Rare is the basketball coaching leap from Division II directly to a major Division I job.
But to Jim Haney, president of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, good coaching translates to any level.
When he heard the news Monday that Central Missouri’s Kim Anderson was hired at Missouri, two coaches came to mind, Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan and Michigan State’s Tom Izzo.
Ryan coached 16 years and won four NCAA championships at Division III Wisconsin-Platteville before a two-year stint at Wisconsin-Milwaukee predated his career with the Badgers, who reached the Final Four this year.
Izzo was an assistant at Division II Northern Michigan before he was hired as a Spartans’ assistant. He was elevated to the top spot in 1995 without having Division I head coaching experience. Izzo’s Spartans won the NCAA title in 2000 and have reached five other Final Fours.
“It’s unfortunate, but oftentimes you hear somebody can’t be a quality coach unless you’re in Division I,” Haney said. “Or you have to be in the Big 12 or the Big Ten. But there are great coaches at every level. It’s all about getting an opportunity.”
Recruiting is the often a primary concern, a topic Anderson no doubt will address at his introductory news conference at 10 a.m. Tuesday in Columbia. Ryan, like Anderson, had been a Division I assistant before taking his first head coaching job.
“I had been an assistant in Division I so recruiting never intimidated me,” Ryan said earlier this month. “Some people say, the reason a lot of D-III guys that are real successful never move up is because they have no idea what the recruiting is like on the Division I level. Well, that was never on my mind.”
And probably not Anderson’s, who spent 17 seasons as a Division I assistant, 11 in two stints at Missouri and six at Baylor. He served as the Big 12’s director of basketball operations for three years before becoming the head coach at Central, where he went 274-94 in 12 years at Warrensburg and captured the NCAA Division II national championship last month.
Anderson helped recruit the pieces for what became one of Missouri’s best teams, in 1994 when the Tigers went 14-0 in Big Eight play and matched MU’s longest NCAA Tournament run by reaching the Elite Eight.
If any school has proven coaches can elevate their game at the next level, it’s Central Missouri.
Head coaches have passed through the pipeline to several major programs.
Phog Allen spent seven years at Central Missouri before beginning his epic Kansas career in 1919.
Tom Scott was hired at North Carolina in 1946 directly from Warrensburg, where his teams won MIAA championships in four of five years. He turned winning seasons in four of his six years with the Tar Heels.
Kentucky’s Joe B. Hall was Central’s coach in 1964-65 before being hired to serve as an assistant to Adolph Rupp at Kentucky. Hall succeeded Rupp and led the Wildcats to the 1978 national title, some 26 years after Allen won the NCAA championship at Kansas.
That’s not all. Central was a jumping off point for Gene Bartow, who coached Final Four teams at Memphis and UCLA, and future Kansas State coach Jim Wooldridge. It’s where Lynn Nance coached between gigs at Iowa State and Washington.
“You can win at different levels, coaches have proven that,” Haney said. “Kim has been outstanding at Central Missouri, and he won’t get outcoached. Now, it’s a matter of putting together the staff and working.”