PowerMizzou - Pinkel: I rocked their lives
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Pinkel: I rocked their lives

More than anything else, one word has crystallized Gary Pinkel's career at Missouri: Stability.

At the most hectic of times in a game, there is Pinkel, arms crossed, wearing his visor, on the sidelines. When fans are screaming for players to be benched and for the scalps of his staff, there is Pinkel, standing by his guys. For 15 years, Gary Pinkel and Mizzou have been stable.
"In a very, very insecure business, you get about as much security as you can have being in our football program," Pinkel said. "I think that's why I've kept guys here for a long period of time, that's why we've attracted some really good young coaches."

In a 15-minute meeting on Friday afternoon, that stability was blown apart. Pinkel even referred to his retirement announcement on Friday as "the bomb that went off."

"I'm shocked," offensive line coach A.J. Ricker said. "I wasn't ready for any of this."
Pinkel had hoped to meet with his coaches on Sunday to inform them he had cancer and was stepping down. His plan was then to inform the team after talking to his staff. As word started to leak, Pinkel called the entire team into a 2:30 meeting moments before they would board a bus for Kansas City to face BYU the next day and leveled them with the news.
"When you do what I did, you rock the world of all your coaches," Pinkel said. "I rocked their life. When people get fired that's what happens, there's generally some preparation for that. I walked in and this is what I'm gonna do and there was no other way to do it, but I'm very sensitive to that. It's unfortunate."

"I've been through this professionally, not that I've been coaching for 100 years, I'm not saying that, but I've been on this kind of transition where at least you've got time to go home and talk to your family kind of a 'Look, it's over' kind of deal," Ricker said. "I had to make a phone call to my wife, which is tough. But like I said, you get in this profession knowing this could happen."

So with two games left in the season--three if the Tigers qualify for a bowl--the assistant coaches now do not know where they'll be coaching next year.

"You start thinking about what that means for your immediate future and your family," safeties coach Ryan Walters said. "Especially with a coach like coach Pinkel, you can't plan for this. You can't plan for it, but you do come here with an expectation of having some semblance of job security if there is such a thing in this profession. I've learned very young that you just can't plan and your plans don't really matter in this profession. You've got to go where the jobs go and be prepared and be ready to uproot if you need to uproot."

There is not a member of the Tigers' staff who knows if he will be retained for next season. Defensive coordinator Barry Odom is a presumed candidate to replace Pinkel. Defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski is considered one of the best position coaches in the country. Quarterbacks coach Andy Hill has been on two staffs at Mizzou for more than two decades. None of them knows if he will be back.

"My wife went to school here, we've been pretty fortunate to stay here the whole time. You have to look at the positive too. It's been 20 years of pretty good stuff," Hill said, also mentioning colleagues who have moved six or seven times in the same time frame. "You've got to be open to all options."
Missouri is only guaranteed 11 more days in this season. If they win one of the final two games, the Tigers would earn a bowl bid and extend the year by a few weeks. And that, the coaches say, is their primary focus.
"I have a responsibility obviously number one to my family to be employed somewhere next year," offensive coordinator Josh Henson said. "Number two, though, I have a responsibility to this football team to make sure that we're getting our job done and that we're putting our players in the best position to win the last two games. I told our players right off on Sunday that that's what we're going to do. We're not going to do anything different. We've been game planning. I watched film last night just as long as I have as usual. Just a few more things on your plate. There's obviously a balancing act there, we'll balance that well but our coaching staff will stay committed to this football team till the end of our time, whenever that is."
"It's easy. As a football coach, you compartmentalize. You play a week at a time, you box it up, you go to the next one. You're still competitive," Hill said. "Whether it's two games or 102 games or whatever a guy has left, wherever you're coaching, you're going to be competitive. I don't think that changes anywhere. It's pretty easy for our coaching staff to want to go compete and put our guys in the best spot to win."

Realistically, the staff has no other choice. In the end, it comes back to sport's most tried and true cliche: One game at a time.
"You can't worry about things that you have no control over," Walters said. "People will get hired and there will be job placement at the end of the season. There's no point in my focus or my family's focus to be on anything but Tennessee right now."
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