Haith hands coaching reins to Tim Fuller during suspension

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.