For the second time in as many weeks, Missouri has become the unexpected center of the college hoops offseason after combating the bizarre departure of the equally bizarre Frank Haith with the completely bizarre for different reasons hiring of Kim Anderson.
Anderson was an assistant at Missouri from 1982-85 and then again from 1991-99, and he has 12 seasons of experience as a college head coach under his belt. That's where the normalcy pumps the brakes here.
Those 12 seasons? All at Division II Central Missouri. That vast experience? He's 58 years old and has never sat on the bench as a head coach in a Division I game. Those lengthy ties to the university? Missouri paid a search firm a reported $42,500 to "find" a guy who's been rumored to be the next Tiger head coach at various points over the last three decades. It's a strange rap sheet for what has already been an overwhelmingly strange offseason for Missouri.
As controversial as the hire has been viewed nationally, there's been a fairly significant group of people in Columbia who have wanted Anderson to be the head coach at Missouri since the 1990s.
Born in Sedalia, Mo., Anderson has been one of the biggest basketball names in the state for pretty much his entire life. He was a star for the Tigers in the 1970s before going on to play five professional seasons, including one with the Portland Trail Blazers. He then worked as an assistant coach at Mizzou under Norm Stewart in both the '80s and '90s before landing the head coaching gig at Central Missouri. There he won nearly 75 percent of his games and led the Mules to the 2014 Division II national title.
The comparisons between Anderson and Wisconsin's Bo Ryan have been easy and plentiful, but the concerns over his ability to recruit and adjust to the differences between the DII and the DI game have been just as abundant. As Rock M Nation perfectly puts it, everyone is right about Kim Anderson ... at least for the moment.
What isn't right, I don't think, is the notion that Missouri played it safe after not being able to land Gregg Marshall and simply went with a familiar name likely to appease much of the fan base.
In reality, this is one of the most effortless home run hacks you're ever going to see. If Anderson swings and misses, then Missouri athletic director Mike Alden is put through the wringer in the same manner he would have been had he hired any other viable candidates who turned out to be a dud. If Anderson succeeds, however, then this will be about as good as good can be for Mizzou.
Periods of great success that follow periods of sustained disappointment are almost always the most rewarding for a fan base. A true "Missouri Man" leading that charge would only add to the resulting euphoria.
The concerns surrounding Anderson -- no DI head coaching experience, age, ability to recruit, etc. -- aren't exactly the same as the concerns that came with Frank Haith or that would have come with a candidate like, say, Ben Howland (that Sports Illustrated feature isn't going away anytime soon). Basically, everyone in Columbia is really, really rooting for Kim Anderson to be the right dude because he fits the profile for the ideal fan scenario: success captained by a native son who loves the program and "does things the right way." No Tiger supporters would ever have to doubt their fandom or feel the least bit dirty about their rooting interests, which is an immeasurable bonus in college sports ... so long as it goes hand-in-hand with winning.
Alden and Missouri are cool with you thinking that they're playing small ball here, but make no mistake about it, the hiring of Kim Anderson is as large of a swing as you'll see this offseason.