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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Keegan

Keegan: Missouri needs homer

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Here's hoping Missouri steps up to the plate and crushes a tape-measure shot when it hires a coach to replace Quin Snyder, who already has been replaced on an interim basis by Melvin Watkins.

More than a Tiger fan base that never has rooted for a team in the Final Four could benefit from that sort of a hire.

The Big 12 Conference, trailing the Big East, Big Ten and ACC in terms of number of glamour programs, certainly could use the boost from a heavyweight hire by Mizzou.

Not only that, the rivalry with Kansas University would take on far greater sizzle if Missouri had a coach who has enough cachet to get into the key living rooms, a slick enough pitch to get the commitments, the skill to teach individuals how to get better and the know-how to make high school All-Americans play as a team.

KU already has that in a coach as well as the tradition and building still to have an advantage over Missouri, but the better the hire its rival makes, the better the rivalry.

Only one man who possibly could be lured away from his already prestigious job fits the description.

His name is not Mike Anderson of Alabama-Birmingham. Anderson, who should have been hired by Arkansas when Stan Heath got the job, coaches the 40-minutes-of-hell brand of basketball his mentor, Nolan Richardson, used to win a national title. Anderson, whose Blazers lost to KU in the NCAA Tourney, 100-74, in 2004, would be a double in the gap, not a tape-measure shot.

Northern Iowa's Greg McDermott has become a hot name in speculation for coaching jobs, but he would be a better fit at Iowa if, as expected, Mike Davis resigns at Indiana and the Hoosiers hire Hawkeye boss Steve Alford.

No, there is only one man for the job, one man who could make the rivalry with KU match Duke-North Carolina.

The way that man talks about how he used to sleep on a cot in Allen Fieldhouse as a young assistant on Larry Brown's staff gives his audience chills.

His name is John Calipari, and his wife, Ellen, is a Missouri native.

As coach of fourth-ranked Memphis, Calipari already has a plum job. No city has more per-capita high school basketball talent than Memphis. The school's facilities are outstanding, and Calipari is on his way to dominating Conference USA in a way that he won't have to sweat out making the tournament.

Also, when Calipari coached the New Jersey Nets, he initially rejuvenated a sorry franchise until injuries undermined him and led to his firing. Some believe he feels as if he has unfinished business in the NBA and would like to get back. Coaching in an NBA city can't hurt his chances of doing that.

Memphis would be a tough job for Calipari to leave. It's true that money talks, but in this case the money would have to scream. The Big 12 needs the deep pockets of some booster to make it happen.

As for Snyder, don't worry about him. He'll be fine.

"He's well connected-enough he'll coach again in college, or I wouldn't even be surprised if he ended up in the league, he's so well connected," said KU coach Bill Self, who is troubled by midseason coaching changes in college.

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