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Missouri basketball's Frank Haith to take Tulsa job, reports say

Thursday, April 17, 2014 | 10:58 p.m. CDT; updated 1:40 p.m. CDT, Monday, April 21, 2014
Missouri men's basketball coach Frank Haith will be the next head coach at the University of Tulsa, Mike Alden announced Friday. In this April 2011 file photo, Haith answers questions after an introductory press conference at Mizzou Arena.

COLUMBIA — ESPN and CBSSports.com reported Thursday that Missouri men's basketball coach Frank Haith had agreed to leave Missouri and become the next head basketball coach at the University of Tulsa.

The official announcement is expected Friday, according to a report from Tulsa World.

Neither Missouri nor Tulsa officials could confirm Thursday night that Haith had signed a contract.

A Tulsa spokesman declined to comment. Missouri spokesman Chad Moller said only that Missouri gave Tulsa permission to contact Haith.

"That's all we know at this point," Moller said in a text message.

Haith boarded a charter plane at Columbia Regional Airport en route to Tulsa, Okla., around 4 p.m. Thursday.

Tulsa World sportswriter Bill Haisten reported that Haith met with Tulsa University President Steadman Upham and athletic director Derrick Gragg.

Gragg has Missouri ties and worked in the university athletics department asthe director of compliance and operations from 1995 to 1997.

About a half-hour after Haith boarded the plane, college basketball expert Jeff Goodman of ESPN reported that Haith and Tulsa had reached a verbal agreement.

Earlier in the day, Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com reported that Haith was involved in Tulsa's coaching search, which began April 4 when coach Danny Manning left for Wake Forest.

Haith just completed his third year of a six-year contract with Missouri. He led the Tigers to consecutive NCAA tournament appearances in 2012 and 2013, losing in the first round both times.

Missouri finished 23-12 this season and settled for the National Invitation Tournament, where it was eliminated in the second round by Southern Mississippi.

Haith has a $500,000 buyout in the contract he signed with Missouri in 2011.

He is coming off his worst year at Missouri, a year that started with an NCAA suspension and ended with the Tigers missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in six seasons.

Haith's departure continues an exodus from Columbia for the Missouri basketball program in recent weeks.

The Tigers are set to lose more than 70 percent of last year's scoring, with Earnest Ross graduating and Jabari Brown and Jordan Clarkson declaring for the NBA draft.

Missouri also lost transfer forward Zach Price last week. Haith dismissed him after he was arrested twice in a span of 13 hours on April 3.

Assistant coach Mark Phelps left the program recently to take a job at Marquette.

If he agrees to terms with Tulsa, Haith will inherit a team anchored by three rising juniors that will switch to the American Athletic Conference, home of 2014 national champion Connecticut, on July 1.

The Golden Hurricane made the NCAA Tournament this season after winning the Conference USA tournament and finished with a 23-12 record. Tulsa lost to UCLA in the first round.

Ripples from the news had already affected Missouri's basketball recruits Thursday night.

State Fair Community College guard Kevin Punter, who averaged more than 20 points per game as a junior college prospect, confirmed that he will hold off on signing with the Tigers. His coach, Kevin Thomas, said other teams have been in contact about Punter.

Jakeenan Gant, a four-star forward and Gatorade Player of the Year in Georgia, also spoke with his parents and Amateur Athletic Union basketball program coaches, Gant's high school coach Donnie Arrington confirmed. The 6-foot-8 prospect has signed a letter of intent with the Tigers but could be released from that commitment if Haith leaves Missouri.

The Missourian's emails, text messages and phone calls to coaches of Namon Wright, another top-100 prospect who signed with Missouri, were not returned.

Haith came to Columbia in 2011 after seven seasons at Miami. He compiled a 76-28 record in his time with the Tigers, including two first-game losses in the NCAA tournament. He was named Associated Press Coach of the Year after his first season with Missouri, when the Tigers went 30-5 and won the Big 12 Tournament.

The North Carolina native also earned Big 12 Coach of the Year honors in that season, which was his best at Missouri. Next year, the Tigers went 23-10 and returned to the NCAA tournament but lost to Colorado in the second round.

Haith was the winningest coach in Missouri history at 53-16 after two years with the program, and he is the program's leader in winning percentage as a coach.

Supervising editor is Sean Morrison.

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