In essence, everybody's right. The pessimist who points out that Missouri just hired a 58-year old with no Division I experience, the optimist with Mizzou Pride™ for days who hasn't felt this connected to the basketball program in years. We are in unchartered territory here, and in the absence of proof, we're basically all right.
Missouri just hired a 58-year old with no Division I head coaching experience. The last time Kim Anderson was on the sideline for a DI game, Albert White was blowing a layup and Brian Grawer was suffering what felt like his first shooting off-night in months, and Missouri was losing to New Mexico in the 1999 NCAA Tournament in Denver.
Albert White is now approaching 40 years old. Brian Grawer is a pharmaceuticals salesman. Jakeenan Gant was still about two years away from starting kindergarten when this game ended. I was a college sophomore. So many good (2002 Elite Eight, 2009 Elite Eight, 2009 and 2012 Big 12 Tournament runs) and bad things (Ricky Clemons, Athena, the popcorn in St. Louis, Norfolk State) have happened since Kim Anderson last directly represented the University of Missouri. For many of us, our entire Mizzou lives have happened. This whole time, Kim Anderson has been coaching a Division II school.
Missouri just hired someone who, as Norm Stewart's chief assistant, had a role to play in Mizzou's failures to draw sustained big-time talent in his mentor's final seasons. Most of Stewart's best teams were keyed by high-profile recruits, big-time gets: the Steve Stipanovichs, Doug Smiths, and Anthony Peelers of the world. We remember the 1993-94 team, perhaps Norm's best, as the norm (so to speak), but that wasn't necessarily the case. Most of Norm's really good teams had at least a couple of top-flight talents to go alongside the gritty role players we magnify. The top-flight talent dissipated in the mid-'90s.
When we were defending the hire of Quin Snyder over Anderson to angry Norm Truthers on Tigerboard 15 years ago, I distinctly remember The Beef once saying "What, we're going to win with a team of 13 Matt Rowans?" And I was right there with him, jealous that I hadn't come up with that myself. His lack of a recruiting pedigree can be overcome, but there's no guarantee that it will be.
And for all of the praise that Anderson has gotten from Missouri high school coaches this past week, it was Missouri recruiting that seemed to taper off and hurt the most. That people respect Kim Anderson is great; at some point, it will help if they prove that respect by encouraging their star players to give the local school a look. And they might not.
Missouri just hired the Truest Son of all. The sap emanating from local writers desperate for a revival of all things 1995 was hard to take, but there's a very good chance that a lot of us either will get sucked into the nostalgia or already have. We can debate how important truly "knowing" Missouri is to doing a good job. Each of the last three hires, with nonexistent Mizzou ties, had good seasons and good runs. Their failings had nothing to do with not knowing Missouri well enough. And while Mike Anderson left for another school without his seat being very hot, Frank Haith left to avoid getting fired. It's not like non-True Sons have ditched Mizzou left and right through the years. Missouri probably could have found someone else who valued this job and wouldn't think about leaving it without resorting to Kim Anderson if it didn't want to.
But it wanted to. Mike Alden had no obligation to do this; in fact, if Kim Anderson succeeds, the "He shoulda been hired in 1999" crowd will get even louder and, frankly, more annoying. (And if Anderson fails, this crowd will just blame Alden for not giving him enough support.) But Alden made the hire anyway, and he did so because he thought Kim Anderson could not only bring Mizzou back to Mizzou, but also win a lot of basketball games.
Missouri just hired an honors student. We'll see how Anderson goes about proving doubters wrong when it comes to his ability to score top-level talent, both within and outside of the Show-Me State. But nobody doubts the man's prowess for coaching the game of basketball, the man's Missouri ties, and the man's class. Mizzou will now be led by one of the best, brightest basketball products the school has ever produced. And for those who belong in the "basketball is basketball" camp, this Mizzou product has 274 career NCAA basketball wins to his name.
This could fail. Of course it could. For all the talk of Kim Anderson's acumen and goodguyness and truesonism, this might not work out. Jakeenan Gant and Namon Wright jump ship or just don't work out. Year 1 doesn't go incredibly well, and recruiting is as iffy as is feared. Development takes awhile. A flood of in-state two- and three-star recruits end up basically putting up a strong fight, playing hard, making everybody proud, and finishing 17-15 every year.
This could also work. Tim Fuller stays. Gant and Wright stay on board and mix well with a relatively talented sophomore class. Anderson's first or second teams do well, blessed with the offensive talent they brought to Columbia and the defensive tenacity engrained in them by Anderson and his assistants. With proof of success and Mizzou Pride overflowing, the next batch of local talent -- the Jayson Tatums of the world -- come aboard, too, and early success begets later success.
Kim Anderson was not my first choice for this hire, and it annoyed me when his name was brought up, presumably by the people who always brought his name up. I thought it was a tease, unfair to both Anderson and the portion of the Mizzou fanbase particularly fond of the Norm Stewart era. But here we are. I was wrong.
The stars aligned for Kim Anderson to get his shot in Columbia. Gregg Marshall is still a year or two away from truly considering leaving Wichita State for a job in a major conference, and Anderson just painted his masterpiece in Warrensburg mere weeks before the Missouri job unexpectedly came open. This may not have been what we all expected, but the Kim Anderson era begins today. And if it works out, it will feel awfully good.
So let's hope for that.