COLUMBIA, Mo. -- The "Show-Me-State" is not only a motto, but also an attitude. New Missouri Tigers Head Coach Frank Haith must show the doubters he is the right choice to replace Mike Anderson. Haith knows there are doubters.
"I don't look at the negativity I'm hearing so far," said Haith. "I look at that as a positive. I want to win. I want to cut down nets."
Haith is walking into the perfect situation.
He's set up to win early. Mike Anderson built the Mizzou back to a Top 25 program. He leaves behind a nucleus of players that have been a part of three straight tourney runs. Six Tigers will likely return for their senior season, led by all-Big 12 guard Marcus Denmon and Big 12 Newcomer of the Year Ricardo Ratliffe. Haith says he expects soon-to-be sophomore Phil Pressey to remain in Columbia, despite his relationship with Anderson.
"We have a really good basketball team," said Haith. "I was so impressed in meeting with these young men, we have great, great people along with really good players."
In seven seasons at the University of Miami, Haith led the Hurricanes to only one NCAA Tournament appearance. The NIT is not good enough for Mizzou, nor will Tigers fans forgive him for losing to Kansas.
"Bill (Self) has done a great job at Kansas," said Haith. "I know it's our rivalry and I'm excited about that opportunity. I understand the importance of that one, there's no doubt about it."
The coaching fraternity has high praise for Haith's recruiting. He'll have to show Tigers fans that skill immediately. Haith has three scholarships to fill, if he wants, for next season. The top target remains Scott County Central forward Otto Porter of Sikeston. Porter is considered a top 100 player by nearly every recruiting service. He's also considered an important recruit, establishing a recruiting fence around the state.
"We have to do a job in this state, from St. Louis to Kansas City," said Haith. "Our foundation must start here in the great state of Missouri."
Haith will not get much of a break after the spring signing period ends. He'll have at least six scholarships to fill for the next season. That class will be his first. It will have to prove worthy early.
"We're going to do our part, what we got to do in our recruiting," said Haith.
Haith has a unique opportunity to succeed early for the Tigers. He has to show Mizzou fans he was the right choice.
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