Greetings, folks. Happy 2017. Lots to talk about. I'll be here to take your questions, rants and raves for the next two hours.
No update yet. He was scheduled to undergo an MRI sometime today. Judging by his reaction it looked pretty serious. He couldn't put any weight on his left leg and needed two people to carry him into the locker room. He clutched his knee immediately and was in serious pain.
Based on Jim Sterk's statement yesterday, it seems he wants to have a more exhaustive body of work to evaluate before pulling the trigger. This season is probably beyond salvaging. Whether he's fired in January or eight weeks from now in March, Sterk will have time and resources to hire a successor.
Perhaps he has, but it's still early in the season to be having formal conversations with coaches or agents. Early feelers would probably be accurate. Between Sterk and assistant AD Brian White, they should have plenty of contacts in the industry.
He's frustrated. He's disappointed in the results - far more than anyone else. He cares deeply about this program. This is his dream job and it's become a nightmare. He was really down last night. He would be upset to see Mizzou in this shape regardless if he's the coach. A few weeks ago I sensed more frustration from him aimed at the players, but now it seems he's just down all around. Can't help but think of the Springsteen lyric from "The River" - "Is a dream a lie if it don't come true, or is it something worse?" Imagine being a proud Missourian and finally landing the job you dreamed about having for decades - and then being the person most closely identified with such a failure. It's got to be incredibly depressing.
The staff decided weeks ago to redshirt him. He's not physically ready for this level of play. Needs a full year in the weight room to hold his own against Division I opponents.
I come across and work with and alongside great people all the time. I've been fortunate to cover some head coaches who I consider genuinely good people: Pinkel, Odom, Anderson, especially. Norm Stewart falls in that category. Assistant coaches like Andy Hill, Dave Steckel, David Yost, just to name a few. Mike Kelly and Gary Link are great people. John Kadlec was a treasure. Lots of athletes, probably too many to mention in this forum.
When I woke up yesterday, I thought last night's game and next Tuesday's home game against Auburn stood as Missouri's best chances to win. Throw in the Jan. 21 home game against Ole Miss. Maybe the Feb. 15 games against Alabama. There's only one elite team in the SEC (Kentucky) and about three or four other pretty good teams (Florida, South Carolina, Georgia). Then there's a very average middle of the pack. Maybe MU can pick off some of those teams at Mizzou Arena - if those teams shoot poorly and the Tigers play like they did in the first half last night. Otherwise, they'll be decided underdogs most nights.
Frank Martin would have listened two years ago when Missouri had an opening but he was not on Missouri's initial list of possible candidates. Now, it might be too late. He's probably not too settled at South Carolina to leave, but he's turned that into a pretty good program and perhaps leaving what he's built there for a job like Mizzou would be more trouble than it's worth.
I think he'd have better options if he would truly look to leave, which by the way he's given no indication he wants to leave.
Puyear had an alarming comment last night. He said he thought Blakeney's back-to-back 3-pointers early in the second half, when it was still a really close game, was essentially the end of the game. It was probably an overly emotional response, but he's a sharp kid and seems to have his finger on the pulse of the team. Confidence is low, for obvious reasons. They say morale is good, but sometimes it's only as strong as the results on the scoreboard. The mood seemed upbeat and positive in the first half when shots were falling, but obviously that didn't last.
I would anticipate a coaching change. My usual policy here is I don't bring up possible candidates for a job that's not vacant, but I'd be happy to share thoughts on any coach you mention.
Odom plans to sign the maximum 25 players for this year's class. Nikko has shown some flashes but he's clearly been off since the ankle injury. He has zero lift and every shot he attempted last night got blocked. Smith has some ability, but he could have a serious injury to overcome .
I wouldn't necessarily rule out current high-major head coaches. This job is better than some out there. You can find a lot of quality deserving coaches at the mid-major level, whether that's in the Missouri Valley, Conference USA, MAC, etc. If I were hiring for this job I'd be reluctant to hire an assistant coach with no HC experience. Missouri made that mistake years ago. I think you need someone who's been in that CEO role to manage a lot of the challenges that face this job right now. The Pinkel Model is still the best for high-profile Mizzou jobs, in my opinion. Hire a proven mid-major head coach who has strong assistant experience at a quality power conference school.
I think having to hire a couple different D-line coaches hurt the transition last year. Knowing they had a bunch of pieces back from a top 10 defense might have made Odom and Cross overconfident when making the scheme change. Maybe they'll come into 2017 more realistic and pragmatic when it comes to the scheme and system.
I overheard Sterk discussing it lately and he wasn't sure what to call the stadium. Another assistant AD advised, "Mizzou Softball Stadium." I highly doubt that's the permanent name. Perhaps one of the primary donors who paid for naming rights wants a big splashy moment for the name to be announced. I'm not sure.
Roberts has signed a letter of intent. If there's a coaching change he'll have the chance to ask out of his letter of intent. You don't base a head-coaching decision on one signed recruit. Maybe there's a coaching change and Roberts likes the new coach and staff more than the current coach and staff.
Practices aren't open to the media, so it would be hard to know. From covering games I haven't seen any changes. Coaches aren't naive. They understand the possibilities.
Cuonzo Martin would be a great fit at Missouri. Any coach with a decent current job, like he has now, would have to be convinced that it's a great situation and that he's the school's top choice. Sterk would obviously know him, not necessarily on a personal level.
The coaches were concerned that he might not return after the holidays, but by all accounts he's told teammates and coahces that he's committed to staying with the team - for now. Obviously any player on any team can leave at any time, so I never assume players are going to stay on campus until their eligibility expires - especially at this program. Bottom line, he's here now.
Softball. It's just a stronger program than baseball right now.