There is an old axiom that has been floating around coaching circles for years. It simply states
“Dealing with parents and administrators is like wrestling with a pig. Everyone gets dirty and
only the pig likes it.” Some coaches are more familiar with it than others. Bob Sunvold just became
its latest case study.
Sunvold, the former coach at the University of Missouri — Kansas City, was let go on Tuesday May 23.
UMKC Athletic Director Bob Thomas told Sunvold about his dismissal during what the coach thought was
a routine end-of-the-year evaluation. It was quite a surprise to Sunvold and everyone around the
program. After all, the Kangaroos and Sunvold had apparently turned the corner.
Last year was the year when Sunvold was supposed to be in danger of losing his job. The team only
managed to accumulate 9 wins. Two of Sunvold’s assistants left the program after the season to take
other jobs. All the signs were there that the ship was going down. Sunvold saved his job and put
together a stellar recruiting class — a class that included the Mid-Continent Conference’s Player
of the Year, Michael Jackson. The ‘Roos went 16-13 this season and their future looked bright with
the majority of the team returning next season.
So then why did Bob Thomas decide to “move into another direction?” Better yet, why now? Why wait
until late May to make the change? Did his job performance get worse after the season? Probably not.
Thomas, who became UMKC’s A.D. only 10 months ago, has stated that he and Coach Sunvold have
different ideas as to where the program needs to be and how to get there and that he was still
evaluating the situation until this week.
Sunvold’s overall record is not the greatest (43-70). He was given a chance last year to improve and
he did. This year’s team recorded the first winning season at UMKC since the 1991-1992 season.
Although the Mid-Con is not filled with superstars, it is still a tough conference. It’s tough
because every small school’s goal is to get to the NCAA Tournament. In the Mid-Con, Valparaiso has
made that a difficult task in the last 6 years. They have been like the Chicago Bulls of small
conferences (I am not saying they are as good as the Bulls. I’m only saying they’re dominance is
similar.). There have been really good teams at other schools the last 6 years but they weren’t
going to the Tourney because Valpo was going to the Tourney. The UMKC program also sits on the
restraining wall of the border war between MU and KU. It’s tough to get people in Kansas City
excited about any other programs. Sunvold had added many local players to his team but apparently
that wasn’t the answer. Nobody really knows what the answer is because Thomas is only saying that
the two did not see eye-to-eye.
The bottom line is that Thomas did not hire Sunvold. Every coach knows that there is always danger
when the person who hired you leaves and a new person takes over. Thomas wants to hire his man. Is
it fair? Probably not. Is it reality? It is for Bob Sunvold. Everyone got dirty and only the pig