Missouri’s search for a new men’s basketball coach is over.
On Monday night, MU athletic director Mike Alden announced that former University of Miami head coach Frank Haith will take over the vacant position.
In a special closed session, the University of Missouri System Board of Curators approved an employment package of $1.5 million guaranteed for five years, plus a $100,000 in deferred annual compensation, with a one-year automatic extension that kicks in on May 1, 2012.
"We're very pleased to have such a well-rounded and respected man lead our basketball program into the future," Alden said.
“Frank has the character and integrity we are looking for, and he's someone who is very excited to be a Missouri Tiger. And of course, we feel that all of these qualities combined, when given the opportunity at a program with a proud tradition and resources such as ours at Mizzou, that he's going to win at a very high level."
Haith posted an overall record of 129-101 in his seven seasons as head coach at Miami. He went 40-63 in Atlantic Coast Conference games.
Miami’s best season under Haith came in 2008 when the team finished 23-11 and reached the second round of the NCAA tournament. They went 8-8 in conference play, good for fifth in the ACC. It was Miami’s only NCAA tournament appearance under Haith.
“[Coach Haith has] done a tremendous job as the leader of our basketball program since he got here. He’s leaving the program in excellent condition,” Miami deputy athletic director Tony Hernandez said in a press conference Monday afternoon.
“We’re excited for our future and wish him, his wife Pam and his two children the best of luck at Missouri.”
Unlike Miami, which is seen by many as a football and baseball-first school, Alden believes that Missouri will provide Haith the tools necessary to be a successful coach.
“When you’re competing in the ACC, which is arguably one of the best, if not the best basketball conferences in the country...and you’re competing your tail off, but you don’t have the same level of resources that everyone else does, which we feel we have that opportunity,” Alden said. “We believe that once we put him in here with that type of experience...that he’s going to thrive in that environment.”
Before taking over as head coach at Miami, Haith served as an assistant coach at Texas A&M, Penn State, Wake Forest and the University of Texas.
Rick Barnes, who Haith coached under at Texas, spoke very highly of Missouri’s new coach.
"Missouri just made a great hire. Frank is one of the primary people responsible for the rise of our program here at Texas. He has all the skills necessary to build a successful program at the highest level...not just one or two good teams, but a program,” Barnes said in a press release on MUTigers.com.
“Frank will be a great representative for The University of Missouri...Frank is a great husband and father and will run the Missouri basketball program with integrity and character."
Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski echoed Barnes' sentiments and praised Missouri’s decision to hire Haith.
“Frank is as good of a competitor and person as I've coached against in my 31 seasons in the ACC. He's a great friend who did a fantastic job as the head coach at Miami,” Krzyzewski said. “Missouri is lucky to have Frank represent the university. I am extremely happy for Frank and know that he will do a terrific job there."
However, the majority of Missouri fans did not echo that optimism immediately after it was reported that Haith had been hired. Alden, who was the target of most of the fans’ complaints, explained why he believed his decision had drawn so much criticism.
“I think that when you’re announcing a new coach and there’s not a lot known about the particular candidates that you may have out there and someone comes to the forefront that perhaps people weren’t looking at or identifying, it becomes a surprise to folks,” Alden said.
“When that happens and you don’t have the opportunity to follow that up with all the things we are talking about now, I think in that time of uncertainty and not knowing exactly what all the parameters were and our focus on that I certainly think the passion will come through with all that.”
Alden continued to say that he hopes the “passionate” Missouri fanbase will begin to embrace Haith now that the reasons behind his hire have been announced.
Potential fan backlash was a topic discussed by Alden and Haith, and the Missouri AD stressed to Haith the importance of being successful from the start of his tenure.
“I also understand this is the Show-Me State," Haith said. "Fans want to know that you are just as invested in them and their program as they are in you. And we will work tirelessly on the recruiting trail and we will develop first-class young men, not only with the way they perform on the basketball court, but how they conduct themselves academically and in our community."
Alden admitted he is putting his reputation and potentially his job on the line in hiring a coach like Frank Haith instead of a more proven candidate, but he stood firmly behind the hire and said Haith was the only candidate who Missouri made an offer to.
Haith will be officially introduced as Missouri men’s basketball coach Tuesday morning at 10.
My story on Frank Haith's official introduction at the University of Missouri can be found here.
Brian Haenchen is a contributor for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand or from official interview materials from a press conference at the University of Missouri.
A shortened version of this article can be found in the April 5 edition of The Maneater.
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