Search for coach goes on; Gardner declares for draft

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Alford, Huggins and Majerus apparently are no longer candidates for Missouri's vacancy.

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Missouri guard Thomas Gardner, the leading scorer in a disappointing season that saw coach Quin Snyder quit early, isn't sticking around to see who will next lead the Tigers basketball team.

On Tuesday, Gardner confirmed his intentions to forgo his senior year and enter the NBA draft. Snyder's abrupt departure and the uncertainty surrounding the team's next coach played no role in the decision, he said.

"Not at all," said Gardner, who plans to attend NBA draft camps but still protect his NCAA eligibility by not signing with an agent.

Even as Gardner told reporters he would return to Columbia if he isn't projected as at least an early second-round draft pick, Iowa coach Steve Alford issued a statement attempting to distance himself from published reports that he would interview at Missouri.

Missouri has asked Iowa athletic director Bob Bowlsby for permission to speak with Alford, a former Indiana All-America who has also been linked to the head coaching vacancy at his alma mater.

Two prospective candidates who have apparently dropped off Missouri's wish list are Bob Huggins and Rick Majerus.

The Kansas City Star reported Wednesday that Majerus, a former Utah coach, and ex-Cincinnati coach Huggins will not be interviewed by a five-person search committee headed by Missouri athletic director Mike Alden.

The decision disappointed former Tiger star Jon Sundvold, a Columbia businessman and search committee member.

"I thought they would be two candidates that should be interviewed," Sundvold told The Star. "That's not going to happen."

Missouri hopes to have a new coach lined up by the NCAA Final Four, which takes place April 1 and 3 in Indianapolis.

Gardner, the Big 12 Conference's No. 2 scorer and 3-point leader this past season, said he consulted with several people -- including Snyder, acting head coach Melvin Watkins and former Big 12 opponents Will Blaylock of Iowa State and Richard Roby of Colorado, both of whom declared early for the NBA draft in the past several days -- before making his decision.

Gardner also said he doesn't expect a mass exodus of disenchanted Missouri players, despite previous statements by several teammates that they might transfer.

"A lot of things said early were out of emotion," Gardner said. "Personally, I think all the guys will be here next year, and if doesn't work out for me, I'll be here with them."

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