10 March 2012

pHaith

30-4 in first year at Mizzou
by Mizzou Matt
Head coach Frank Haith at his introductory press conference, April 5th, 2011
COLUMBIA, MO- April 5th, 2011. "We are proud to announce Frank Haith as the 17th coach of the University of Missouri," said Tigers' Athletic Director Mike Alden to much criticism from fans and the media alike. What? How? Wait...huh? Who is this man you call Frank Haith?

Frank Haith, the man who took Miami to a .500 season in conference play a year ago, just took Mizzou to a 14-4 Big 12 record and a conference championship in his first season. Haith, who was named by ponzi schemer Nevin Schapiro in a "pay for play" scandal, turned around and took a group of guys with amazing potential and turned them into something great.

"This is the best team we've seen all year," said ESPN commentator Bobby Knight. "They have some of, if not the best guards in the country."

"If this Missouri team can keep up this kind of play, they're going to be scary good," added Brent Musberger in another broadcast.

Hundreds were jumping on the Mizzou bandwagon, though much of ESPN were not.

"I'm just not convinced that they can compete in this league," said analyst Doug Gottlieb, an Oklahoma State basketball alumni. "They're good, but they're not great."

All these were said before Mizzou's impressive conference tournament run that culminated in a championship, their second since league inception in 1996-97, and their final one before leaving for the SEC. But back to Haith.

April 5th:
"You lied to me, Mike. They don't love me just yet," said Frank at his introductory press conference. "I don't look at the negativity I'm hearing so far as a negative, I look at is as a positive because that's why I'm here. That's what I want. I want that passion because I want to win.

"I want to cut down nets."

Haith, 340 days later, at the Sprint Center in Kansas City
What did he just say? That's a bold statement from the new guy in town. That statement resonated around the league. His team had the potential, sure, though the guys are the remnants of the previous coach. Not once did Haith say that, however. Not once has he said "Wait til my guys get here." He has given credit where credit is due, and he's taken this team leaps and bounds above the league with his style of offense.

"Frank Haith is the best coach I've had in my four years here," said senior guard Kim English.

30-4. Let that sink in for a moment. Thirty wins. The last Mizzou team to win 30 games in a season was the last time they won the Big 12 championship- 2009 when they went 31-7. That's the ONLY other time they've passed the 30-win milestone in school history. That year they advanced to the Elite Eight, just the third Elite Eight appearance in program history.

While many teams would try to stop the Haith Train, only three would succeed. Oklahoma State upset the Tigers in Stillwater, Kansas State swept, and Kansas needed overtime to knock off Mizzou by a single point in Lawrence. Many said it was because of the weak strength of schedule that led to Haith's stellar first season. Many others will state it's one thing- the team.

Marcus Denmon finished second in the Big 12 in scoring. English was the team's best 3-pt shooter. Michael Dixon was the 6th Man of the Year. This team is so well rounded and so capable, it just needed a good system to take it somewhere. Step in Haith. He took what I liked to commonly refer to as "40 Minutes of Slop" and turned it into "40 Minutes of Awe". He took the same squad as last year, minus Justin Safford and losing Laurence Bowers to an ACL injury, and made them a team. After losing Bowers, he didn't panic. To my recollection, there has only been a couple of recorded jacket throws by Frank this season. Compare that to Anderson, who has recorded jacket throws in just about every game he's coached.

"I want to cut down nets," Frank said on April 5th, 2011. 340 days later, his wish came true on the floor of the Sprint Center in Kansas City. He went from wanting to doing. All he needed was a little pHaith.

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