Cracking one-liners and seemingly at ease despite a row of TV cameras and an audience that spilled out the doors of the Great Room at the Reynolds Alumni Center, Kim Anderson was introduced Tuesday as Missouri’s 18th men’s basketball coach.
During the festive news conference, which was interrupted by three standing ovations from fans in attendance, Anderson promised to develop an identity and return Tigers basketball to the place of prominence it once owned under his mentor, Norm Stewart.
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“As you all know, I played and coached for coach Stewart,” Anderson said. “It may be 2014, but smart, disciplined, hard-nosed team basketball never goes out of style. That’s the only way we know how to do it here. That style of play embodies our state and our fans, and that’s what we are going to try to bring back.”
It’s a homecoming for Anderson, a Sedalia native and a “True Son” of Missouri. He was a star for the Tigers from 1973-77 and was chosen Big Eight player of the year as a senior before serving as an assistant under Stewart for 11 seasons during two stints.
But Anderson, who turns 59 next month, intends put his own stamp on MU basketball.
“He’s not coming here to be Norm Stewart’s protégé,” said forward Ryan Rosburg, who will be a junior next season. “He’s coming here to win games.”
Anderson was riding his bike on Katy Trail when he was first contacted by Collegiate Sports Associates, the firm MU paid $42,500 to assist in its coaching search.
He said he was interviewed by MU athletic director Mike Alden at his Warrensburg home on Thursday and first spoke with the university’s new chancellor R. Bowen Loftin on Saturday.
Anderson’s contract is still being finalized, but he will make at least $1.1 million per season on a five-year deal.
Alden said Anderson’s base salary will be $300,000 with an additional $800,000 in guaranteed money annually. Anderson also will receive $100,000 per year in deferred money and heavy incentives that could push his salary above $2 million to a maximum of $2.4 million per year.
There are no option years on the back end of the contract.
Anderson was a finalist for the job along with Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall and Louisiana Tech’s Michael White, a source with knowledge of the situation told The Star. But Marshall, according to his agent, never got to the point of considering a move and White reportedly removed himself from consideration as well.
In the final analysis, the stars aligned perfectly for Anderson — coming off an NCAA Division II national championship at Central Missouri, where Anderson went 274-95 in 12 seasons — to land his “dream job” after Frank Haith’s sudden departure April 18 for Tulsa.
It’s an opportunity Anderson wasn’t convinced would ever materialize unless last week.
“Here’s a guy who’s done a tremendous job, over the last several years in particular, at what he does,” Alden said. “He’s grown tremendously as a leader. I think he provides a great consistency and stability for our program, and I thought that from a timing standpoint this is just a perfect time for Kim Anderson.”
Anderson was joined by his wife, Melissa, and his son Brett, who graduates from MU with a degree in marketing next month. His father, Keith, and sister, Kathy, also were on hand. Anderson’s oldest son, Ryan, works at North Dakota State and could not attend.
Twice, Anderson got choked up when talking about telling his Central Missouri team that he would be leaving, but he also made it clear that he was grateful.
“I just want to come in and maybe bring some consistency and stability from the fact that I’m not going anywhere,” Anderson said. “I’m not going. I’m here.”
Anderson met Missouri’s players for the first time Monday after his contract had been approved by the University System Board of Curators and he was officially announced as the Tigers’ next coach.
“I told our guys last night that we’re here to win rings, earn diplomas and make a big impact on those around us,” Anderson said. “This is bigger than basketball and that’s a special opportunity we all have.”
Anderson said he looks forward to working with the remnants of a team that went 23-12 last season under Haith but lost its top three scorers. He sees an athletic bunch and believes the Tigers could have the makings of a good defensive team, which he hopes will become a hallmark of the program moving forward.
“We’re not done recruiting either,” said Anderson, who has at least three scholarships to fill — a number that could rise if early signees Jakeenan Gant or Namon Wright opt out of their national letters of intent.
Alden passed on hiring Anderson in 1999 after Stewart retired, a fact Anderson addressed. “I wouldn’t have hired me either in 1999,” he said. “I wasn’t ready.”
Anderson said that if a rift ever existed between Alden and Stewart’s supporters — a point he wasn’t willing to concede — that divide has been repaired.
“Hopefully, I can reach out to the guys from the last 15 years and have them feel like, ‘Hey, come on and be a part of this. And come watch the Tigers play. And come down here in the locker room, talk to these guys,’” Anderson said.
Loftin, who was in Washington, D.C., for a meeting of the American Association of Universities, said in a statement Anderson was “a perfect fit for Mizzou” and “a positive reflection of who we are, now and into the future.”
Addressing some of the perceived issues with his hiring, Anderson relied on his folksy wit.
“Anytime a new coach comes in, there’ll be some questions,” he said. “ I’ve heard some of them already — about my age, my ability to recruit, our staff and my Division I head coaching experience.”
He addressed each in order.
“These are some of the things I’ve learned in the past 24 hours,” Anderson said. “Apparently, I’m old. I really had no idea of that until yesterday, and I’ve got to tell you, it devastated me. I didn’t think I was old. I work out every day. I’m in pretty good shape. Hey, I’m not playing, you guys. I’m just coaching.”
Anderson also insisted that recruiting relationships don’t change. Besides, he said, “We recruited and signed Division I-caliber players at the University of Central Missouri.”
While Anderson didn’t officially name any assistant coaches, Central Missouri associate head coach Brad Loos will join his staff, sources told The Star. Loos has been with Anderson for 12 seasons, including the last five as the associate head coach.
Anderson said he spoke with the members of Haith’s staff who didn’t go to Tulsa — associate head coach Tim Fuller, director of basketball operations Bryan Tibaldi and director of video operations Toby Lane. Fuller remains a candidate for the vacant Florida A&M coaching job.
As much as homecoming and identity emerged as themes Tuesday, so too did Rosburg’s optimism.
“If you can coach, you can coach,” Rosburg said. “I know they’re going to get players here and I know he’s going to hire a great staff. I’m not worried about it. They’re going to get pieces here and you’ve seen what he’s done and his track record. He’s going to get us to play together.”
Anderson hopes that translates into greater support at Mizzou Arena on game days. He ended his news conference by imploring MU fans who hold lower-level tickets “where all that yellow is” to show up or
“For God’s sake, give the tickets to somebody.”