In the aftermath of the Frank Haith hire, many Missouri basketball fans have pointed to Athletic Director Mike Alden’s inability to close the deal with Purdue’s Matt Painter as the moment the Mizzou coaching search officially went off the rails.
(Did former Mizzou staffer Paint Alden into a corner?)
But from what I’ve been told by multiple Missouri athletic department and administration sources, Alden doesn’t deserve all the blame for what was a clear miscalculation of Painter’s intentions.
There’s a reason Alden was confident enough about snaring Painter’s services that he flew to Florida - amid an ungodly media crush - to try to bag the Boilers coach.
Around the time Mike Anderson departed for Arkansas, former Missouri senior associate AD and current SIU Athletic Director Mario Moccia told Alden there was a chance he could help influence Painter to depart Purdue for Mizzou.
Somewhat reassured by Moccia that a courtship of the former SIU coach was a worthwhile endeavor, Painter was head coach of the Salukis in 2004, Alden dove headfirst into the pursuit of Purdue’s highest profile employee. (Moccia was hired as SIU AD in 2006, two years after Painter left the school.)
But when Alden met with Painter in Orlando on March 29, it was clear from the outset of the meeting that the non-committal coach was merely using Mizzou to beef up his hoops budget and personal bank account.
When Alden departed Florida, he had a pretty good idea that Painter wasn’t coming to Mizzou - and that because of that trip - he might’ve missed his chance with another prime candidate for the Missouri job: Brian Gregory.
On March 23, Mike Anderson officially agreed to leave Missouri for Arkansas. A Mizzou source recently told me that after the announcement of Anderson’s departure, Gregory made it known to Alden that he was interested in the newly-vacated job.
Gregory was already among the top candidates on a list of over two-dozen coaches Alden initially considered for the job.
That initial list, a Missouri administration source told me, did not include Frank Haith.
Now fast forward to the morning of March 29 in Orlando.
As Alden’s futile dalliance with Painter culminated that day, 439 miles away Georgia Tech officials consummated their pursuit of Gregory by introducing him as their new head coach.