The Kim Anderson era didn’t get off to the start he would have liked with a loss to UMKC, but the first-year Missouri coach wasn’t about to panic.
He heard the criticism when he was hired.
Detractors howled that Anderson — who spent the previous 12 years at NCAA Division II Central Missouri, where he guided the Mules to the 2014 national championship — was too old and would be overmatched at the Division I level.
Back then, Anderson, a former Big Eight player of the year and assistant coach under Norm Stewart, wasn’t fazed.
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Instead, he joked about it.
While losing to the Roos was no laughing matter and stoked the fires of that criticism, Anderson wasn’t fazed by Missouri’s 69-61 defeat either.
“Coach Stewart taught me how to survive,” Anderson said when he was hired. “He taught me how to get up when I fell down. He taught me how, when I had disappointments, to get back up and keep going.”
That’s precisely what Anderson did, leading the Tigers, 2-1, to a pair of victories ahead of the young season’s biggest test Monday against No. 2 Arizona in the first round of the Maui Invitational.
Asked if coaching the Tigers was still his dream job, Anderson laughed, “Yeah, oh yeah. Every day, I think I wake up excited to go to work. There’s a lot of challenges in this job.”
Anderson believes he’s up for them, and he’s got plenty of supporters, too.
“Missouri’s got a guy who’s invested,” Missouri-St. Louis coach and former Tigers assistant Bob Sundvold said after an exhibition game earlier this month with Missouri. “Norm was invested. You go to school here, you live here, you grow up here — it’s a big deal. I don’t think the national people get that, especially at this place.”
Anderson admitted that Missouri’s players were “freaked out” after losing to UMKC, but he certainly never lost the locker room.
“When you see how much he cares and how much he has invested, you want to go out there and win for him,” junior forward Ryan Rosburg said. “You know he’s a Mizzou guy, so you want to win for all the guys he has believing in him, too.”
Anderson said the biggest challenge he encountered during the first six months after he was hired to replace Frank Haith, when he left for Tulsa, was budgeting his time.
“Definitely, the biggest unexpected challenge has been the demands on my time,” Anderson said. “Not bad demands, I’m not complaining about it. I’m just saying that meetings, speeches, interviews and media — you don’t have that, at least not to the same extent, at Division II.
“In this job, there’s a tremendous responsibility. I have a tremendous responsibility to the university, to the players, to alumni. It’s not that I didn’t have that at Central Missouri. I did, but there’s just more of it now.”
With the 2014-15 season underway, many of those demands he encountered in the first six months after he was hired have gone away.
Now, Anderson is primarily dealing with the challenge of molding a young, relatively inexperienced team into a winning squad, one the fans of alma mater and the people of Missouri can take pride in.
“Is there a learning curve? Sure, but I feel like I’m prepared,” Anderson said. “The 12 years at Central Missouri was really good. Do I have stuff to learn? Absolutely.”
The Tigers might get knocked down again versus the Wildcats, but Anderson already has shown he can get back to his feet.