Missouri’s search for a new men’s basketball coach appears to be winding down, but the list of known candidates remains sparse.
The University of Missouri System posted a public meeting notice Friday to announce a special executive session of the Board of Curators. The meeting “for consideration of certain confidential or privileged communications with university counsel, negotiated contracts and personnel matters” is set for 1 p.m. Monday at University Hall in Columbia.
A spokesman for the the UM System would not confirm the nature of the meeting, but such a meeting would be required to approve the contract for a new Missouri men’s basketball coach.
But aside from Central Missouri coach Kim Anderson, Missouri athletic director Mike Alden’s list of candidates isn’t publicly known.
Responding to speculation about Monday’s meeting, Anderson said by text message Friday that he has “not been offered the Missouri job. Still coaching the Mules.”
A mutual interest has been well-established and permission had been granted by Central Missouri for Alden to interview Anderson, who starred for the Tigers from 1973-77 under Norm Stewart and later served as an assistant coach under Stewart for 11 seasons during two stints.
There was no sign as of Friday night of another name on Alden’s list to emerge, and that includes former UCLA and Pittsburgh coach Ben Howland, who is a focal point of social media speculation, and Louisiana Tech coach Michael White, who turned down Tennessee earlier in the week.
White’s office said he was out of the office recruiting this week. There is no indication he’s been contacted by Missouri.
Another unlikely candidate is Stephen F. Austin coach Brad Underwood, who told The Star earlier in the week he would be interested in the MU job but that he hadn’t been contacted. Underwood, who reportedly withdrew his name Wednesday from consideration for the Marshall job, has been linked to the opening at Southern Mississippi.
The Golden Eagles are in the market for a coach after Donnie Tyndall left for Tennessee, while Marshall hired Dan D’Antoni on Thursday.
The cloud of mystery surrounding who MU might be interested in or talking to is indicative of a broader national trend.
“I definitely see, because of all the scrutiny involved, that searches are tightening up,” said a college basketball industry insider who spoke to The Star on the condition of anonymity. “That is definitely the trend, and it’s for everybody’s sake.”
He said the social media-fueled public perception when a coach turns down a job can damage a program’s reputation, while a coach’s reputation can be hurt if he emerges publicly as a candidate only to be passed over.
“The truth is, sometimes it’s just not the right fit,” the insider said. “But it has definitely been tightening up over the last four years, and I think that’s going to be the major trend — how tight can you keep this. It’s not out of secrecy, but as a way to avoid unfair public criticism.”
Missouri and Alden learned that lesson in 2011 when Purdue’s Matt Painter emerged as the top candidate. The job was Painter’s for the taking, but he wound up signing an eight-year contract extension to stay with the Boilermakers.
It created a perception Missouri had settled, which put a damper on Frank Haith’s introduction. Haith was introduced as Tulsa’s new men’s basketball coach April 18 after three seasons with the Tigers.
This sort of insulated hiring process isn’t likely to change as athletic directors, and the coaching search firms they increasingly rely on, become more savvy about hiring candidates on the sly.
“There have been a couple searches in the last couple years that have been airtight,” an industry insider said. “They’ve done a good job using the search firms the right way. They’re the ones that the A.D. is working very closely with and they do a good job not letting that out.”
According to documents obtained by The Star, Missouri spent $110,000 on search firm fees during its last two hiring cycles.
In 2006, MU paid Eastman and Beaudine a $50,000 initial retainer and, if the firm assisted “in the identification and hiring” of Mike Anderson, was on the hook for an additional $10,000 plus expenses.
Five years later, when Anderson left for Arkansas, Missouri used Eastman and Beaudine again.
It paid the search firm a $25,000 initial retainer and an additional $25,000 plus expenses after Haith was hired.
Missouri is believed to be using a search firm again, but no formal contract had been signed as of Friday afternoon.
The Star’s Vahe Gregorian contributed to this report