It’s fair to say that more than a few Georgia Tech fans weren’t overly impressed with Brian Gregory, who was hired to replace Paul Hewitt. Imagine how Missouri folks must feel today. Mizzou just hired the last man Hewitt beat.
Missouri has tapped Frank Haith to replace Mike Anderson, who left for Arkansas, which fired John Pelphrey, who’s from Paintsville, Ky., which is the hometown of both my mom and dad. But I digress.
Frank Haith has coached Miami — that’s the Miami based in South Florida, not Southern Ohio – for seven seasons. He has made the NCAA once. He has won one NCAA tournament game, that against Saint Mary’s, as head coach. He never had a winning record in ACC play. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the best of Haith sounds a lot like the worst of Hewitt. And yet …
He’s Missouri’s man. Which goes to show:
Hiring coaches isn’t as easy as it sounds, and it’s getting harder. It used to be that any BCS school could cherry-pick the latest hot mid-major guy and be done with it, but Brad Stevens (Butler) and Jim Larranaga (George Mason) and Bob McKillop (Davidson) and Mark Few (Gonzaga) have made it chic to stay small. Chris Mooney spoke via phone to Tech, only to hang up and re-up with Richmond. Maybe Shaka Smart will do the same when N.C. State seeks to lure him from VCU. (UPDATE: Smart has. He’s staying with the Rams.)
Missouri aimed high, waving serious money in the attempt to entice Purdue’s Matt Painter, who has been the Big Ten’s coach of the year three times in four seasons. He thought about it but stayed at his alma mater. (For a healthy raise, natch.) The next obvious Missouri target would have been a hot mid-major guy like Cuonzo Martin of Missouri State, except that he’d already taken the Tennessee job. So instead of a hot mid-major coach, the Tigers wound up with someone from a major program who wasn’t even lukewarm.
Brian Gregory wasn’t an eye-popping hire, but he’s solid. I’m not sure you could even call Frank Haith solid. His final two ACC games, both in the tournament, represented his tenure in miniature: In Round 1 the Hurricanes rallied from 10 points down in the final minute of regulation to beat Virginia in overtime; in Round 2 they wasted a 19-point lead and lost to North Carolina.
Perhaps there’s something in Haith’s resume I’ve yet to appreciate. (He worked under Dave Odom and Rick Barnes, one of whom could really coach.) And it’s true that, two years ago, Georgia spoke with Haith before hiring Mark Fox. But for all those Jacket backers who have looked askance at Gregory’s 70-58 record in Atlantic 10 games while at Dayton … well, 70-58 beats the heck out of 43-69, which is what Mizzou’s new maestro managed in the ACC.
By Mark Bradley