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Columbia Missourian

Missouri's Haith downplays AP men's basketball coaching award

By Laura Oberle
March 5, 2012 | 8:00 p.m. CST
Missouri coach Frank Haith signals to his team against Texas Tech during their NCAA college basketball game Saturday in Lubbock, Texas.

COLUMBIA — The news came from Associated Press reporter Stephen Hawkins during Monday's Big 12 Conference media teleconference. Hawkins congratulated Missouri coach Frank Haith on being voted the AP's Big 12 Conference Coach of the Year, and asked him how it felt. 

"Uh, well, I didn't know that, so ...," Haith said with a laugh. "It's about our guys. It's about our staff. They did a hell of a job, and we've had a great year."

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On the elevator at Mizzou Arena, a reporter congratulated Haith on his award. He paused for a second, with the slightest look of confusion before the light of recognition went off. 

"Oh, thank you," he said.

Haith downplayed the award.

"Those things don't matter. Our players, I think they get into it. I'll take the wins." Haith said in the teleconference. "It's about our guys, it's about our staff. They did a hell of a job. I'm really proud of these young men. I really believe this: We just didn't mess it up. We had great players and our coaches did a great job."

In addition to Haith's award, senior Marcus Denmon was named to the AP All-Big 12 first team.

"When you have players like that, you're going to win games," Haith said of Denmon. "He's going to go down as one of the all-time greats to play at Mizzou. 

Sophomore Phil Pressey and senior Ricardo Ratliffe were named to the AP All-Big 12 second team, and senior Kim English and junior Michael Dixon received honorable mentions. 

When Haith was hired, English said he saw the skepticism from Missouri fans. He saw the doubt but never bought into it. He bought into Haith instead. 

"I don't who they wanted. Maybe these fans would've been happy with Mike Krzyzewski or Roy Williams or John Wooden," English said. "I don't know who they would've been happy with, but I knew that Coach Haith was the absolute right and perfect hire for this job. I said it from day one."

On Sunday, Iowa State's Fred Hoiberg and Kansas' Bill Self were named Big 12 co-coach of the year, as voted by the Big 12 coaches.

"It's been a special year for me because I've gotten to coach against some of the best coaches in the country," Haith said. "I just have a tremendous amount of respect for all the coaches in this league."

The AP award Haith received was voted on by 18 sports writers and sportscasters. 

"I always thought the media was smarter anyway," Haith said with a smile.