Watkins provides Tigers with veteran leadership during a tumultuous time

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Missouri's fill-in basketball coach has more head-coaching experience than Quin Snyder, the man he's replacing.

Melvin Watkins, who joined the school as associate head coach in 2004, led Charlotte to two straight NCAA tournament appearances in the mid-1990s. That success led to Texas A&M, where he concluded an unsuccessful six-season run with his resignation.

Missouri was Snyder's first head-coaching position. Snyder, who took Missouri to four NCAA tournaments, resigned Friday in his seventh season.

Now, Watkins is getting a shot at coaching again for a school where basketball is a major sport. He made a successful debut on Sunday when Missouri (11-11) ended a six-game losing streak with a 74-71 victory over Kansas State. It was one more conference win than what Watkins won in his final season at Texas A&M.

Watkins, 51, bottomed out at Texas A&M in 2003-04 when the Aggies were 0-16 in conference play, announcing before the season ended that he would step down with three years remaining on his contract. The Aggies were 21-75 in Big 12 play during his time there, never winning more than six conference games and never finishing higher than a tie for seventh.

The school last made the NCAA tournament in 1987.

Before that, he had spent a quarter-century at Charlotte, first as an all-conference point guard who helped the team advance to the Final Four in 1977 and then as coach. He was an assistant coach for 18 seasons before being named head coach in 1996, and he was involved in every 20-win season and all 10 postseason tournament appearances in the school's history before the move to Texas A&M.

Charlotte advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament in both of his seasons as head coach. He was 42-20 at Charlotte, losing in overtime to North Carolina in the second round of the NCAA tournament in 1998.

Watkins did not make himself available to the media Friday following the announcement that Snyder had resigned or Saturday.

On Thursday, Watkins met with reporters while believing he would be directing practice in place of an ailing Snyder, who had been suffering from flu-like symptoms. Watkins said positive mental attitude would be stressed in an attempt to end the losing streak.

"The thing we're not going to do is surely beat up on our kids," Watkins said. "We're going to come out and try to prepare ourselves best to try to win the win next game we've got."

Watkins said all the rumors swirling around the program had not been difficult on him.

"We take one day at a time," he said. "When you're in the coaching profession, you know how some of these things can go. I've been there."

Sunday's game against Kansas State was the first in Big 12 history with two interim coaches in the same game. Wildcats coach Jim Wooldridge underwent surgery to remove a bulging disk in his neck on Wednesday, and assistant coach Jim Elgas was in charge for the second straight game.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: