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Haith hands coaching reins to Tim Fuller during suspension

Frank Haith turns to excitable assistant Tim Fuller to guide Mizzou during his five-game absence

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Phil Pressey, Laurence Bowers and Alex Oriakhi won't be the only key Tigers from last season who will be missing when Missouri opens its 2013-14 season Friday night against Southeastern Louisiana.


Coach Frank Haith will not be on hand, either. When the clock strikes midnight Thursday night, Haith will begin serving his five-game suspension mandated by the NCAA for "failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance" when he was head coach at Miami. Haith will be able to rejoin the Tigers a couple of hours after their game against IUPUI Nov. 25.


The Tigers also will be without senior forward Tony Criswell for at least one game. Haith said Wednesday afternoon that he suspended Criswell for an undisclosed "violation of team rules." Criswell could be back Tuesday against Southern Illinois, Haith said.


With Haith out, associate head coach Tim Fuller will take over as the interim head coach. Though assistants Dave Leitao and Mark Phelps have been head coaches and Fuller hasn't, Haith said he turned to Fuller because he has been with the program longer. This will be Fuller's third season with the Tigers.


"Tim has the pulse of me," Haith said.


"I don't know how much it changes day to day," Fuller said. "Coach Haith gives his assistants a lot of freedom to be almost similar to head coaches in practice. It's some big shoes to fill, but he's started to prepare me for this moment pretty good."


During the 17 days that Haith won't be allowed to coach, he can't attend practices or games but he can report to work at his office. He has spent part of this week preparing the Tigers to move forward in his absence.

 

"It's kind of like when your parents go away for a little while," junior guard Jordan Clarkson said. "What are you going to do, throw a party or something? We're going to make sure we hold it down. We still have to do the right thing."


The players could notice a difference in sideline demeanor with the excitable Fuller in the main seat.


"He's a very energized coach," senior guard Earnest Ross said. "In practice, he's loud. When he gets his chance to coach on Friday, he'll be energized and ready to go."


Fuller, 35, already is excited about the opportunity. He said he had trouble sleeping after Haith gave him the news Tuesday night.


"I can't imagine what Thursday night will be like," he said.

 

You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at stanmcneal@gmail.com.