COLUMBIA — Former Missouri basketball player and assistant coach Kim Anderson will return to his alma mater as head coach.
Missouri announced Monday afternoon in a news release that Anderson will replace Frank Haith, who left abruptly for Tulsa 11 days ago. MU will formally announce Anderson as its 18th coach in school history during a press conference at 10 a.m. Tuesday in the Reynolds Alumni Center.
“We are pleased and excited to have Kim Anderson leading our program,” athletics director Mike Alden said in the release. “He’s a man of great character, integrity and respect. He has demonstrated the ability to mentor young men on and off the court, academically and socially. He’s a proven winner on all levels, and he’s built tremendous relationships around the country in the basketball community, which assists greatly with recruiting and other important aspects for a program. Lastly, the fact that he’s a Missouri Tiger at heart is important; he is committed to Mizzou and has a passion to build a program of which all Tiger fans will be proud.”
Although this is his first Division I head-coaching job, Anderson, 58, will be the oldest coach in the 14-team Southeastern Conference.
He started as Central Missouri’s coach in 2003. During those 12 seasons in Division II, Anderson tallied a 274-95 record. The Sedalia native guided the Mules to three Division II final fours in his tenure, including this past season, when CMU won its first national championship since 1984. (Read about Sedalian's love affair with Anderson.)
The 84-77 victory over West Liberty in March capped off a 30-5 season for the Mules. Anderson was named the Division II Coach of the Year after the season.
“I’m honored and humbled to have the opportunity to return to Mizzou and lead a program that our family is so vested in,” Anderson said Monday after taking the job. “When we took over in Warrensburg 12 years ago, we faced an uphill battle. We had support, we had a winning history and great campus leadership, but the program had lost its identity. I see that same opportunity here at Missouri. We have great leadership with Dr. (R. Bowen) Loftin and Mike Alden, and I know we have a passionate fan base. We have a lot of work ahead of us and that work starts today, but as a Missourian, I embrace this challenge and look forward to bringing championship basketball back to Norm Stewart Court and Mizzou Arena.”
According to a spokesman at Central Missouri, Anderson met with his former players Monday afternoon in the Mules' locker room — right around the time when the news became official — and told them he was leaving for MU.
Missouri used a North Carolina-based executive search firm called Collegiate Sports Associates to help in the hiring process. Missouri paid the firm $42,500.
Reaction to Anderson's hire has been mixed. Missouri is hailing Anderson as a "True Son," and many in and around Columbia believe he can help the Tigers rebuild the right way. Others are skeptical of a coach whose name doesn't carry the cachet of some of the other candidates.
The popular choice of fans was Gregg Marshall, who guided Wichita State to the Final Four in 2013 and then to an undefeated regular season this past year. Marshall's agent told the Columbia Tribune that Missouri did in fact contact the reigning Associated Press Coach of the Year.
Other rumored names during Missouri's search included former UCLA coach Ben Howland, Texas at El Paso's Tim Floyd and Stephen F. Austin's Brad Underwood. It's unclear how much contact — if any — Missouri had with these coaches.
Contract details for Anderson are not yet public, but he will likely command a lesser salary than the above names. And probably less than the $1.75 million Haith was set to make next season at Missouri, which has placed its emphasis on football now that it's in the lucrative SEC.
Before his time at Central Missouri, Anderson worked two separate stints as a Missouri assistant. The first came as a graduate assistant from 1982-85. Anderson then spent the next six seasons as an assistant at Baylor, before returning to Missouri in 1991. He remained in that position until 1999.
Both times, Anderson worked under longtime coach Norm Stewart, whom Anderson played for between 1973-77. As a junior in 1976, Anderson helped Missouri to its first Big 8 Conference championship in the Stewart era. That team would go on to make an Elite Eight run. The following year, Anderson, a 6-foot-7 center, averaged 18.3 points and 7.9 rebounds, earning Big 8 conference player-of-the-year honors.
After graduating with 1,289 career points, Anderson was selected by the Portland Trail Blazers in the second round of the 1977 NBA draft. He appeared in 21 games for the Blazers between 1978-79 and then went on to play in Italy and France.
In 1999, Anderson interviewed for the Missouri head coach job, but Alden hired Quin Snyder instead.
As the Tigers' fourth coach in the past 15 years, Anderson will inherit a team coming off a 23-12 season. In the weeks that followed the season-ending loss to Southern Mississippi in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament, Missouri lost more than 70 percent of its scoring with the departures of Jabari Brown, Jordan Clarkson and Earnest Ross. Juniors Brown and Clarkson both declared for the NBA draft, and Ross is set to graduate.
Forward Johnathan Williams III is the Tigers’ top returning scorer. The freshman averaged 5.8 points per game.
Anderson also takes over a team that dealt with its fair share of off-the-court issues. Guards Wes Clark, Shane Rector and forward Tony Criswell were all suspended for the season finale against Southern Mississippi. Clark and Rector were suspended after Columbia police arrested them for possession of marijuana. Criswell was suspended multiple times throughout the 2013-14 season, the last of which came after he appeared in court for failing to pay his rent.
Louisville transfer Zach Price was supposed to help an already thin frontcourt, but Haith dismissed him from the team earlier this month when Price was arrested twice in one day.
Haith’s time with Missouri came to a close when he accepted an offer to become the coach at Tulsa two weeks ago. The Tigers went 76-28 and appeared in two NCAA Tournaments in Haith's three years.
One of Anderson’s first hurdles will be convincing JaKeenan Gant and Namon Wright to remain Missouri commits. Junior college transfer Kevin Punter is also on the fence.
Gant and Wright both signed letters of intent earlier this year. Gant, a 6-foot-8 forward, averaged 21.0 points and 10.5 rebounds in his senior year. He was named Georgia’s Mr. Basketball. Wright, a four-star recruit according to Rivals, is a 6-foot-5 shooting guard from Los Angeles.
Punter, a former State Fair Community College guard, declined to sign his national letter of intent when news of Haith’s departure broke. Punter was named a JUCO All-American last season, averaging 20.3 points and 4.6 rebounds per contest.
Supervising editor is Mark Selig.