Can it get better? I hope so. Will it get better this season? I have my doubts.
My doubts extend all the way back to when Barry Odom was hired. I wasn’t the only one who voiced concern about a successful assistant coach with no college head coaching experience being tapped to lead an SEC program but I was certainly in the minority.
After drubbing its sacrificial FCS opponent, Missouri followed that performance up with a questionable loss to South Carolina and an absolute abomination against Purdue. Those putrid performances against Power 5 teams coupled with the questionable firing of defensive coordinator Demontie Cross have pushed even the staunchest Odom supporters to the brink.
Over at RockMNation, Bill Connelly brings up a number of relevant points for discussion when he stated that Missouri’s winning culture has vanished; it’s not all Barry Odom’s fault, but it’s on him to fix it. Or else.
Connelly stopped just short of stating who some people consider to be the real problem when he made this passive aggressive statement:
That’s not really this coaching staff’s fault — it inherited what it inherited. Obviously better coaching could lead to more success, which would in turn provide the evidence needed for good player leadership. But this is what happens when a winning culture stops winning. It becomes very difficult for even an experienced coaching staff to get that ship turned back around.
“It inherited what it inherited.” Connelly doesn’t come right out and say it but that’s an indictment of Gary Pinkel. It’s often times said that the mentality of the players is a direct reflection of their coach. So when observing the apparent lack of leadership on this team, we are to some degree being met with the image of Pinkel. And I have to say that this isn’t the first time that I’ve heard Pinkel’s leadership and dare I say character called into question.
Pinkel may be the real problem at Missouri but Connelly is correct about it being on Odom to fix. We see this sort of thing in corporate America all of the time. A CEO retires, moves on to their next opportunity, or is fired and their replacement has the responsibility of making the culture their own. Seasoned leaders have the confidence and experience to be successful in this often times difficult transition. Odom may have the confidence but he’s lacking the experience required for an undertaking like the one at Missouri.
A person doesn’t hire themselves and former AD Mack Rhoades signed off on Odom. And part of the reason that Odom was Rhoades’ choice was that Odom was Pinkel approved. There are times when being the preferred candidate of the retiring coach is a smart choice. This wasn’t one of those times. Rhoades would have wanted a brand new culture if he knew how Pinkel was running his program. And that would have required hiring someone who had no ties to Pinkel. Or, possibly, Rhoades didn’t care. He did high-tail it out of Columbia not long after selecting Odom.
The triumvirate of Odom, Pinkel, and Rhoades is exactly why I believe Jim Sterk will pull the plug on Odom’s tenure as head coach. He won’t clean house in-season because that would be foolish. Sterk gave former Missouri basketball coach Kim Anderson one last season and he’ll do the same for Odom. This will also give Sterk time to identify and fully vet his candidates before making his selection. Sterk played the long-game with Cuonzo Martin’s hiring process and I have no doubt that he’s taking the same approach with Odom’s successor.
There are skeletons in the Odom-Pinkel-Rhoades closet. I’m not the one to out them but I’m confident that Sterk will clean it all up.
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E-mail Seth at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.
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