Pinkel's coaching staff may be job hunting after season
ST. LOUIS (AP) Offensive coordinator Josh Henson was blindsided. So were the rest of the Missouri assistant coaches when Gary Pinkel told them he had cancer and was retiring at the end of the season.
Of course, they're worried about the boss.
Missouri (5-5) has two games to go, maybe a third with a bowl game. Until it's over, assistants must balance on-field instruction and endless game-planning with the search for future employment.
''One of the most difficult things when you do what I did, you rock the world of all your coaches,'' Pinkel said. ''There was no other way to do it.''
Defensive coordinator Barry Odom, in his first year as defensive coordinator after previously playing and coaching at Missouri, could be on athletic director Mack Rhoades' list of candidates. Rhoades is scheduled to hold a news conference on Wednesday.
That's probably not the case with the rest of the staff.
Andy Hill, associate head coach and quarterbacks coach, will really have to dust off that resume. Hill played at Missouri from 1980-84 after making the team as a walk-on and has been with Pinkel since 1996 at Toledo.
Defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski and running backs coach Brian Jones are both in their 24th season with Pinkel. Cornell Ford, who coaches cornerbacks and also is a top recruiter, dates to 1996.
None of the coaches who were at Monday's media day had a notion the 63-year-old Pinkel, diagnosed with lymphoma in May, was ill. Pinkel has been undergoing treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
''No signs that said anything to the contrary,'' Hill said. ''He looks good today.''
Henson echoed that theme.
''Obviously, coach has got some issues but he doesn't look like he has issues and he didn't act like he had any issues all year long, to his credit,'' Henson said. ''The reality of it sets in and what it means, but it's also sad. Everybody loves coach Pinkel, and he's done a phenomenal job.''
Offensive line coach A.J. Ricker said after Pinkel delivered the news on Friday, the team got on the bus for the trip to Kansas City to play BYU. Pinkel then called his wife.
''It's tough, man,'' said Ricker, a former Missouri star center in his second season coaching the offensive line. ''You're in this thing long enough, it's going to happen. Kind of the way it happened, I was shocked.''
Hill said coaches are good at ''compartmentalizing,'' pushing those day-to-day worries aside while hyper-focusing on the task at hand.
''You play a week at a time, you box it up and go do the next one,'' Hill said. ''You're still competitive, you still want to watch Tennessee on video, you want to see those guys, see a way to beat them, give our guys the best chance to win.''
Missouri's offensive struggles might make it a tough market for Henson. The Tigers are among the nation's worst, ranked 96th.
Players, especially those who'll be back next year, are guarding against looking too far ahead.
''Obviously, he's made good hires in the past,'' linebacker Michael Scherer said of Rhoades. ''I know he's going to do the right thing, but I'm more worried about finishing the season.''