommit and look elsewhere.
“I came here because it’s Missouri, but he had a lot to do with it also,” Rosburg, a St. Louis-native, said of Haith.
Alden would not name potential candidates for the opening and said there was no set timetable for the selection, saying instead Missouri would have to “hustle” since the vacancy comes so late in the year.
SEC foe Tennessee also has yet to hire a successor for Cuonzo Martin, who left this month for California, making the search even more challenging.
“I have a lot of faith in Mike Alden,” Rosburg said. “I know he’s going to make a good decision. It’s a prestigious job, I would say, so I think we’ll have a lot of good guys try to get it.”
Alex Schiffer contributed to this report.