NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Southeastern Conference Tournament is a showcase for some teams, a last-chance to advance deeper in the postseason for others.

Such goals do not apply to Missouri this week. Just before the Tigers tipped off against Auburn on Wednesday night, Athletic Director Jim Sterk fielded questions from a small pool of reporters about a Missouri basketball program in the midst of a crucial transition period.

Sterk provided few groundbreaking details about the Tigers’ ongoing coaching search, but he’s more optimistic about the state of the program than he was a short time ago.

“Basketball coaches think this is a good job. I think it is, too,” Sterk said. “I’m real excited. I’m more excited than I was six months ago, so I can portray that. From a basketball standpoint, I think this program, out of the last nine years, six of those have been in postseason. That’s pretty good. It’s just the last three years that it’s taken a dive.”

Sterk, who has not yet led a coaching search at Missouri, said getting a recognizable name is “an important criteria, but not the only one.”

His list of candidates remains confidential.

“I’m really not gonna get into details on the search,” he said. “There’s been people that I’ve been interested in and we’re making that list and continuing to craft that.”

While Sterk said he does not have an ideal profile for the next coach, he intimated that experience will be a crucial factor.

“I’m looking for someone with great experience that has integrity and character but has had success at the Division I level,” he said. “I think that’s all helpful.”

Sterk said he has not been given a salary ceiling. With Kim Anderson’s annual salary of $1.1 million ranking last in the conference, Sterk was asked if he’ll “be able to put some resources into this hire.”

“Yes,” he replied.

He did not specify on if a history of NCAA sanctions would rule out a candidate, saying “that would be taken into consideration.”

Past basketball searches have ended with a specially-appointed committee approving a selected candidate. Sterk said he has used Philip Snowden as a liaison to keep the University of Missouri System Board of Curators involved in the search and will seek the approval of Chancellor Hank Foley and University of Missouri System President Mun Choi before making a final decision.

In addition, “I’ve been utilizing a number of people that, they’d rather stay anonymous, but they’re involved with the program and support the program at different levels,” Sterk said.

A timetable remains open-ended.

“It will depend on candidates and how far they go in the (NCAA) Tournament,” Sterk said. “This is a busy time, so I can’t predict when it would happen, but I’d rather have it sooner than later.”