ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MO (KTVI)- For the last few weeks, I’ve been kicking around the idea of who might end up coaching the University of Missouri men’s basketball program in 2017-18. It’s very clear that Kim Anderson is in a make-or-break season at the helm in Columbia. The idea came up again out of the blue on Wednesday morning. And then the bombshell announcement came Wednesday afternoon that the person in charge of that decision–Athletic Director Mack Rhoades–was himself bolting for Baylor.
Rhoades is believed to have shopped the MU basketball job last spring but couldn’t find takers given the uncertainty in university leadership, with no permanent system president or Columbia campus chancellor in place. Now you can add one more layer of mystery to the hiring chain.
Names are already surfacing in connection with the AD search, so we can throw together some educated guesses of folks who could be in the mix.
KIM ANDERSON: This whole exercise begins and ends if Anderson guides the Tigers into a postseason berth. When Rhoades gave Anderson a vote of confidence and a third season, it came with the recognition that Mizzou basketball couldn’t afford to find itself 3-4 more years from being relevant. Will interim AD Wren Baker have the ability to make a change if necessary if there is no one permanently installed as AD by next spring? And if the leadership hierarchy remains uncertain, would Baker have the same problem Rhoades apparently did trying to find an alternative?
SCOTT SUTTON (ORAL ROBERTS): Sutton has been connected to the Missouri job before and if Baker ends up being the one making the hire, Sutton’s odds could go up. Why? Baker was a member of Eddie Sutton’s administrative staff at Oklahoma State from 2001-2005. Scott Sutton has been a Head Coach at Oral Roberts since 1999 and served on Bill Self’s ORU staff before that, so maybe he could serve as a bridge to help revive a series with Kansas. It wouldn’t be a sexy hire for a lot of fans, and while Sutton has reached other postseason tournaments recently, he hasn’t had a team in the NCAA tourney since 2008.
KELVIN SAMPSON (HOUSTON): Sampson’s name was bound to come up if Rhoades were still in charge at MU, since Rhoades hired Sampson to run the Cougar program. Sampson has slowly rebuilt his reputation after NCAA violations forced him out at Indiana in 2008. He’s still in this mix because of another person who could end up in the AD hunt. Reporters much closer to the situation are hearing a name to keep an eye on in that search is Nicki Moore, currently a deputy AD at North Carolina. Moore, a Mizzou grad, was in the Oklahoma athletic department from 2014-2015, coinciding with Sampson’s successful tenure there. Sampson knows how to recruit at a high level and has done his NCAA time. The question will likely be if Mizzou decides it can’t hire someone with a problem past considering we still don’t know the end result of the NCAA’s investigation of the Frank Haith era.
STEVE ROBINSON (UNC Assistant): This would be another hire based largely on a tie to Moore. Robinson is a longtime assistant to Roy Williams at Kansas and North Carolina, and has head coaching experience of his own at Tulsa and Florida State. He’s been to the Final Four, knows about recruiting to the Midwest, and again, his KU ties could help rebuild a series with the Jayhawks. The North Carolina athletic department is also waiting for the NCAA to finish a wide-ranging investigation that could end up impacting the men’s basketball program. If even the hint of a tie to a problem is too much for Mizzou’s tastes, then they look elsewhere.
CUONZO MARTIN (CAL): None of the AD candidates discussed here are believed to have work ties with Cuonzo Martin, but he could be a very appealing candidate at MU as an East St. Louis native. The former Missouri State head coach and known as a great recruiter. Could Martin be the one able to solve what feels like a 30 year old problem of getting local talent to play basketball at Mizzou? Martin might be eager to stick it to the SEC again; he never seemed to fit in at Tennessee and left for California before the Volunteers moved on him. Drawbacks? He could be an intriguing candidate at several other schools, including Illinois.