Missouri coach Kim Anderson blamed poor chemistry as a contributing factor in the disastrous 2014-15 season Wednesday in his first media session since his inaugural campaign on the Tigers’ bench ended March 11 with a first-round loss to South Carolina in the SEC Tournament.
“I knew this team didn’t have great chemistry …,” he said. “We had so many young guys and so many guys who were new to the program that I knew team chemistry would be a challenge, especially if you weren’t successful.”
By most measures, the Tigers, who finished 9-23 overall and 3-15 in the Southeastern Conference, weren’t successful, losing more games than any other team in program history and enduring a school-record 13-game losing skid.
The father of sophomore forward Johnathan Williams III told reporters that poor team chemistry was a factor in his son’s decision to transfer from the Tigers, who are early in an already tumultuous and defining offseason for Anderson.
Anderson, who was hired roughly a year ago, treads toward the April signing period with three unclaimed scholarships, a vacancy on his staff and uncertainty swirling around the remaining roster.
For his part, Anderson — a 1979 MU graduate, former Big Eight co-player of the year under Norm Stewart and longtime Tigers assistant — continues to strike an upbeat tone even as his countenance paints the picture of man fresh from an 11-month wringer.
“I’m hopeful that they’ll stay together,” Anderson said. “Don’t read into this. I’m not thinking anybody’s going to leave, but they’re young guys and people are always getting in their ears, too. My conversations have been very positive. But I do think, if they would stay together, they could be a special group of guys.”
Anderson said he interviewed candidates to replace Fuller in person at the National Association of Basketball Coaches’ annual convention, which is conducted in conjunction with the Final Four, and by phone.
“I feel good about the process,” Anderson said. “I don’t really have a timetable. I’m interviewing some guys that are involved with other jobs also, so I can’t really sit here and say, ‘Well, it’s going to happen in a week or two weeks or whatever.’ I certainly want to get it done as quickly as possible, but I want to make sure we do it right.”
Anderson is looking for a solid scouting/game preparation coach who also excels at recruiting and has ties to an area that would enhance the Tigers’ recruiting base and profile.
With a still-young roster, it’s also imperative that the new assistant be well-versed in skill development and can serve as a sounding board for the players.
Forward Ryan Rosburg — who played the final eight to 10 games of the season with a broken finger, Anderson said — will be the team’s only senior and point guard Wes Clark, who missed the last month of the season with a dislocated elbow, is the only scholarship junior expected to return.
“I would anticipate tweaking some duties within our staff to enhance maybe our strengths as individuals,” Anderson said.
Some of those decisions won’t be made until a new assistant is in place, but recruiting territories and practice/game-preparation assignments could be shuffled.
Anderson said he had hoped that Williams — who averaged 11.9 points and 7.1 rebounds, both team highs — would stick around, but that there was a contingency in place if he opted to seek greener pastures.
While Anderson did not confirm the specifics of Williams’ scholarship release, he acknowledged that Missouri had some stipulations. He is barred from transferring to an SEC or Big 12 school or to Illinois or Arizona.
“What we did is not uncommon at a high-major university with a high-profile player,” Anderson said. “It’s been done here before. It’s been done in other sports. All we did was basically restrict him from any potential opponent for the 2016-17 season.”
Anderson clarified that Bello is on track to graduate in the summer and not the spring as Tuesday’s release from MU announcing that he would transfer said.
That could complicate the Tigers’ recruiting efforts, but Anderson said strength and conditioning and individual skill development will be among the key points of emphasis in the meantime.
He also plans to delegate more to assistant and focus his energy on coaching and game preparation
“I remain very excited and committed to getting Missouri basketball back to where we’re used to seeing it,” Anderson said. “It’s not going to be easy, but I obviously think it can be done.”
Anderson also took the opportunity one final time to thank outgoing MU athletic director Mike Alden for the chance to coach at his alma mater.
He said he’s had several meetings with Alden’s replacement — Houston athletic director Mack Rhoades, who takes the reins at Missouri on April 27. That includes dinner last week in Indianapolis.
“Very impressed,” Anderson said. “I think that he’ll be a great fit for the University of Missouri.”