By Cody Mroczka
A fan greets Kim Anderson, right, at the event announcing his new job as Missouri’s head men’s basketball coach. Anderson has deep roots with Missouri basketball, including as a player and an assistant coach.
COLUMBIA – Kim Anderson couldn’t find the words.
What does one say after accepting their “dream job?”
If you’re Kim Anderson, Missouri’s new basketball coach, you thank the people who got you this far. You thank your family for sticking with you from coaching job to coaching job. You thank the people at Central Missouri who gave you your first head-coaching job.
You thank the University of Missouri and Norm Stewart who recruited you to play here in the mid 1970s and brought you onto his staff after your professional playing career was over.
You thank Athletic Director Mike Alden and the Board of Curators for bringing you back home and giving you the opportunity that didn’t seem like it was ever going to come after they passed on you three times.
Maybe that’s why it was hard for Kim Anderson to find the right words as he stepped in front of hundreds of fans, reporters, alumni and colleagues in the Great Room of the Reynolds Alumni Center on Tuesday.
The 58-year old Sedalia native fought back tears talking about what this job meant to him and his family. He talked about the doubt and uncertainly of landing this job. He’d been in this position before, but wasn’t ready in 1999 or 2006. When Missouri passed on him again in 2011, he still didn’t lose hope. After leading his Central Missouri Mules to a D-II National Championship last season and with former coach Frank Haith bolting for Tulsa a few weeks ago, the time was finally right for Missouri’s “true son” to return to his alma mater.
“It took a long time to walk up those stairs,” Anderson joked after stepping to the podium. “It took 15 years.”
Missouri reached out to Anderson through a coaching search firm a day after the job opened up. Anderson was riding his bike through the Katy Trail in Windsor, Mo., when he realized he had missed a call from an unknown number. Anderson doubled back to his home to get phone reception and that’s when he realized the missed call was from the search firm. After meeting with Alden and Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, Anderson said he “bunkered” himself to wait out the process.
“We had to have someone who was a proven winner at all levels,” Alden said. “How about a person who is Missouri made?”
The job Anderson accepted will be the hardest of his career. He inherits a program losing the top three leading scorers, has three other empty roster positions and a fan base that demands instant success. But there is something that he brings to the table the previous coaches did not.
There is an overwhelming sense of pride and loyalty around Anderson and the way he talks about the Missouri basketball program. The fans will be lenient in his first few years because they believe he is committed to returning the hard-nosed, defense-first style of play cultivated under Stewart.
Anderson was coy about his future plans for the team after first meeting his players and the remaining staff on Monday, but did hint at rebuilding relationships with in-state high school talent.
“I want kids fans can identify with over four years,” Anderson said. “It’s not a criticism of anyone but I just want to build with high school seniors and the occasional plug-in (transfer).”
Missouri basketball needs stability more than anything and they may have found that in Anderson. Whether stability will translate to wins and championships is still unclear. Most importantly to Anderson, he hopes the fans will believe him when he says that’s he’s not going anywhere.
“I’m Mizzou through and through,” Anderson said. “Thanks for bringing me home.”
A large crowd of fans, well wishers and media turned out for the announcement at the Reynolds Alumni Center Tuesday.
Kim Anderson thanked many people for the opportunity to “come home” to the University of Missouri.