The Haith Family Reflects On Year One

KRCG-TV’s Columbia Bureau Chief Mark Slavit recently sat down with University of Missouri Head Basketball Coach Frank Haith and his family — wife Pam, son Corey and daughter Brianna — for a conversation about their new life in Columbia and what they left behind in Miami.

Frank, how was your first year in Columbia?

Columbia was a welcoming community, and it was a great year. If you forget about the basketball side of it, it was a great chance for our family to bond. When we first got here, we were in a small apartment. I thought that was great for us. Our son, Corey, graduated from Rock Bridge High School this year — that was exciting.

Pam, what are your thoughts on your first year here?

It was a refreshing experience, to say the least. From day one, we felt like we were at home. The community has embraced us and nurtured us in manners that were far beyond our imagination. It’s been a phenomenal experience thus far.

Frank, from 2004 to 2011, you lived in Miami and coached the University of Miami Hurricanes. Did you experience any culture shock moving from such a big city to a college town like Columbia?

When we moved to Miami — that was the first time we lived in a big city. We’ve lived in other college towns, so Miami was a huge adjustment. Coming to Columbia was easy because we are used to college towns and cities that have a community feel.

Pam, do you miss anything in Miami?

I’m not missing the traffic in Miami at all! It’s nice to leave 10 minutes prior to get where I am going on time.

Frank, did anything about Columbia surprise you?

It’s bigger than I thought it would be. Nineteen years ago, during my time at the University of Texas, we would play at Missouri. I remember staying at a Columbia hotel and going to the arena. I’m sure Columbia has grown a lot since then. I’m not surprised about Columbia’s enthusiasm and passion for sports — I knew that was here.

Pam, what’s the first thing you remember about coming to Columbia?

I remember sitting on Ninth Street and having ice cream with my daughter, Brianna. I looked around and I realized that Columbia was unlike any other town in the Midwest. I remember discovering that Columbia had a bunch of secret surprises tucked away.

Brianna, you lived in Miami your whole life. How does your hometown compare to Columbia?

Miami is a lot warmer, but Columbia didn’t get much snow this year. Maybe next year I can build a snowman.

Corey, it was tough for you to leave Miami as you went into your senior year of high school. How hard was it to leave all of your friends?

It was real tough coming to Columbia for one year as a senior. I had to leave a lot of family in Miami. I begged my parents to let me stay in Miami for another year. I ended up finding friends on my basketball team and embracing the Rock Bridge High School community.

Corey, you won a district championship as a Bruin and now you’re going to Mizzou. What will it be like to be a Tiger and play for your dad?

It’s going to be interesting. I always thought about it, but I thought it would never happen. It’s going to be fun to share moments with my dad. I always wanted to go with him on away games. I can do that now since I am part of the team. My mom and sister will still miss my dad on the road. I’ll be with him all of the time.

Frank, your son will be a freshman at Mizzou next year and play on your team. Is he staying at home or living on campus?

We want him to have the college experience, live on campus and be a part of our basketball program. It’s real exciting for me as a father to spend more time with Corey. When he was growing up, I was gone a lot as an assistant coach. I now have a chance to be with him a lot over the next four years. I’m really excited about that.

Frank, you lived in Miami for seven years. Would you like to be in Columbia for seven years?

We hope to be here longer. Columbia is the place we call home, and we hope to be here for a very, very long time.

Pam, what’s it like being the wife of Frank Haith?

Frank is committed to his family, and that gives us a sense of normalcy. He does take the special time to make sure that his family is a priority in his life. Frank travels a lot. I don’t think about his absence because I know he is doing something that he is absolutely passionate about. He is even more passionate about his family. When you feel that, you don’t feel any voids or absences; you get hungrier for his return. You value that time and appreciate it even more.

Pam, do you text each other a lot?

All the time. Sometimes I don’t like it because it prohibits us from hearing each other’s voices. Webcams have helped us when Frank is gone for long periods of time. That way, the children still get to see him and talk to him.

Frank, is it hard to make sure to talk to your family a lot while you are busy on the road?

I’m actually old enough that when I started in the basketball business there were no cell phones. When I started coaching, I’d be on the road driving for hours and hours while I was recruiting. I’d stop at a convenience store and use a pay phone to let Pam know that I was fine. There are no such things as pay phones anymore. Today’s technology allows me to communicate with my family so much easier. I have constant communication because of that.

Frank, when you first got to town there were many skeptics. How did you deal with that pressure?

I stayed focused with my faith. I could not control those days. I worried about what I could control — including how I could prepare myself and how I was going to put my staff together. I focused on my family and my faith. It just worked out.

Frank, your team won the Big 12 tournament. How important was that for you, your staff and your players?

It was an amazing feeling. At the end of that ball game, when we held the trophy, we reflected back on the season. I went back to April 6, 2011, when I was hired. My players thought about their transition with a new coach and a new style. It was just a blessing for me to see what this team accomplished.

Frank, how disappointing was it to lose in the first round of the NCAA tournament?

That loss put all of us down. We were picked to win, but one game shouldn’t make us or define us. I’m not going to make excuses for our team, but we went all year with no injuries. During the Big 12 tournament, two of our biggest scorers were hurt. We didn’t have the same cohesiveness — it was just one of those things that happened. Norfolk State played great basketball. It was a learning experience for us.

Frank, what was your first reaction to winning the National Coach of the Year Award from the Associated Press?

I am very humbled and honored by all of the awards I won this past year. The award says Frank Haith is the national coach of the year — I say all of my awards are team awards. You are only as good as the people around you.

Frank, what can we look forward to next year?

We have a great class. We recruited some very talented players. We have a nice balance to go with Laurence Bowers, Mike Dixon and Phil Pressey. I think we have a team that will surprise you. We lost a lot of seniors. We worked really hard at recruiting. I think we have a tremendous class.

This series of one-on-one interviews with compelling local newsmakers is a cooperative effort of Inside Columbia magazine and our media partner, KRCG-TV13.