Missouri coach Haith dons sneakers with suit to raise cancer awareness

Saturday, January 26, 2013 | 9:15 p.m. CST; updated 10:40 p.m. CST, Saturday, January 26, 2013
Missouri basketball coach Frank Haith reacts on the sidelines during the Tigers' 81-59 win over Vanderbilt Saturday afternoon at Mizzou Arena. This weekend, Haith and other coaches across the country are wearing sneakers during games as part of Coaches vs. Cancer Suits and Sneakers Weekend, which is an effort to encourage awareness of the fight against cancer and promote the American Cancer Society.

COLUMBIA — The Missouri men's basketball staff was wearing matching shoes — shoes that did not match any of their suits.

The white and gold Nike Air Force 1 athletic shoes stood out on associate coach Tim Fuller's sharp black three-piece suit.

Missouri basketball head coach Frank Haith's pair severely contrasted with the black suit pants he was wearing.

The awkward fashion statement drew jokes from forward Alex Oriakhi after the 81-59 victory over Vanderbilt Saturday afternoon at Mizzou arena.

"Those Air Forces," Oriakhi said laughing while Haith looked at him. "They're not the best-looking Air Forces, man. I don't like them."

Haith immediately took a peek under the conference table to compare his shoes to Oriakhi's black and red sneakers.

"Alex is just hating," Haith said later.

Ugly or not, the shoes were the focal point of the occasion: Suits and Sneakers week for the Coaches vs. Cancer foundation. The American Cancer Society's website said the event, nationwide, had 4,000 coaches participating.

The fashion statement was a chance for coaches to show their support for the American Cancer Society and its goal to reduce cancer in the world.

Former Missouri coach Norm Stewart first started collecting donations to fight cancer by telling fans to donate a dollar for every 3-pointer his team made, after a bout with colon cancer in the 1989-1990 season, according to the American Cancer Society.

In 1993, the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Basketball Coaches worked with Stewart to create the Coaches vs. Cancer foundation.

According to the American Cancer Society, the foundation has raised more than $50 million since its creation.

At halftime, an announcement was made telling the crowd to make donations online or by phone to Coaches vs. Cancer.

"Today is Coaches vs. Cancer," said Haith, who is a council member of the foundation. "It's a special day throughout college basketball, but very special for us today because what Coach Stewart, who is a founder of that organization and what it means across the country and the amount of money they raised is just amazing."

The athletic shoes seemed to add a spark to Haith's sideline intensity.

Haith shuffled up and down the sideline in a defensive stance, hands in the air waving play signals in the first half. Haith looked like he himself could have been on the court defending against a Vanderbilt player.

When the defense stuffed Vanderbilt, he clapped passionately.

Haith said he wasn't an "Air Force" kind of guy, but enjoyed wearing the shoes. The staff wore the same shoes for last year's event as well.

"I kind of like the gold," Haith said, chuckling. "I think I might wear them every game."

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