The question of Kim Anderson


Multiple Authors

Photo used with permission from the Associated PressThis past year, University of Missouri basketball coach Kim Anderson has come under fire for leading the team to 10-21 record. Some fans want athletic director Mack Rhoades to ax Anderson immediately, while others are pleading to give him another chance.[heading]Anderson does not deserve to stay[/heading] Over the past several years, the University of Missouri – Columbia basketball team has become the victim of an unfortunate trend: successful season, unsuccessful NCAA tournament, coach leaves. After Mike Anderson departed to Arkansas and Frank Haith became the top man at Mizzou, the pattern, as devastating and controversial as it was amidst Haith’s recruiting violations, continued.
The Tigers won basketball games, but came up short in the tournament. What is more saddening than the already depressing trend is that the trend doesn’t continue. Kim Anderson, who replaced Haith’s violation and suspension-filled shoes, has failed to win games and failed to even reach the NCAA tournament.
Columbians were excited to hear that Anderson would be sitting on the sidelines watching Mizzou on the hardwood. A Mizzou graduate and former player, Anderson had just finished an extremely successful season at the University of Central Missouri, winning the NCAA Division II National Championship. Anderson’s success at the second tier, however, has all but translated to the NCAA.
His opening season, a 9-23 campaign, was just slightly worse than his second, 10-21, equating to an overall winning percentage of about 43 percent. To put that in perspective, Haith lost less games, 16, than Anderson won, 19. Still, the current Mizzou head coach has followers and supporters begging critics for more time and understanding. But, Anderson’s record of miserable mediocrity must be quickly addressed before Mizzou’s basketball team runs itself into the bottom of the Southeastern Conference.
Anderson’s supporters constantly claim that good coaching is a result of talent, and good coaches become successful once they inherit talented players. Talent, however, is not something delivered to your front door in brown paper packages. It is a result of recruiting, development, or the combination of the two. It is evident that Anderson has failed to do both. For example, the Missouri football team consistently transforms three-star recruits into NFL caliber players by developing them and turning raw talent into actual production. Anderson has obviously been unable to do so, even when he had talented players at his disposal.
Speaking of talented players, Anderson inherited a slew of decorated high school players, seven to be exact, highlighted by a few four-star recruits after Haith’s brisk departure. Currently, only one of those those seven players remain.
In 2015, Montaque Gill-Caesar, Johnathan Williams III and Deuce Bello left the team while Namon Wright, Tremaine Isabell and D’Angelo Allen departed this year. One or two transfers are understandable and acceptable for new coaches, especially if those players are not the most productive or efficient players on the team.
But, having six of the most talented players on the team transfer to other schools raises an immediate red flag. Transfers are obviously difficult to deal with and overcome, but it is not completely out of the reach of Anderson. If six players, enough warm bodies to start a game with, transfer, there is something fishy about the situation; and as the saying goes, a fish rots from the head.
Kim Anderson inherited a difficult job and had to live up to the tall orders to Mizzou fans. Not only did Anderson not reach those expectations, he was nowhere close to reaching them. His inability to recruit talented players, develop athletes or keep talented players that he inherits are all factors of an unacceptable equation: the inability to win games. If Anderson consistently puts bad teams on the court, and fails to prove his capability of winning games, Mizzou should quickly find a replacement.
By Ji-Ho Lee[heading]The Tigers can afford to give Anderson more time[/heading] Mizzou athletics’ director Mack Rhoades made the right call when he chose to stick with head basketball coach Kim Anderson for a third season on March 9. For Anderson, Rhoades’s decision could be regarded as a surprising one considering support for Anderson is at an all-time low in the Mizzou fan base, but let’s be honest: Rhoades didn’t have much of a choice.
The Mizzou coaching job would be avoided like caviar at fish fry. Who would even want a job where former starters were transferring while Anderson was still the coach?
           Sure you could quickly search for an assistant coach from any power conference and get a new head coach in a day, but the outcome would be the exact same as Anderson’s current situation. You can’t expect a head coach to be successful right out of the gate when given the revolving door that is Mizzou basketball.
           For Frank Haith, who preceded Anderson as coach, it was clear in his final season that the team’s infrastructure was beginning to crumble. Haith’s Tigers went 9-9 in conference, the team’s worst conference record in five years. Many of those nine wins can be chalked up to a group of all-star upperclassmen like Jabari Brown, Jordan Clarkson and Earnest Ross being surrounded by a roster that lacked depth. Recruiting had, for whatever reason, gone on the back burner, and it was showing. Of course, none of this matters now, as the entire season was vacated by the NCAA following multiple reports of players receiving gifts from boosters.
           On top of that, the basketball program’s Academic Progress Rate, which was severely damaged by transfers, could lead to Mizzou getting hit by a range of penalties, including a ban from postseason play and a reduction of practice time. Missouri’s multi-year APR average ranked 13th in the SEC and may become even shakier due to the four transfers since the last APR report.
           Considering all of the adversity Anderson has dealt with since being named head coach on April 28, 2014 it’s actually quite impressive that Mizzou has won any conference games. Since the second seeded Tigers’ loss to Norfolk State in the first round of 2012’s NCAA tournament, fans have been waiting to wake up from what has essentially been the nightmare that is Mizzou basketball. If Rhoades hopes to rebuild the program to it’s one prestigious state, however, completely tearing down the current program can’t even be an option.
Patching a collapsed program isn’t easy. We’ve seen highly successful coaches struggle to get through it all to put a new structure in place, and it often can take more than two or three seasons. That is true even for coaches that have won elsewhere, like Anderson did at Central Missouri.
Tom Crean was 28-66 overall in his first three seasons at Indiana — including a hideous 8-46 record in Big Ten play. Crean was incredibly successful at Marquette before making the trip to Bloomington including three straight trips to the big dance. He was able to restore the Hoosiers to their customary prominence in his fourth season with an
astonishing 27-9 record after having back-to-back 12-21 seasons and the 11th spot in the Big Ten. The success didn’t stop there either, as he made trips to the Sweet 16 three of the next five years.
Frank Martin left his winning program at Kansas State to go to South Carolina and revive in a lifeless team. He had a record of 15-39  in SEC games until breaking through for an 11-7 conference record this season, putting them in third place. South Carolina was actually in a very similar situation to Mizzou currently, seeing as both teams have had three straight years of being in the bottom of the SEC. Crean and Martin needed four seasons to strengthen their programs, so why would anyone expect Anderson to get it done in two?
Possibly the most detrimental possibility of getting rid of the Kim Anderson-era early on is the recruiting implications. Mitchell Smith, Reed Nikko, and Willie Jackson are all signed to play for Mizzou basketball this coming season. This is a small group of slightly above-average players, but it might be what it takes to build up an underwhelming program full of question marks. If Anderson is fired, recruited and current players would have the option to leave and transfer to another team, completely destroying all that has been built up over the past two seasons.
If Anderson fails to turn things around, the next coach can’t just be one of the Antlers plucked from the bleachers. Mizzou will have to do this right, spend a bunch of money and pursue a dynamic leader. This can be a coach that can win a lot of games or a personality that can woo the fans back to Mizzou Arena by reviving interest. You don’t throw out  Anderson unless you have a substantial replacement lined up.
That said, season three is essential for Anderson’s future. A year from now, Missouri should be in a healthier position to pursue a new coach. Hopefully there will be peace on campus, stability at the administrative level, clarity on the APR and NCAA fronts, and a replenishment of funding. If that’s the case, Anderson will have to give Rhoades compelling reasons to ride into a fourth season with the same coach.
By Cam Fuller