COLUMBIA — Missouri women’s basketball players said they were surprised Matt Daniel, an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for the Tigers, left the team in the middle of the season. But they said they were glad to see him get a head coaching position.
Daniel was introduced as the new women’s basketball coach at the University of Central Arkansas on Friday.
Nebraska (15-6, 4-3) at Missouri (8-12, 1-6)
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“It doesn’t normally happen in the middle of the season like that,” junior guard Alyssa Hollins said. “We realized that it wasn’t his fault or anything, and there’s no hard feelings. He just had to go take his opportunity.”
Sophomore point guard Toy Richbow said: “He had to do what’s best for him. That’s life.”
Missouri head coach Cindy Stein also said she was glad to see Daniel get his first shot at a collegiate head coaching job, but she was not happy with the way his departure was handled. Stein found out Daniel was leaving when he called her from the recruiting trail Jan. 25. Missouri was getting ready for a two-game road trip, and Stein wanted Central Arkansas to wait to announce the hire after the road trip ended. Instead, UCA announced the hiring just hours after Daniel called Stein to tell her he was taking the job. Daniel then coached Missouri against Texas the next day but did not coach the Tigers against Texas A&M on Tuesday.
“We had to tell our team right when we were leaving for Texas,” Stein said. “We would have liked to have gotten that road trip out of the way. That could have been handled a lot better, and that’s all I would have asked for. It’s like you’re really happy for him, but you just wish it could have been done a little more professionally.”
Stein will not look for a replacement until the offseason and said she promoted coordinator of basketball operations Tracy Benne to “coach status” to give Missouri four coaches on the sideline.
“It’s not fair to try to find somebody at this time of year and try to disrupt somebody else’s season,” Stein said.
Stein, who has never had a coach leave in the middle of the season before, said Daniel leaving means more work for her and associate coach Lynnette Robinson and assistant coach Allison Guth, especially in recruiting. As recruiting coordinator, Daniel made many valuable contacts with recruits that the staff will have to reestablish.
“We had made some contacts with him early, so we have to make up ground there and recover those territories,” Stein said. “Before they were already covered, now we have to go back.”
The Tigers will miss Daniel as a recruiter. He was lauded by Stein as an excellent recruiter and had success bringing talent to MU. Last season’s class was ranked 25th, and this season’s was ranked 36th nationally by Blue Star Basketball. Hollins and Richbow both said they had good experiences with Daniel, who recruited Hollins when he was an assistant at Colorado before coming to Missouri. Hollins said she was impressed with how much research Daniel had done on her. Richbow said she liked how Daniel made sure to show how much Missouri wanted her to become a Tiger.
“He was very nice and aggressive during the recruiting process,” Richbow said. “He was very consistent as far as his phone calls. It didn’t bother me at all, because he was a nice guy.”
While the Tigers will miss Daniel, Stein said her staff will be able to pick up the slack. She said that while Guth is young, she had experience as a recruiting coordinator in her last job at Loyola, and Robinson has connections with high school coaches all over the state from her 15 years as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Missouri State.
“Everybody knows her (Robinson), they love her,” Stein said. “There’s so many coaches she knows from being in Missouri for so long and that’s a huge factor for us.
“It really isn’t something where there’s this huge fallout, nobody knows what to do. We’ve got two capable people that are doing a great job. There’s really not a drop off, it’s just a matter of picking up where coach Daniel left off.”