When Mizzou hired Franklin Frankfurter Haith on April 4, 2011, I was completely and utterly baffled. It had to be some delayed April Fools joke, right? Some reporter was just having a little delayed fun at my university’s expense? As an avid college hoops fan and junior in college at the time, I was bummed about Suitcase Mike Anderson returning home to Arkansas, but cautiously optimistic about the future of the basketball program. The returning roster was loaded with a blend of experience and talent, led by guards Marcus Denmon and Phil Pressey, and if Athletic Director Mike Alden could pluck the right hire to guide the program, the 2011-12 team could be a launching pad for a program that felt on the verge of great things (Elite 8 in 2009, two more tournament appearances with young teams in 2010 and 2011).
And then the Frank Haith news broke. The announcement was met with near-universal skepticism in the college basketball world, and for good reason. Haith made a grand total of one (1) NCAA tournament in seven seasons at Miami (FL) in the ACC, finished 43-69 (38% winning percentage) in the conference (including NEVER finishing above .500 – peaked at 8-8), and to top it all off, the Miami basketball program was garnering some interest from the NCAA around potential violations involving booster Nevin Shapiro. The hire seemed questionable at best, completely insane and idiotic at worst (count me among the “insane and idiotic” crowd, even at the time). The ultimate condemnation of the hire, though, was from Miami fans themselves – they rejoiced at being free of his mediocrity (that’s being generous) and snickered at my school for taking him off their hands. Don’t believe me? Check out this fun cbssports blog post, titled “Mizzou hires Frank Haith; Miami revels.”
With all that said, the 2011-12 Missouri team was a joy to watch. With his hand forced by senior forward Laurence Bowers’ torn ACL, Haith played a four-guard lineup that lit up the world to the tune of a 123.9 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency rating, #1 in the entire country that season per KenPom (and the third-highest in his database since 2008). It all crashed down in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, though, as the small lineup couldn’t stop a Norfolk State team with flames coming out of its collective ass, and the dream season ended with an embarrassing loss to a 15-seed (for reference, this has happened exactly 7 times since 1985 – that’s 30 years! – and it was the first such occurrence in 11 years).
That loss was the first small slide down a long, messy drop-off for Missouri basketball that grew steeper and steeper until the bottom fell out following Haith’s cowardly departure to Tulsa (I’ll get to that). The next season, Haith relied on transfers to keep the program afloat; indeed, of the top 7 players from the 2012-13 season, 5 of them were transfers. His two most talented freshmen (apologies to friend of the site Ryan Rosburg) transferred after that season, because apparently, playing for Frank Haith sucks. After another year of scraping by with transfers (and their subsequent early entrances into the NBA Draft), Haith left for Tulsa. Last year, with the cupboard completely bare due to Haith’s ridiculous negligence of recruiting and developing players, Missouri bottomed out, finishing in a dead heat with Rutgers as the worst major conference team in the country, per kenpom’s rankings.
Since the violations were announced today, it has come out that Frank Haith left for Tulsa 4 days after Missouri was notified of its transgressions. An argument could be made that Haith did the school a favor, saving them the cost of firing him (and thus having to pay the rest of his contract), but don’t expect a fucking Hallmark thank-you card from this site. That was merely a turd-smelling olive branch to top off the shit sandwich he had left the program to eat. My maniacal laughter at his departure mirrored that of Hurricane fans 3 years earlier – good riddance, sleazebag, and my apologies to Tulsa for the poor condition in which he will inevitably leave your program, too. For the second time in his career, Haith left behind NCAA violations that will now punish current and future players (more on that shortly), and as a special present to Mizzou, he left the roster nearly devoid of experience or talent (again, sorry Ryan). Haith has repeatedly shown a complete disregard for the programs, players, and fanbases he is responsible for, and I don’t envy the Golden Hurricane as he presides over their basketball program. Indeed, Haith has the most experienced team in the country (by a wide statistical margin), and as I half-jokingly predicted in my American Conference preview, I could see him leaving after this year – “Knowing Frank Haith’s reputation, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see him skip town after this year, leaving behind a nearly-empty cupboard for whatever poor coach follows him.” I absolutely would not be surprised if the parasite abandons another host after sapping it of all available nutrients.
This brings my rant to the subject of the violations and the resulting punishments – looking at you, NCAA – why are current players being punished for transgressions that occurred before almost all of them were around? Freshman Kevin Puryear had nothing to do with what happened in 2013-14. Neither did sophomore Namon Wright or junior college transfer Russell Woods. But because the NCAA is petty and has no clue how to dole punishment to those who actually deserve it, none of those guys will play in the SEC tournament this year, and their future teams may encounter depth issues due to a scholarship limitation. It doesn’t matter that Mizzou wouldn’t win this year’s SEC tournament once, even if it was played 100 times; the current players have earned the right to participate in it. I understand that it was the Mizzou “program” that allowed the violations to occur, but another form of punishment – be it financial (there are some involved here) or otherwise – would be far more appropriate and fair to the current players. And along with that “program” responsibility – Frank Haith was in charge of the basketball program at that time. The violations occurred under his watch. He must feel the retribution of the NCAA. And while I would argue that suspending him from coaching would, in fact, do his current players a FAVOR, most people would say that Tulsa losing their coach mid-season for any number of games would unfairly punish them as well. Haith needs to feel this controversy – again, the second one that he has caused in as many coaching stops – HARD in his wallet. Your move on that, NCAA.
Haith has proven consistently over the years that he cannot control a program to the standard of NCAA rules. He has unquestionably hurt the two programs he has been at previously, including completely gutting Missouri’s basketball program. Looking back on 2011, I am not at all surprised by today’s revelations, and it just goes to further prove that the insane Haith hire was doomed from the start.