Rhoades finds 'destination place' at Missouri

Mack Rhoades, introduced Tuesday, will replace Alden as athletic director in late April.
Mack Rhoades speaks at a press conference Tuesday, March 10, 2015, at the MU student center in Columbia, Mo. Rhoades will replace Mike Alden as the Missouri athletic director in late April.

“Amy comes walking into our home office and asks, ‘Mack, have you done the taxes?’”

In case you were wondering along with his wife, Mack Rhoades has not done his taxes. But cut him some slack. He’ll get to it.

He’s had kind of a busy week.

Rhoades was introduced as Missouri’s new athletic director on Tuesday. After spending five and half years at the University of Houston, he will take over for Mike Alden, who had been at the helm of Mizzou Athletics for 17 years.

Rhoades was known at Houston for his ability to raise funds and to hire championship-caliber coaches. In his five-plus years, Houston constructed the $120 million TDECU Stadium as well as a $25 million basketball practice facility. Rhoades was also responsible for hiring basketball coach Kelvin Sampson and football coach Tom Watson, both of whom have championships to their names.

Rhoades’ message was plain and simple: He wants to take Missouri to the next level.

“(Winning) is extremely important,” Rhoades said. “That’s part of the reason why we do this. We want to build championship programs. Not just winning teams, but championship programs that are good every year.”

But he also acknowledged that it will be difficult to improve an athletic department that has already had so much recent success.

“Gosh darnit, did you have to be that good?” he asked Alden with a smile. “This is not a fixer-upper. The job that Mike has done here in 17 years, it has been tremendous. The challenge is, how do you take something where Mike has set the bar so high and continue to push it?”

At the beginning of his press conference, Rhoades asked Alden and his wife, Rockie, to stand up. He led a round of applause to celebrate Alden’s accomplishments in the position he’ll take over in late April.

“It was important for me that Mike is here so that this group of people here could give him a round of applause and thank him for this university,” Rhoades said.

While Alden himself did not take the microphone on Tuesday, he offered similarly flattering words of his successor in a statement.

“He’s terrific,” Alden said. “He’s got a high motor and he’s got great integrity. You have to outwork your competition, particularly in this league, and he has all those characteristics.”

Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin said that while consulting Alden about potential replacements, he gave Rhoades the highest remarks of all candidates.

But the sentiment and celebration of Rhoades’ arrival will be short-lived. When he gets going full-time in the coming weeks, he wants to hit the ground running.

“I’m not a real patient person; I want to get moving,” Rhoades said. “I want us to get things done and I want us to get things done in a hurry.”

Rhoades said that he doesn’t have anything he feels needs immediate addressing, and that he hasn’t yet had time to fully evaluate the details of how things work. He plans on making multiple trips to Missouri even prior to his late-April start date to get a head start on meeting with coaches and each member of his staff.

But Rhoades said he won’t be looking to clear house for the sake of having a handpicked staff, as is often the way things go with a changing of the guard.

“The challenge for me is to not just go put my hands on everything,” Rhoades said. “We’re not going to change just to change. If we’re going to change, it’s to get better.”

Rhoades cautioned that, despite his aggressive passion for winning, his first priority will be staying within NCAA rules and doing things “the right way.”

“The one thing we will never compromise is integrity and compliance,” Rhoades said. “It’s hard to win, but we’re going to win and we’re going to do it the right way. I have zero tolerance for any misconduct in terms of rules. You can do both — you can win and you can do it the right way. This program has done it.”

The 49-year-old Rhoades concluded by saying he hopes this Missouri “destination job” is the final stop in his career that has already included stops at Texas-El Paso, Akron and, most recently, Houston.

“It was going to take something special for us to leave (Houston), truly,” he said. “This place is special. Amy and I and the three girls are moving here to Columbia, Missouri with the idea that this is the last job.”

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