This website exists, in part, because of the coaching vacancy that Mike Anderson filled. The event, and the embarrassing internet-related firestorm that followed ('Fire Mike Alden' petitions, et al), set in motion the chain of events that led to me first starting Mizzou Sanity, then contacting SB Nation about their lack of a Mizzou site and being paired with RPT.
The Mizzou Athletic Department may have reached its nadir in 2003-04, as Roots-gate led to "Them Crackers Shaking" and most of the other events topping this list, but it took Quin Snyder's awkward dismissal to make Mizzou fans lose whatever was left of their minds. Despite the football team's Independence Bowl comeback in late-2005, Winter-Spring 2006 was one of the most negative times to ever have been a Missouri fan.
To that end, Mike Anderson brought the most important possible characteristic to Columbia in his five years here: positivity. There were plenty of less than positive moments, from Athenagate to a "disappointing" 23-win season this year, but in five years, Anderson gave hope to Missouri fans that they could once again cheer on a winning program. Not only that, but he created that winning program. We went from Popcorn-gate to said "disappointing" tourney appearance in just half a decade.
We've heard a lot about Missouri winning more games in the last three games and ever before, and while that stat is inflated by the fact that teams simply play more games now ... Mizzou won a lot of games. And Anderson leaves the program in infinitely better shape than he found it.
When Anderson Arrived, Mizzou...
...had gone 44-47 in three previous seasons.
...returned almost no proven talent whatsoever.
...was on probation.
...had one scholarship to offer in Anderson's first full season of recruiting.
...had an average home attendance of 8,370 the previous season.
When the next coach arrives, Mizzou...
...will have gone 77-29 in three previous seasons, with four NCAA tournament wins.
...will likely return five players who averaged 10 PPG or more.
...is most certainly not on probation.
...will likely have six seniors on next year's squad, likely preventing program collapse.
...will have between six and 10 scholarships to give in the first full year of recruiting*.
...had an average home attendance of 10,349 this season.
* Do not underestimate how instrumental this can be in allowing a new coach to build his foundation. If Mizzou hires a coach who brings in a fast-paced, pressure style (a Shaka Smart type), then maybe this isn't a big deal. But if Mizzou brings in somebody with a different type of identity, then he will be able to very quickly build that identity in his image. And coaches tend to receive a little bit of a 'grace period' from recruits when it comes to selling players on "I'm going to build a winner there!" before he's had a chance to prove that he will or won't. There might be a step backwards, but Mizzou's current roster portends a quick rebuild if the right hire is made.
No matter how angry, annoyed and/or betrayed Mizzou fans may feel right now, we will all almost certainly look back at the Mike Anderson Era as a success one day. He may not have been what we thought -- he was a stopgap instead of Norm Stewart's "true" long-term successor (there is no true long-term successor for Norm, not these days ... five years almost is long-term) -- but he propped the program up against decent odds, and he made Mizzou care about and believe in quality basketball again.
We can justifiably resent everything about how the last week was handled, but despite a semi-nasty break-up, this was, overall, a relatively strong five-year relationship. Resent him for leaving, resent him for vowing to "retire here" less than a week ago, and resent him for the games his agent played (on his behalf, clearly), but do not resent him for the job he did in simply making Mizzou matter.
To Mizzou fans full of anger, sadness or both right now, remember two things above all else:
- This is not "typical Mizzou" or in any way unique to this university or this fanbase. I know we like to add everything to some ongoing list of disappointments as proof that we are more tortured than most, but coaching changes happen. In fact, Anderson had already racked up the fourth-longest tenure in the Big 12. For three decades with Norm, Mizzou was the oddity. Now they're just like everybody else. Coaches leave and plans change; it's how you deal with those changes that defines your long-term program success. And Mike Alden has given nobody a reason to believe he won't make an equally strong hire this next time around.
- The last time Missouri lost a major coach to a college school (Arkansas, naturally), Don Faurot replaced Frank Broyles with ... Dan Devine, the most successful coach in Mizzou football history.
There are short-term questions, of course, most of which we will be discussing in great detail soon enough. Who replaces Anderson? Does Flip Pressey stay? Are there any unexpected departures? Who does the new guy sign with limited time this spring? We will find out the answers soon enough, but we first say goodbye to a coach who cut his Mizzou legacy short to continue one somewhere else. We will all feel angry about this, but then we will move on, and years from now, we will view the Anderson Era as a positive experience.