Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Strauss: Alden Needs a Home-Run Hire at MU

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Strauss: Alden Needs a Home-Run Hire at MU

Article excerpt

Each party recited his lines well.

Missouri athletics director Mike Alden said Friday during a hastily arranged press conference that it was "disappointing" head basketball coach Frank Haith had opted to leave for Tulsa after only three seasons in Columbia. Alden, of course, mentioned nothing about what he might have done to prevent it.

Haith called his time in CoMo "a great experience," which might be partly true but hardly explains his fleeing the Southeastern Conference for a private university with undergraduate enrollment barely eclipsing 3,000.

Let's be frank. Haith and Alden are happy to be emancipated from one another. Alden said nothing about a contract extension for Haith during a recent review of the program while reiterating a "sense of urgency" for more defined direction. Haith justifiably interpreted his athletic director's appraisal as tantamount to being put on notice, and soon was jetting to Tulsa to grab a seven-year deal that pays more per year than he made at Mizzou.

Both men receive a much-needed fresh start. Haith takes a half- step back in prestige but makes a leap forward in job security. Alden meanwhile realizes a do-over on a hire that generated 76 wins, no success in the NCAA Tournament and eroding attendance.

Alden must reverse growing apathy toward a program seen as adrift, even dysfunctional. The inability to average more than 9,215 in attendance at Mizzou Arena is a major concern. Disconnect stems from a heavier reliance on transfers, inability to recruit St. Louis and a perceived reluctance to play determined defense. Heavy television exposure and dicey weather contributed to Mizzou realizing 74 percent capacity for its nine home league games.

Attendance isn't just a Missouri issue. It permeates a football- first conference that saw Cuonzo Martin leave Tennessee for Cal within weeks of the Vols reaching the NCAA Tournament's Sweet Sixteen.

Haith's first team was a charismatic bunch. Sure, they won 30 games, including the Big 12 tournament. But the 2011-12 Tigers also boasted in-state talent Marcus Denmon and Michael Dixon plus loquacious forward Kim English. They showed emotion, shot the ball well and could dial up defense when necessary.

With Denmon and Dixon serving as governors, Phil Pressey offered more predictability as a sophomore than he did as a junior who missed his backcourt amigos.

This year's team appeared decidedly mercenary, unable to energize a crowd with its flat-liner demeanor. Even the presence of Jordan Clarkson and Jabari Brown, both promoted at various times as SEC Player of the Year candidates, the 2013-14 Tigers never generated buzz.

It's difficult to attend a weekday game in CoMo if one lives in Kansas City or St. Louis. An out-state campus means ticket-holders have to plan for an early exit from work, a two-hour drive following the tilt and sleep deprivation the next day at the office or the loading dock. …

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