New Missouri coach gets ‘dream job’
COLUMBIA, Mo. — No sales pitch was necessary for Kim Anderson. The new Missouri coach has wanted this for a long time.
Anderson welled up a few times and paused to collect himself at his introductory news conference Tuesday, a day after the school hired him to replace Frank Haith.
"This is my dream job," Anderson said. "You all probably figured that out a long time ago. I’m Mizzou through and through."
Anderson will be 59 next month. He was ready, with good humor, for the questions about his age, about the last dozen years he’s been coaching in Division II, about his ability to woo top-tier recruits. Since getting the job, he’s heard it all.
"Apparently, I’m old. I really had no idea of that until yesterday, and I’ve got to tell you it devastated me," Anderson said, drawing laughter. "Hey, I’m not playing, guys. Old ballplayers coach, that’s what we do."
The ability to connect with kids, Anderson said, was just as important at Central Missouri as it’ll be in the SEC.
"We recruited at a high level because people trusted us with their sons and their players," Anderson said. "We recruited and signed Division I-caliber players at the University of Central Missouri because of relationships and connections."
Athletic director Mike Alden said Anderson got a five-year contract with a base salary of $1.1 million and the total package worth more than $2 million per year. With about 200 media and fans in attendance, Alden said he got the right man for the job.
A man right under the school’s nose all along when it opted for Quin Snyder to succeed Norm Stewart in 1999, then chose Mike Anderson and Frank Haith.
"We had to have someone who was a proven winner," Alden said. "How about a person that’s Missouri-made?"
Alden used a search firm to help identify candidates for a job that might prove challenging, especially at the outset. Haith left for Tulsa after Missouri settled for the NIT last season, and there’s a good chance only two starters — neither of whom averaged in double figures — will be back.
The new coach is fired up for the challenge.
"There is no place on Earth I would rather be than Columbia, Mo., and there is no other group of players I would rather work with than our current roster wearing the black and gold," Anderson said. "I thank all of you for being here today as we start an exciting, new era of Tiger basketball. Thanks for bringing me home."
Anderson is from Sedalia, Mo., was a star player at Missouri in the 1970s and then a longtime key aide to Stewart. He has interviewed for the job before, and this time got the school’s attention by winning a Division II title at Central Missouri this past season, and got an endorsement on Twitter from his old athletic director.
Anderson was biking on the Katy Trail in rural Missouri when he got a telephone call from the search firm, and had to go to a high school parking lot to get cell service. He was interviewed by Alden at his home in Warrensburg, Mo., last Thursday, then met with school Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin.
On the drive to the Columbia campus to meet the team, he telephoned Stewart, whose name is on the court at Mizzou Arena. Anderson said the biggest thing he learned from Stewart was "how to survive."
"He taught me how to get up when I fell down," Anderson said. "He taught me when I have disappointments, to get back up and keep going."
Like in 1999, when Snyder got the job.
"You know what, in 1999, I was obviously a lot younger," Anderson said. "As I look back, I wouldn’t have hired me either in 1999. I wasn’t ready. I don’t think I was prepared to run a basketball program."
Anderson said his teams will mirror those of his longtime boss.
"It may be 2014, but smart, disciplined, hard-nosed team basketball never goes out of style," Anderson said. "That’s the only way we know how to do it here."
Anderson met briefly with assistant coaches Monday and said there was no hurry to finalize a staff. He plans on meeting with incoming recruits later this week, and will try to persuade high school stars JaKeenan Gant and Namon Wright to stick with Mizzou.
The holdovers are ready to play now.
"I’m thrilled," sophomore forward Ryan Rosburg said. "I’ve had the pleasure of knowing him for a couple years, so I know what he stands for. Right when the job came available, that was the first person I thought of."