Frank Haith has been the subject of much grief from Missouri fans and national followers alike. But really he can't be blamed for missing out on Otto Porter, who probably made his decision during the interim period when Missouri didn't have a coach. While Haith certainly wouldn't have been my first choice, I think he's catching way more flak that he deserves. He even got hit with a secondary violation as icing on the critical cake.
Here's what happened. Haith confirmed that Porter (the highly regarded recruit from Missouri) would be attending Georgetown to Mike DeArmond of the Kansas City Star. This might not seem like a big deal at first glance, and it's not. Coaches do this all the time. It's pretty standard for coaches to talk off the record about potential recruits. Unfortunately, the "off the record" communication never clicked here. It's a NCAA secondary violation for a school to talk about a recruit that hasn't signed a National Letter of Intent (or whatever document acts as the student's committal to play for the school). While this rule isn't a big deal, both Haith and DeArmond should know about it. My guess is Haith had a relationship with the journalists at Miami that it was assumed any discussion of recruits would be off the record. That relationship clearly didn't extend to Columbia. If Haith didn't explicitly say "this is off the record", DeArmond didn't do anything wrong. But you can be sure that DeArmond isn't going to be getting much inside info from Haith in the future (or the players for that matter).
Regardless of who was at fault, it was not a great start to a career that has most people skeptical.
Read why after the jump.
Despite starting off on the wrong foot, Haith's first move as a coach was promising. Today Haith named two assistant coaches--Tim Fuller and Ernie Nestor--and confirmed that Todor Pandov would follow him from Miami as the strength and conditioning coach. Nestor is a true veteran of college basketball: he's leaving his position as director of basketball operations at Penn State but has served as a head coach (Elon and George Mason) as well as an assistant coach (James Madison, Wake, Cal and South Carolina). He worked with Haith while at Wake Forest.
The bigger fish is Tim Fuller, who comes from Louisville. Fuller was considered Rick Pitino's top recruiter. Fuller knows Haith and Nestor from their Wake Forest days (Fuller graduated from Wake in 2000). Take these testimonials (from Fuller's Louisville bio):
"Tim is a man of great character," said Philadelphia 76ers guard Andre Igoudala,. "He's really helped me along in my career, not just becoming a better basketball player, but also as a better person. He's a great addition to Louisville and I'm sure he'll help their players improve on and off the court."
"Tim is a hard worker," said Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo. "He definitely has a lot to offer as a coach and does what it takes to get the job done. He's been a big help to me. He really believes in you, helps get the best out of you and cares about you as a person."
Fuller, 32, participated as a non-scholarship athlete at Wake Forest under Dave Odom and helped the Demon Deacons rise to as high as No. 2 in the national poll with current San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan as a teammate. He completed his career as co-captain of Wake's 2000 National Invitational Tournament (NIT) Championship team.
"I think Tim is uniquely qualified to be on the Louisville staff," said Odom. "He brings an impressive balance of human qualities that will be useful in recruiting, in addition to a strong passion for teaching the game of basketball. He's articulate, gets along well with everyone and particularly identifies well with young people. He's a terrific person who always comes to work with a smile on his face. I'm delighted that he'll have an opportunity to work with one of the best coaches in all of basketball at a university that annually competes for championships."
Now I know a couple of good hires doesn't guarantee Haith success, but the man has a strong foundation for success so far.