Missouri vs. Tennessee: Which is the better basketball coaching vacancy?

(Associated Press)
(Associated Press)

Of the six college basketball head coaching vacancies that still linger, two are power-conference jobs: Missouri, which needs a coach after Frank Haith bolted for Tulsa, and Tennessee, which is looking to replace Cuonzo Martin after he left to take the California job. Neither program is truly a top-level gig, and both operate in the hulking shadow of their SEC football brethren, yet they still will be enticing to someone. A look at the merits of each job.

Missouri

NCAA tournament appearances: 26 (best finish: Elite Eight in 1976, 1994, 2002, 2009).

Last season: 23-12, lost in NIT second round.

Former coach: Frank Haith.

Haith’s 2013-14 salary: $1.6 million.

School spending on basketball (2012-13): $6.4 million.

As noted here and here, Haith’s departure for Tulsa was seen as probably for the best. Attendance was down 26.2 percent from last season, as the Tigers averaged just 8,856 fans per game, their lowest since 2007-08. Leading scorers Jabari Brown and Jordan Clarkson announced they were leaving early for the NBA. So whoever takes the job will be rebuilding a bit, both on the court and with fans who will be watching their fourth Missouri coach in 10 seasons next November. Tigers AD Mike Alden — like nearly every other power-conference athletic director with a job to fill — would be silly not to gauge the interest of Wichita State Coach Gregg Marshall, but I’m not sure Marshall would leave the good thing he has going with the Shockers for Missouri. Ditto VCU’s Shaka Smart. Kim Anderson, who led Central Missouri to this season’s Division II national title and both played at Missouri and was an assistant to Norm Stewart there, would be a more realistic choice who would be embraced by the team’s fans.

Tennessee

NCAA tournament appearances: 20 (best finish: Elite Eight in 2010).

Last season: 24-13, lost in NCAA tournament Sweet 16.

Former coach: Cuonzo Martin.

Martin’s 2013-14 salary: $1.35 million.

School spending on basketball (2012-13): $4.9 million.

Speaking of embracing a coach, that’s exactly what didn’t happen with Martin, who took the first good opportunity he got to get out of town. Apparently, operating in the shadow of beloved former coach Bruce Pearl, and a football program that sucks all the air out of the room most of the time, isn’t all that fun. Like Missouri, Tennessee saw fading attendance last season, but 15,475 is still a good draw, even if it was down about 3,000 from Pearl’s final three seasons. Tennessee AD Dave Hart will be hiring the school’s third coach since 2011, and frankly, the entire athletic department is a bit of a mess. Marshall or Smart would be a home-run hire, but either would be a long shot that would likely require more than Tennessee wants to spend (Marshall makes about $2 million at Wichita State, around $700,000 more than Tennessee paid Martin). Donnie Tyndall, who has built a winner at Southern Miss and has SEC experience, could be a more realistic option, along with Michael White of Louisiana Tech.

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