COLUMBIA – Frank Haith no longer has a reserved parking space outside Mizzou Arena.
The sign, which denotes the head basketball coach’s spot, is gone, and so is the coach.
Athletics Director Mike Alden confirmed in a press conference Friday morning that Haith has agreed to become the next head coach at the University of Tulsa.
Alden said he received a phone call from Haith on Thursday morning. Haith asked for permission to talk to Tulsa about its coaching vacancy, opened when Danny Manning left for Wake Forest earlier this month. Alden granted permission and stayed in communication with Haith throughout the day.
Friday morning, Alden said Haith texted him, letting him know he was accepting Tulsa’s offer. ESPN is reporting that offer is a seven-year deal, worth $1.85 million annually.
Haith had three years remaining on his deal at Missouri. He was scheduled to earn $1.75 million next year.
“This was the last thing I thought would ever happen,” sophomore center Ryan Rosburg said.
Rosburg hadn’t heard any rumors about his former coach until Thursday morning. Later in the day, he and his teammates were in a meeting called by Haith.
On Friday morning, Haith texted Rosburg that he was no longer his coach.
Assistant Coach Tim Fuller is the interim coach for now, but it's possible he could follow Haith to Tulsa. Fuller served as the Tigers' coach for five games at the beginning of the 2013-14 season while Haith sat out due to an NCAA suspension.
Even with Haith sidelined, the Tigers began the season strong before petering out in late February and March.
After the season, as he does every year, Alden met with Haith. In that meeting, Alden stressed that there is a “sense of urgency” throughout the athletics department to succeed.
The Tigers' streak of five consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances was snapped this past season. The Tigers finished 23-12. In three seasons at Missouri, Haith compiled a 76-28 record.
Haith might have seen the writing on the wall. He would have entered his fourth season at Missouri with a depleted, unproven roster — one unexpected to contend in the Southeastern Conference.
“All of us have a sense of urgency on how important it is that we perform academically, socially and competitively each year,” Alden said.
“I know I had that conversation with Frank, and made sure that he knew that, as happy as we are with the success we’ve had at Mizzou, we always want to have more.”
Alden declined to offer specifics on the conversation, and he was mum when asked if Haith had requested a new contract.
“I was very pleased with the job Frank was doing. I know that he had three years left on his contract, I know that it’s important that I communicated that I had a sense of urgency going forward,” Alden said.
“It’s disappointing, because you enjoy working with people and I very much enjoyed working with Frank. He’s a very good person, he’s a good basketball coach and it was our intention to work together for quite some time, but he made a decision that he wanted to work somewhere else and I wish him the best as he goes forward to Tulsa.”
With Haith gone, Alden is now tasked with finding his successor, a process he said he will lead. The timing isn't ideal — many juicy candidates have already shifted schools this month — and Alden said there is no specific timeframe for making the hire.
Alden believes Missouri is a more attractive job now than it was three years ago, though. Alden said he sees a program with a stronger foundation than the one Mike Anderson vacated. He sees a job opening that comes with a strong academic institution, good facilities, and a strong league in the Southeastern Conference, which is set to launch the SEC Network in August.
Alden declined to comment any potential candidates, but discussed the traits he will seek in his new coach. Prior head coaching experience, Alden said, is a plus but not a requirement.
“The traits got to fit in with the values we have here at Mizzou,” Alden said. “You have to have people who represent solid values that we represent as an institution. Those people who are out there that are successful in representing those values and winning basketball games, that, in essence, is what you’re looking for.”
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