With criticism from discontented fans mounting and losses piling up for the Missouri men’s basketball team, new athletic director Jim Sterk issued a statement Wednesday that expressed disappointment with the team’s struggles and support for embattled third-year coach Kim Anderson.
Here’s Sterk’s statement, released three hours before the Tigers’ conference opener against LSU at Mizzou Arena, an 88-77 loss:
“I am aware that there are questions people have about our program, and while I appreciate that, the fact remains that we have more than half the season remaining. We are here to support Coach Anderson, his staff, and our student-athletes in any way possible, and do what we can to help them achieve success this season.
“I clearly understand where our program is currently, and rest assured that we are all disappointed with where we stand entering SEC play.
“It is not my preferred style to make public evaluations of our staff in the middle of a season, as that is not fair to our coaches, or players. Doing so would only offer a distraction from their need to focus on preparation for each game.
“Evaluations of all staff take place throughout the year, and continue until the season is over. Any decisions that need to be made based on those evaluations will be done at the appropriate time.
“We are extremely grateful for our fans and their passion for Mizzou Basketball. Going forward, we need our fans and donors to help us create a great atmosphere at Mizzou Arena. This is important not only for our current team, but for all future student-athletes considering Mizzou to know that this is a great place to receive a world-class education and compete in a sport they love at a place that supports them.”
Approaching the midpoint of a pivotal third season at Mizzou, Anderson is 24-52 overall and 6-31 in SEC games. Sterk’s statement follows a request for comment by The Star and other media outlets about the state of the basketball program.
“We visited today and we visit more than today,” Anderson said after Thursday’s game about his conversations with Sterk. “Obviously guys, I’m disappointed. There’s no way around that.
“I haven’t read the statement real close, but I understand his statement. We haven’t produced the results that we need to produce, but I do appreciate his support. He’s been supportive in the time here.”
Disappointment increased in recent weeks after the Tigers, who dropped to 5-8 Wednesday, lost three home “paycheck games” against North Carolina Central, Eastern Illinois and Lipscomb.
“I’m still determined,” Anderson said. “I know there are a lot of people who are disappointed, and I know there are a lot of people who are mad. I understand that, but nobody wants to win any more than me. If people don’t realize that by now, I don’t know what else I can tell them. I know this is my school. I know we haven’t done well. But I’m still fighting my — got to make sure I use the right word — fighting my rear end off to do the best job I can.”
Anderson said it isn’t Sterk’s style to issue mandates about winning a certain number of games to keep his job.
“He’s not that type of guy,” Anderson said. “He hasn’t … but we obviously have to start winning some games. That’s what I expect, I think that’s what the fans expect and I’m sure that’s what Jim expects.”
Anderson, who downplayed concerns about his future Monday during the SEC Men’s Basketball Teleconference, continued to strike an optimistic tone about his future.
“My plan is to be here tomorrow coaching the team, and hopefully I’ll continue to get that opportunity the rest of the year and we’ll do well enough that I can continue to do that,” he said.