Missouri basketball's Haith meets former boss

Saturday, January 14, 2012 | 5:08 p.m. CST; updated 10:16 p.m. CST, Saturday, January 14, 2012

COLUMBIA — Mizzou Arena was full of old friends, celebrations and special guests on Saturday.

A mentee defeated his mentor. Missouri coach Frank Haith faced Texas coach Rick Barnes, under whom Haith served as an assistant  from 2001-2004.

"It was a tough day because we have a bond beyond this game," Haith said. "We have a tremendous friendship. I pull for him, and I know he pulls for me."

And Barnes has been one of Haith's greatest supporters, saying Haith met unfair criticism when he was hired by Missouri last spring. 

"People have no idea the job he did at Miami," Barnes said. "People were looking to pick at it, and I know people up here did. I know what he went into."

Haith and Barnes are now 1-1 against each other. The last time they faced-off was in 2008. The Longhorns defeated Haith's Miami team 75-72 in the sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. 

Barnes is no stranger to Missouri basketball, having coached Missouri's Big 12-foe Texas since 1998. With the Tigers at 16-1 and 3-1 in the Big 12 conference, how much of Missouri's success would he attribute to Haith?

"All of it," Barnes said. "And it's impressive. He came in and figured out the best way for these guys to play, and it is the perfect way for them to play."

And Barnes says that while Haith is happy to be here, Missouri should be happy to have him. 

"He would tell you he's lucky to be here, but I'll tell you Missouri is lucky to have him," Barnes said "He's always wanted a job like this, with a terrific arena, fans that care about it."

With recent struggles on the road, Haith said the fans at Mizzou Arena led the Tigers in assists. The student section never sat down. The sold-out crowd was brought to its feet numerous times during the game. 

"It affects our players and gave our guys a lift tonight," Haith. 

Haith emphasized the importance of home wins, saying they are part of "the formula."

"You've got to protect your home court and you've got to steal what you can on the road. That's the formula to have success in league play," Haith said. 

But the most deafening applause came at halftime when members of the Cardinals Caravan were announced, including World Series MVP David Freese and Cardinals pitchers Jaime Garcia and Shelby Miller. 

Also during halftime, more than 40 former Missouri basketball players were recognized. The last of them were twins Beau and Cliff Minx, of Missouri's 1943 basketball team, who were celebrating their 92nd birthday. 

On Monday when Missouri hosts Texas A&M, Haith will face one of his former assistants, Billy Kennedy. Kennedy is the head coach of the Aggies and was an assistant for Haith at Miami during the 2005-2006 season. 

"He's a great friend of mine," Haith said. "It's another opportunity to play against one of my buddies."

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