Alden expresses confidence in face of fan criticism as MU announces new basketball coach

Mike Alden met with reporters at Mizzou Arena just after 9:30 p.m. to address Mizzou basketball's coaching hire. (Photo by Nick Gerhardt).

By Darren Hellwege

After a day in which Mizzou Tigers fans expressed a great deal of anger and cynicism towards the decision, Athletic Director Mike Alden said he was “excited” to announce Frank Haith as the new men’s basketball coach for the University of Missouri at a press conference in Mizzou Arena Monday night. Haith will replace Mike Anderson, who left the school for the same job at the University of Arkansas.

Many fans, and some in the media, were surprised and disappointed that the job was going to Haith, who had a less than impressive win-loss record during seven years at the University of Miami in Florida. However, after reiterating his commitment to factors such as academics, recruiting and a familiarity with the Big 12 “footprint”, and work ethic, Alden addressed the main concern for most Tigers fans–whether or not the team will win basketball games with Haith on the bench. Alden is confident that they can.

“You have to have the tools to be successful, and that wasn’t always the case for Frank” said Alden. “We know he’s been competing in a place where he didn’t have the resources, but this is a fertile environment for success.”

Haith will be introduced tomorrow morning at a press conference at 10:00 am in the Clinton Club in Mizzou Arena. Alden said that Haith and his family were “excited about being a part of the community. They wanted to be part of the Mizzou family.” Haith and his wife Pam are parents of two children.

In expressing his reasons for the hiring of Haith, Alden went back to a list of priorities he has given in several similar circumstances, leading with academic integrity. Haith has graduated an impressive 21 of 22 students who spent their years of eligibility at Miami.

“That’s an unbelievable number, and that’s certainly exciting” Alden said.

Haith is also renowned as an excellent recruiter. He’s recruited six McDonalds All-Americans in his 16 years as an assistant and head coach. Alden mentioned specifically that he has familiarity with the region, what he refers to as the Big 12 “footprint.”

Haith spent time as an assistant coach at both University of Texas and Texas A&M. With a number of scholarships opening in the next couple of years, this will be a challenge but also an opportunity for Haith to put his stamp on the program quickly.

Alden mentioned work ethic as being especially important, saying he expects Mizzou coaches to be, “over-acheivers,” and team players who want to be part of the institution. And he said an important part of the job is the public reputation of Mizzou.

“It’s an extremely visible position, and that’s not always comfortable. You’re never off-duty. It’s part of the responsibility you accept.”

In a release passed out during the press conference, the university announced some of the details of the contract with Haith. He will be paid a guaranteed 1.5 million dollars per year for a five year contract, with an automatic one-year extension that kicks-in May 1, 2012. He’ll also receive 100,000 dollars a year in deferred compensation, and the contract has a number of performance incentives for both athletic and academic success.

Alden admitted he was somewhat surprised by the strongly negative fan reaction, but feels as the fans see their results, he’ll win them over.

“This is the Show-Me State, and the players and coaches accept that as a challenge,” Alden said.

The challenge will be difficult, and the work begins tomorrow morning as the Frank Haith era officially begins for Mizzou Tigers basketball.

Note: KBIA will be at the press conference tomorrow and will have full coverage in KBIA Sports Extra online, and on Thinking Out Loud: Saturday Sports this Saturday morning at 6 including audio from both tonight’s and tomorrow’s press conferences with Alden and Haith.

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