SEDALIA – This past week, a group of fourth-graders saw "Coach A" and wanted pictures with the mid-Missouri legend.
Kim Anderson and his former University of Central Missouri men's basketball team visited the state capital in Jefferson City. A group of Warrensburg fourth-graders were also in Jefferson City that evening.
"These little kids saw him and started saying, 'Oh, there's Coach A,'" UCM athletics director Jerry Hughes said Monday evening at the school's year-end athletic banquet. "And Kim stepped aside and took as many pictures with them as they wanted. That's just Kim."
That was one of the last things the Mules' basketball team did together before Anderson accepted Missouri's head coaching position on Monday afternoon. But the change in positions won't change the person he is, according to people who know the 58-year-old Sedalia native well.
Earlier in the afternoon, before the decision was made public, Anderson walked into a meeting with his UCM players, joking like he usually does, according to senior captain Jon Gilliam.
"He walked in with a smile on his face," Gilliam said. "And then he said, 'I got something to tell you guys.' But we knew what was coming. He was up front with us last week that he was a candidate for the Mizzou job."
Anderson teared up before he told his UCM players the news. But one player spoke up and told Anderson they were all happy for him.
Gilliam said the team knew getting the Missouri men's basketball head coaching job was a dream.
One of Anderson's former UCM players, Zach Vandevender, is currently the girls basketball coach at Anderson's former high school in Sedalia, Smith-Cotton.
Vandevender was a transfer at UCM from 2003-05. He didn't get much playing time, but Anderson made him feel like he was as important as anyone on the team.
"Even though I didn't play too much, he told me my role was really important," Vandevender said. "I was considering transferring, but he just made me feel so good I didn't want to leave."
Anderson told Vandevender that he would always be there for him. When Vandevender was looking for jobs after graduating, Anderson made calls to the Blue Springs school district in the Kansas City area.
Years later, Anderson called one of his closest friends and former Smith-Cotton High School principal Martin White. Vandevender then landed a job at Smith-Cotton and has been there ever since.
White has been friends with Anderson since elementary school. When thinking about why everyone loves Anderson, he said it goes back to his father, Keith Anderson.
"I'm so happy for Kim," White said. "But I think I'm happier for his dad, Keith."
White said the Andersons are one of the most respected families in Sedalia. Keith Anderson will talk to everyone in town. And he raised three successful kids.
"As successful as that family has been," White said, "I've never heard that man brag on his kids."
Keith Anderson is a tough guy but goes out of his way to talk to people.
At an event at Colton's Steak House in Sedalia recently, Vandevender was with his wife when he saw Keith Anderson across the restaurant.
"Hey that's Coach A's dad," he said to his wife, excited to see him.
As Vandevender was getting into his car, Keith Anderson waved from the parking lot, "Hey Zach."
"I hadn't played for Coach A in 10 years," Vandevender said. "And he remembered me. That was so cool."
Kim Anderson does things like that too.
Most people who know Anderson say how he will talk to anyone. And on the sidelines during games, he's even-keeled just like he is daily. But in practice he gets after his players.
"He saves the discipline and drilling for practice," White said. "He isn't this crazy person on the sidelines like a lot of coaches."
White couldn't hold back his excitement Monday. He paced back and forth in the Smith-Cotton basketball gym in front of Anderson's retired jersey.
He looked out at the empty Smith-Cotton basketball court and back at Anderson's jersey.
"Hell yes," White said. "State of Missouri, baby."
Supervising editor is Mark Selig.