SEDALIA – Lucy McRoy, the secretary at Smith-Cotton High School, looks at her flip phone, thinking of people who know Kim Anderson best. She smiles. Everyone knows him.
This small mid-Missouri town is best known for hosting the State Fair every summer. But now, there's another reason for excitement.
Many are wondering if one of their own will be the next Missouri men's basketball coach. Outside Sedalia and Columbia, not too many people see Anderson as likely to replace former Missouri basketball coach Frank Haith. Here, though, he is a basketball legend the Tigers have passed on before.
McRoy looks up from her phone and notes that Anderson's jersey is in the Smith-Cotton gym.
"Hey Dakota, you know where Kim's jersey is?" McRoy says to a student nearby.
"Yep," the student says, and walks directly to it.
It's in a glass case with other Smith-Cotton legends. Anderson's white jersey is first in the display case with a plaque that reads, "Class of 1973." There's also a recent picture of Anderson cutting down the net with his current school, the University of Central Missouri. He's the head coach of the Division II basketball powerhouse, which just won the national championship.
Students walk by and see Anderson's white No. 32 jersey is the focus.
"We hope he gets it," one student says, without waiting for a question.
The current Smith-Cotton school is not the same one the now 58-year-old Anderson attended. The old Smith-Cotton is now a junior high school, which is only a mile from Anderson's childhood home.
Outside that home is a UCM flag, planted in the front yard. Inside is Anderson's father, Keith Anderson, who said the flag is not only because he's an alumnus, but also because of his son and his daughter Kathy Anderson, who is the associate athletics director at UCM.
Keith Anderson said he doesn't know what will happen with his son. He said that Anderson is happy at UCM but that if Missouri offered him the coaching job, he thinks his son would take it.
After all, Kim Anderson played basketball at Missouri from 1973 to 1977, was a graduate assistant from 1982 to 1985 and was an assistant on legendary Missouri coach Norm Stewart's staff from 1991 to 1999.
The Tigers have passed on Anderson three times before. After Stewart retired in 1999, Missouri hired Duke assistant Quin Snyder instead of promoting Anderson from assistant coach. In 2006, Mike Anderson was hired from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. At the time of that hire, Anderson's coaching record at UCM was 78-40. And in 2011, when Missouri hired Frank Haith from the University of Miami, Anderson was 202-74 at UCM.
Keith Anderson doesn't really talk to his son about his job too often.
"When he's coaching, I let him coach," Keith Anderson said. "And with this, I let him be."
Bill Barton has known Kim Anderson since Anderson was a sophomore in high school. Barton is now retired but coached State Fair Community College in Sedalia from 1970 to 2005 and won more than 600 games. He used to host a golf tournament at the Lake of the Ozarks that college basketball coaches from all levels attended.
"Kim was one of the most respected people there," Barton said. "Not only because of his coaching, but how much he means to mid-Missouri.
"He comes from a great family, and we all love him here," Barton added. "It would mean a lot to this town."
Kim Anderson's father walked into his son's childhood room. He pointed to a net framed on the wall. It was from the 2006-07 Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association championship. His wife had died a few months before the MIAA conference championship. When UCM won, the players cut down the net and found Keith Anderson in the stands. They put the net around his neck.
"I'm not a crier," Keith Anderson said, his eyes filling with tears. "But that was really something."
Keith Anderson is eager for the coaching search to be over, whether his son is the next Missouri basketball coach or not. He said he can't really leave the house these days. After UCM won the Division II national championship about four weeks ago, he didn’t go out much because of all the attention in town. And now with the coaching search, people want to know what’s going on.
“I tell everyone I know as much as they do,” he said. “We’re all listening to the same talk shows.”
Inside the local Chevrolet dealership is the vast office of Ken Weymouth. The chairs and supplies in the office are stamped with the UCM logo. Weymouth and Anderson are close friends and talk regularly.
"Well, we haven't talked in a handful of days," Weymouth said. "So I just know what I hear on the talk shows."
Outside the dealership, sports talk radio played through the open windows of a car in the parking lot. The radio conversation was about Kim Anderson and how he should be the next Missouri coach.
In the dealership parking lot and throughout the rest of Sedalia, it's clear this town is ready for Anderson to take over the Tigers.
Supervising editor is Mark Selig.