Kim Anderson is the new Missouri basketball coach because time and context finally conspired in his favor. Fortune smiled on the native son after three turns in this carousel left him with frowns.
Don’t be fooled. You can make jokes about taking 10 days and spending $42,000 on a national, out-of-state search firm to help hire the guy 90 minutes away, and we can all appreciate a laugh. But the context of Mike Alden, Frank Haith, Mizzou and 2014 came together in a way that made Anderson the comfortable and defensible hire after being passed over three times by the same athletic director.
This doesn’t mean it’s a good hire. There are more compelling reasons for skepticism (can he recruit?) than optimism (he’s Mizzou to the bones). We’ll get more into this with the introductory news conference Tuesday morning.
But with the help of an athletic director, a head coach and two assistants who spoke for this column and have been through the process, you start to understand why Alden may have been attracted to Anderson now after rejecting him for Quin Snyder in 1999, Mike Anderson in 2006 and Frank Haith in 2011.
The hiring process of a major college basketball coach hardly ever runs in a straight line. The direction and destination can change in a moment, sometimes based on the particular winds of the day and often based on the context of time and place. Finally, the fourth time around, those winds blew in Kim Anderson’s favor.
Mizzou’s basketball job is generally considered as good or better than Marquette (which hired longtime Duke assistant Steve Wojciechowski) and Tennessee (which hired Southern Miss’ Donnie Tyndall). As one of the assistants who spoke for this column put it, you have to be qualified to get one of those jobs, but you also have to be lucky. You need the fit to be right, the timing to be right, and you need to navigate the particular obstacles of both the school’s process and personalities.
Tennessee, for instance, hired Tyndall despite an infraction on his record from a previous job. The Vols could not have done that the last time around, when they were replacing Bruce Pearl in the wake of an NCAA investigation.
In that way, the same circumstances that killed Kim Anderson’s candidacy for the job three times before now propped it up.
Think about what’s happening in and around Mizzou’s athletic department.
Eventually, each of Alden’s first three hires alienated the fan base in their own way. Two of them — Haith and Snyder — got to know NCAA investigators. Perhaps above all else, Alden needed a likeable leader. Anderson is well-respected and loved in a business that often breeds shortcuts and cliques and jealousy.
This month, Mizzou kicked out a basketball player and football star because of problems with the law. A rash of arrests on the basketball and football teams may or may not have reflected a culture in need of change, butAlden reacted with strong words and actions
. Haith’s role in the scandal at Miami started to come into focus after he’d taken the job at Mizzou, so Alden may have been especially motivated for a so-called “clean hire.” Choosing Anderson — universally admired for his strong integrity and character — checks that box.
As with anything, money is a critical part of this. Word has been circulating in A.D. circles that it will take $3 million a year — minimum — for Gregg Marshall to leave Wichita State. Missouri recently gave football coach Gary Pinkel a raise to $3.1 million, and there’s no way the new basketball coach was going to make as much or more than the man whose program makes whole department go.
That’s assuming Marshall would otherwise be interested in Missouri instead of waiting for a better opportunity, and there is no credible reason to make that assumption.
Details of Anderson’s contract will be released Tuesday, but he made $150,000 in 2012-13, so he would presumably have accepted any reasonable offer. It’s not just a matter of saving money on salary, either.
Last week, the NCAA board of directors endorsed a plan to give power conference schools more clout in funding full-cost scholarships, health care and meals. The numbers are still being gathered, but a source estimated the move will add $500,000 to $1 million a year in athletic department costs.
There’s more than enough money in major college sports to cover that, but at least in the short-term, that money has been spent. So except for programs like Texas, Alabama and Michigan, athletic departments (most of which spend more than they make) are trying to figure out where to get the money. Mizzou just gave raises to the football coaches, and is in the midst of massive facilities upgrades that could total more than $100 million.
If Alden can save some money on the basketball coach’s salary, well, the accounting becomes easier.
Look at it like this, and you can see both why Alden hired Anderson and why he took his time doing it. You also can understand why forces out of Alden’s control may have pulled him toward Anderson now when they pushed him away before.
Now, Anderson and Alden must convince fans theirs is more than a marriage of convenience.
This will be a longer, and more difficult process.