University of Missouri

Mizzou makes it official: Kim Anderson won’t return as basketball coach

The Kim Anderson era at Missouri will end after three disappointing seasons after first-year athletic director Jim Sterk announced Sunday that he’d asked Anderson to step down as men’s basketball coach after the Tigers’ final game this year.

“This decision has been very difficult for me personally because of the tremendous respect I have for Kim,” Sterk said in a release from the school. “I know how hard he and his staff have worked to turn the program around over the last three years, however, the lack of on-court success has resulted in a significant drop in interest surrounding our program, and we could not afford for that to continue another year.”

Multiple sources told The Star that Parker Executive Search will assist Mizzou in the search for its next coach.

“Missouri is a special institution to my family and I, and I am grateful for having had the opportunity to serve as the head coach at my alma mater,” Anderson said in the release. “While we have faced significant challenges over the last three years and been unable to achieve the on-court results everyone would have liked, I do believe we have been able to stabilize the program while watching our players become responsible young men on and off the court.”

Anderson thanked his staff and players for their efforts and praised “the growth I’ve seen in our players academically, athletically and socially since their arrival on campus,” he said.

Missouri owes Anderson a little more than $600,000 under terms of the five-year contract he signed in April 2014 when he replaced Frank Haith.

It felt like there was a certain providence April 29, 2014, as Kim Anderson’s introductory news conference was interrupted three times by standing ovations in the Great Room at Missouri’s Reynold Alumni Center.

Fans longing for a return to the Tigers’ glory days under Hall of Fame coach Norm Stewart were rapturous Anderson was hired as the school’s 18th full-time men’s basketball coach.

Anderson — a “True Son” from Sedalia who won Big Eight player of the year honors under Stewart in 1977 — returned for his dream job, fresh off coaching Central Missouri to an NCAA Division II championship.

But at Mizzou, Anderson’s teams put up a 26-67 record — including 8-46 in the Southeastern Conference, a .148 win percentage — and he will not return for 2017-18 after arguably the worst three-year stretch for the MU basketball program.

No Missouri coach has posted a worse overall mark than Anderson’s .280 winning percentage.

The Tigers finished last in the SEC all three years under Anderson after only placing last in their conference 10 times before his arrival. They were 3-15, 3-15 and 2-16 in the SEC, finishing last the previous two seasons and tying for last this season with LSU.

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Missouri only had two 20-loss seasons in 108 years before Anderson’s arrival, but finished 9-23 and 10-21 in his first two years and are 7-23 this year. The 23 losses in 2014-15 set a program record and matched the SEC record for futility.

Any loss in the SEC Tournament, which begins for the 14th-seeded Tigers around 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn., with a rematch of Saturday’s 89-78 loss against Auburn, would break that record.

The Tigers also twice set a dubious record for the longest losing streak in program history at 13 games, first in 2014-15 and again in 2016-17.

Mizzou never won a road game under Anderson. The Tigers only won twice away from Mizzou Arena — against Division II Chaminade in the seventh-place game of the 2014 Maui Invitational and against Tulane in the seventh-place game of the 2016 Tire Pros Invitational.

Anderson hands off a 35-game road losing streak and 32-game road slide in SEC play, which started with the final five road games in 2013-14 under Haith, to the Tigers’ next coach.

But Missouri’s home record — 24-27 — wasn’t exactly stellar and attendance plummeted more than 40 percent during the last few seasons.

Anderson’s career record, including 12 seasons at Central Missouri, is 300-162. He coached his 300th victory Feb. 11 with a 72-52 win against Vanderbilt.

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“Kim has represented our program with character, integrity and class while dedicating himself to developing our student-athletes on and off the basketball court, and we are appreciative of his efforts and dedication to Mizzou and the Columbia community,” Sterk said. “Kim will always be a Tiger, and all of us are grateful for his contributions to our University as a student-athlete, assistant coach and head coach.”

Sterk said a national search will begin immediately, though sources indicated preliminary discussions with Parker Executive Search already have taken place, and that he won’t make any public comment until a new coach is hired.

“Missouri has a rich men’s basketball tradition and the resources necessary to compete at the highest level,” he said. “We expect to compete for Southeastern Conference championships, consistently play in the postseason and continue to represent Mizzou the right way on and off the court.”

Anderson’s staff — including assistants Brad Loos, Rob Fulford, Steve Shields and Emanuel Dildy — will remain in place until Anderson’s replacement is hired, a source told The Star.

Loos’ daughter, Rhyan, has been battling cancer for the last two years and served as an inspirational figure for the struggling program.

The highlight of Anderson’s tenure is a pair of wins in “Rally for Rhyan” benefit games against Tennessee in 2016 and Arkansas in February.

Indiana’s Tom Crean and California’s Cuonzo Martin, an East St. Louis native, are at or near the top of Missouri’s wish list, multiple sources told The Star.

Whoever Missouri hires will be tasked with completing a turnaround Anderson couldn’t and reviving interest in a program whose fans have become apathetic.

“I was at Missouri a week-and-a-half ago and saw a great student crowd for the Kentucky game,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said. “It was great to see that enthusiasm. … It means there’s life around that program and a desire for that kind of success in men’s basketball.”