Mizzou men’s basketball coach Kim Anderson didn’t take the job in Columbia because of any promised glitz or glamor. He stepped in to the role fully—well partially—aware of the caliber of mess he’d have to fix upon his arrival.
To say that the past couple seasons haven’t gone well would be accurate. Sure fans knew there would be a rebuilding time, just as with any new coach, but boy things sure have looked awful. Landslide losses in big games. Losses at home to near unheard of teams.
Patience in Columbia is running thin among many, and it’s becoming a gaining sentiment among fans to fire Anderson. Not at the end of the season, but right now. The cries for this move haven’t come over Anderson being a bad coach or a bad teacher, but because he isn’t winning, which is what he’s there for.
But before we go and grab our pitchforks and torches, let’s talk for just a moment about the root of this whole fiasco, the state of the program.
Let’s go back in time to 1999. Quin Snyder is coming in to follow up Norm Stewart. He’s a young guy with a major drug problem who recruits the Ricky Clemons’ and Kalen Grimes’ of this world. He destroyed the moral fabric within the program and had clear social issues because of his cocaine use. He was never loyal to Mizzou and he was never going to be.
Snyder’s disregard for being a winner off the court soon doomed the culture of the team, meaning losses were dealt with in much more immature ways.
Former star Kareem Rush, the golden recruit and player for Snyder, almost didn’t play in the Big 12 tournament one year because he wanted his Infiniti SUV back that was towed from the Hearnes Center parking lot. He literally held out until his demands were met. Think this is something Norm Stewart would have tolerated?
Snyder’s firing should have come sooner, but at least it didn’t come later. In the end, former athletic director Mike Alden hired Mike Anderson, an unknown name really but someone who worked under Nolan Richardson at Arkansas during their national championship in 1994, so that commanded respect.
Mike Anderson was all smiles as he crookedly promised the hopeful crowd that he was going to save the program with his branded “Forty Minutes of Hell,” where the defense was going to be full-court man-to-man the entire game. It was an interesting idea if nothing else, and it did translate to some success.
Sadly though, just as Snyder lacked the loyalty, so too did Mike Anderson. With no warning to anyone at Mizzou, on March 23, 2011, Mike Anderson destroyed the integrity of the program and ducked reporters at Mizzou Arena so he could leave and announce he was now the coach for Arkansas.
He ripped potential recruits and set Mizzou back significantly.
Really you can say at this point that the culture of the team and program are so far removed from what they used to be, it’s almost unrecognizeable. Alden did try for some time after this to hire Matt Painter from Purdue, but ultimately they went with the bargain hire of Frank Haith from Miami.
Haith was a uneasy hire at the start, but most of that sentiment cooled down when all the W’s began to pile up. Following that 2011-12 season up with NCAA Coach of the Year and beating kansas, Haith like all of his predecessors seemed as if he could do no wrong.
But, his associations with booster Nevin Shapiro, someone who has his own Wikipedia page to describe the depth of his Ponzi schemes, would prove to be destructive to Tiger athletics as well. Haith’s exit from Mizzou under pressure solidified the idea that Mizzou basketball offers a watered-down head coaching job that is more yesterday than today.
Just like the two before him, Haith lacked any type of loyalty, and simply bolted for lukewarm waters. He was followed by potential recruits, and took one of the very smart minds in the game with him on his coaching staff in Kim English, someone who will be a head coach some day.
Players left. They hired Kim Anderson, former Mizzou player, Big 8 Player of the Year, assistant under Norm Stewart during some of Mizzou’s most winning years, Big 12 administrator and NCAA D-II national championship winner.
More players left. The team had to go through a purging process in order to have the quality of men that Kim Anderson was looking for to achieve success.
The first year out of the gate was awful. It was everything a rebuilding year is supposed to look like. Kim Anderson started out his career losing to the UMKC Kangeroos. “We we tried, but they just played really well,” a lot of people said of UMKC that night. Unfortunately, that has become the mantra of his coaching legacy.
Year one’s star was Jonathan Williams, III, a mediocre player at best but sadly he became Mizzou’s best attacking option after the wave of exits. Postseason wasn’t even an option as Kim found out that violations occurring before his tenure were about to affect his ability to recruit with an overall scholarship reduction.
Year two yielded much of the same, with Williams, III transferring to Gonzaga, leaving Wes Clark as the best player on the team. NAIA-level center Ryan Rosburg was really all the threat that existed in the middle, along with newly emerging freshman Kevin Puryear.
The local press from 1580 KTGR and the Columbia Daily Tribune began to baste Kim Anderson and stir up sentiments that he was the center of the struggles Mizzou was having. Their efforts worked as many people find themselves all wanting to get rid of Anderson, but not really knowing what to do or where to go from there.
The perception that some new guy is just going to step in and re-establish these shattered recruiting trails is laughable. The amount of time that would have to go in to building a new structure from the ground up would mean resetting all the things Anderson has done to fix things that weren’t his fault at all.
So as the third season began, out are the players who were really fillers more than anything. Mizzou has a cast of stronger players now, without question. Terrance Philips plays with an unrivaled passion that you can’t help but love. He’s aggressive on defense and a leader on the court…as a sophomore.
Frankie Hughes might finally be that solid outside threat that Mizzou had craved. There is actually size in the middle now to the point where it’s not visibly laughable before the start of each game to see how much shorter Mizzou is.
K.J. Walton is a fantastic slasher, Willie Jackson has all the makings of being a young Jevon Crudup, and Jordan Geist has shown he has fantastic effort at all times, all over the court.
This is one of the hurdles. Winning doesn’t just come to you, it’s a process. Mizzou basketball was like that beaten dog at the humane society that has to go through several phases of fixes before it’s a “good dog” again. It has to establish trust, then companionship, loyalty and love, all things that take time. While the dog is learning loyalty, you could look at that dog from the outside and say, “That dog is never going to be right, he’s a lost cause,” but in reality he’s just a couple steps away from having it together.
Losing to teams like Eastern Illinois sucks. It’s not fun, it’s embarrassing, and it makes people emotional. Don’t go off and abandon the one man who’s finally had loyalty towards Mizzou, and was always going to. It’s the only thing saving the program from years of calculated destruction. He will make the Tigers a winner again if fans will only have the patience.