The End of an Era
Kim Anderson was asked to stabilize the Mizzou program. Although he didn't produce wins, he reflects on the task at his final press conference.
Kim Anderson knew from the moment he was hired at the University of Missouri that he would be fired. It’s been a long three years, shackled with unwanted inheritance, but, alas, it has come to a close.
“If you would have asked me when I knew I was going to get fired, I would have said the first day,” he said, deep in voice, at his final press conference last night in Nashville, Tennessee. “I knew it was going to be challenging.”
Challenging is a program routed with internal cuts, bruises and an NCAA investigation; it’s a roster left vulnerable from Haith’s band-aid recruiting approach; it’s retaining a staff not your own; it’s a team in constant flux, with 13 players either dismissed or transferring after his acceptance and seven of 11 scholarship players in his first season disciplined to some extent.
“I maintain when I was hired I was pretty much asked to kind of stabilize this program,” he said. “It took a while. Obviously, it took too long. But I’m proud of what we’ve done.”
Anderson is someone you want to root for. He’s the good guy. His players praise him. Coaches across the conference commend his leadership. He’s loyal, poised and, if nothing else, honest. But he didn’t win, and when your teams are 27-68 overall, 9-47 in the SEC, nothing else matters.
“Obviously we didn’t win enough games. And we didn’t generate enough money,” he said at the Bridgestone Arena podium. “And when you don’t do that in college athletics, you don’t get to do your job. And I’m not bitter. I certainly understand that.”
There’s nothing that hasn’t already been said of the last three seasons on the court. They were dismal, and the end came last night. Like the majority of the season, it lacked suspense. The 86-74 loss to Ole Miss was sealed with foul trouble — 29 personal fouls on the Tigers to be exact. The Rebels shot 47 free throws, and the end got chippy, if not to add drama to a frustrating season. The typically calm-demeanor Anderson even got slapped with his first technical of the year, let that set in. The Tigers finished 8-24 on the year.
“I saw a game that got a little bit physical, a little bit rough. We made some fouls that weren’t very smart,” he said. “These guys have always played hard. They probably haven’t always played smart.” But there’s no one questioning that they’ve played hard for their Sedalia-native coach. Last night’s locker room was emotional, “We have a great deal of love for him,” said Kevin Puryear, who tallied 45 points over the past two days, with a career-high 30 and a game-winning buzzer beater on Wednesday night. “He always has and always will have our best interests. It’s never easy saying goodbye.”
“I think Coach A’s leaving this program in great shape with some great guys,” said Terrence Phillips. Puryear chimes in, “I think we can do something great if everyone sticks together. I’m confident we’ll stick together.”
After Wednesday’s overtime win against Auburn, Anderson was happy for another day to be the coach at Mizzou. Today, that dream is gone, and reality once again sets in, as Athletics Director Jim Sterk, who was in Nashville for each game, searches for a replacement.
“This decision has been very difficult for me personally because of the tremendous respect I have for Kim,” Sterk said in a statement following the announcement. “I know how hard he and his staff have worked to turn the program around over the last three years. However, the lack of on-court success has resulted in a significant drop in interest surrounding our program, and we could not afford for that to continue another year.”
As Anderson concluded last night, “I certainly hope that whoever the coach is that we have provided a little bit of a building block for them.”
Anderson, in the third year of his five-year contract, will receive $450,000 in a negotiated lump-sum buyout, as well as an additional $200,000 for ‘meeting or exceeding’ an academic accomplishments and social responsibilities incentive.
Photo Credit: Timothy Tai-USA TODAY Sports