I've seen quite a bit of consternation among Mizzou fans, not necessarily on RMN, but elsewhere, about how Mike Anderson clearly flirted with Oregon, and how he's more about the money than Mizzou fans thought, and that he's almost certainly going to leave soon. One fan on another site even went so far as to say (paraphrased) "Part of me wants us to fire him so we at least have some control over the process."
As Mizzou fans, we are extremely spoiled in terms of loyalty -- Norm Stewart coached in Columbia for 32 years, and the last coach of a revenue sport we lost to a bigger job was Dan Devine ... who left to replace Vince Lombardi in Green Bay, a move I would think most of us would understand. But as RPT said on last night's podcast (which I'm sure you ALL listened to ... possibly twice), welcome to big-time college basketball. It's always been this way to an extent -- big-time coaches are always getting wooed toward bigger-time jobs -- but it is even more the case today. If we want a big-time coach, we've got to pay up. If we can't (and we're pretty much maxed out at the moment), we might lose him.
Maybe we'll have enough money to keep Anderson forever (clearly we don't need the most money to keep him, but we at least have to be semi-competitive), or maybe somebody (cough cough Arkansas) will scrounge around and put together just a stupid offer, to the extent that he has to consider it heavily. But to make the big-time, you probably have to have a big-time coach ... and big-time coaches get big-time money. Maybe Anderson will continue to turn down the offers coming his way, but they'll never stop coming at him as long as he's successful.
What drives me the craziest about some fans' reactions, though, is that I'm pretty sure he never actually considered the Oregon job as much as they thought. Let's parse his official statement from last night. Obviously official statements are going to have a certain amount of spin to them, but I take this one at least 75-80% at face value.
It’s certainly flattering any time another university notices what your program is accomplishing. And when I was approached by Oregon, I decided to listen, but it was simply with my family in mind.
I said this on Friday in comments, and I'll say it again now: I think about this from a family perspective. Obviously his kids are set for life, but if you can make $10 million over the next five years, or if you can make $25 million over the next five years, eventually you have to start to take stock in your kids’ kids, or kids’ kids’ kids, and how you could pretty much set them up too. It’s all a lot of money, and it’s clear that Anderson isn’t an "I’ll go to the highest bidder" guy, but … at some point, a ridiculous, giant increase is a ridiculous, giant increase, and it would be silly and almost irresponsible not to consider it. If some company with a bad reputation (Oregon clearly doesn't have a bad reputation -- just makes for a better analogy) came in and offered me a huge raise, I would probably turn it down eventually, but I'd have to think about what my family and I could do with that extra money, right?
Because I said this on Friday, clearly I believed it when Anderson said it Saturday night.
All that quick conversation did was reaffirm that Missouri is home to us.
"Quick" is the key word there, of course. Clearly he could just be painting a rosy picture, but I'm pretty sure this really was a pretty simple process for Anderson. He was tracked down by Pat Kilkenny Thursday night, they met, and he either thanked him for his efforts and turned him down, or he said "I need to talk this over with my wife; can I get back with you in the morning?", talked it over with his wife, and decided to turn them down Friday morning. We know that Kilkenny was out of town by Friday afternoon, and Anderson wasn't anywhere near him, so it's pretty clear that the decision was made by mid-day Friday.
Mike Alden, Chancellor Deaton and President Forsee were supportive throughout this process, and we plan on taking Tiger basketball to new heights. Oregon is a great university, but Mizzou is a special place for me and my family, and I’m proud to be your basketball coach here at Mizzou.
Standard official statement fare here. In the end, Anderson politely listened to Oregon, took a moment or two (relatively speaking) to consider the offer on the table, and politely turned them down. So why are Mizzou fans so annoyed? Because he waited about 28 hours to make an official statement on the matter. And why would he do that if he had already made up his mind?
Because of this guy.
Mike Anderson. Frank Beamer. Butch Davis. Jimbo Fisher. Phil Fulmer. Lane Kiffin. Houston Nutt. Bill Parcells. Rex Ryan. Nick Saban. Tommy Tuberville. These guys (plus Tim Tebow, Michael Oher, DeAngelo Williams, and other players) are all represented by Jimmy Sexton's Athletic Resource Management. Sexton is the Scott Boras of college coaches, and there is a reason his clients love him -- like Boras, he knows how to play the game.
Chances are, Mike Alden knew exactly what he was getting into when he hired a Sexton client, and chances are, the full weekend story from above went something like this: He was tracked down by Pat Kilkenny Thursday night, they met, and he either thanked him for his efforts and turned him down, or he said "I need to talk this over with my wife; can I get back with you in the morning?", talked it over with his wife, and decided to turn them down Friday morning. He talked to Sexton, who said "Don't say a word to anybody. Let me make a few phone calls first." Sexton then tried to yank a few extra dollars from Mike Alden's molars, because that's what really good, really annoying agents do.
In a perfect world, Anderson would have told Sexton not to bother with the phone calls -- he loves Mizzou and wants to be here, so there's no need for last-second negotiation. But yearning for a perfect world is the fastest way to become cynical enough that you stop enjoying sports. When Anderson hired Sexton to do his business, the Sexton Treatment came with it, and we will have to deal with it as long as he is at Missouri.
What does this do for Anderson's long-term prognosis at Mizzou? Nothing, really. If he doesn't want to leave, he won't leave -- Phil Fulmer, after all, never left Tennessee (by choice). Frank Beamer is still in Blacksburg. If Anderson wants to stay, he'll stay, even if there are a few annoying phone calls and days of silence in the process.
Let's not overstate things here: yes, Friday and Saturday were pretty annoying, and yes, Anderson risked at least some temporary loss of good will through his inaction and Sexton's actions. Even though it appears he did not really flirt much with Oregon, too much flirtation results in a disenchanted fanbase no matter what the product is on the court. (In 2004, since we didn't have a Mizzou bowl game to attend, we went to the Liberty Bowl just for fun -- Louisville vs Boise State, and it was glorious -- and it was amazing to see the number of Louisville fans who were enjoying the Cardinals' success but were already fed up with Bobby Petrino's flirtation with seemingly every open job that came about and were ready for him to leave. Anderson does not want that, and even if he isn't really flirting with anybody, his agent's actions risk him building that reputation.) But this weekend does not even remotely change the long-term forecast for Mizzou and Anderson. Maybe Arkansas comes at him guns-blazing, and maybe he leaves. Maybe people come at him every year, and he retires here after 32 years just like Norm did. Like a fight with a girlfriend (my analogy from yesterday's podcast), this does temporary damage, but the damage is undone as soon as both sides kiss and make up. This was an annoying weekend, and now it's over, and it's time to go back to getting starry eyes about the 2010-11 season. If we have to deal with another two-day fight with the girlfriend next April but things continue wonderfully after that, so be it.