In 15 years under coach Gary Pinkel, Missouri had as many winning seasons, 10, as they had had in the previous 30 years. While the ending certainly isn’t what the retiring coach and the Mizzou fanbase envisioned, he leaves the program in far better shape than he found it.

The question for Mizzou is what’s next?

Plenty of names will be mentioned before the eventual hire’s confirmation, but one thing’s for sure, if the Tigers’ want to keep what Pinkel built, including a consistently top SEC defense, they should consider promoting within, especially in the case of DL coach Craig Kuligowski.

In his 20-plus years with Missouri, Kuligowski has built a reputation as an elite assistant, but now with his longtime boss leaving, Kuligowski could look to move up.

“When I talk to other coaches around the country, they say, ‘You worked for one guy for 25 years? How did you do that? Kuligowski said to The Kansas City Star earlier in the week. “I’ve been with coach Pinkel just about as long as I’ve been with my wife.”

Over the past eight seasons Kuligowski has coached eight Tigers to First-Team All-SEC honors: Lorenzo Williams (2007), Ziggy Hood (2008), Aldon Smith (2010), Dominique Hamilton (2011), Sheldon Richardson (2012), Michael Sam and Kony Ealy (2013), and Shane Ray (2014). Many became NFL standouts.

Kuligowski isn’t the only Missouri defensive coach due for a promotion.

“I’ve said it a number of times: I’m going to be a head coach. I don’t know when, don’t know where, but, yeah, that’s what I want to do,” Missouri defensive coordinator Barry Odom told The Kansas City Star earlier in the week. “It would be such a great opportunity to represent this athletic program and university and state.”

Odom is a top candidate to replace Pinkel, as columnist Justin Ferguson wrote, “(Odom) is quite popular with almost everyone associated with the program.”

The former Missouri linebacker has only been the team’s defensive coordinator for one season, but the team has allowed just 15.1 points per game, a decrease from the 24 points per game average the previous four seasons.

Promoting both makes sense.

With Odom at head coach and Kuligowski at defensive coordinator, the Tigers should be able to continue luring elite defenders from around the country and keep some consistency from 2015 to 2016 and beyond.

Returning players are hoping the school keeps its talent in house.

“I would hope any coach would come in a keep them on staff, because they’ve been successful,” sophomore safety Anthony Sherrils told reporters.  “We’re one of the most winning programs under these coaches, so I would hope that they stay around.”

Significant changes are coming. The best solution might be to look inward.

“I don’t have answers,” Kuligowski said. “We’ve just got to see how the whole thing plays out. I don’t have any answers for the players. … We’ll just keep coaching them real hard, and something good is going to happen.”