With the news that Mack Rhoades has moved on from the Missouri Athletic Department in favor of the Baylor AD Office, there are many fans who are wondering how his departure impacts the job status of Kim Anderson.
There’s no doubt Anderson has become a lighting rod of criticism and concern as the basketball program has plummeted under his watch. While there are varying perspectives as to why the program has landed where it has, there’s no denying another unsuccessful season at the helm of the Tigers would likely lead to Anderson’s dismissal as head coach. With the AD seat empty, does that impact the state of the basketball program? Does having a new person and perspective in charge change the heat on the head coach? Let’s explore this a little.
I took a twitter poll asking how many wins people expected next season and these were the results:
How many wins do you think @MizzouHoops will get this upcoming season?— Sam Snelling (@SamSnellingRMN) July 13, 2016
With only 30% of the results saying they expected 15 wins or more, and with a 15 win mark likely needed to give Kim Anderson the momentum he needs to secure a fourth season as head coach, basically 70% of the voters expect Mizzou to have a new basketball coach come next spring. How much does this change when the AD seat is filled? Probably only slightly. The way I see it there are three possible scenarios for filling the seat of the Athletic Director.
The Three Possible Scenarios
Probably the least likely to happen, and the best case scenario for Kim Anderson. Sundvold becoming Athletic Director has the same ring to me as people that crowed for Kim Anderson to be the head coach at Missouri. And while Jon Sundvold is an incredibly accomplished businessman and one of the most respected alumni from the University, he’s also recently been appointed by Governor Nixon to the Board of Curators. The BoC is a place that could use a voice like Sundvold as someone who understands and respects the field of athletics and what happens to scholarship athletes and coaches. He’s also been around the rest of the SEC as a color analyst for ESPN and the SEC Network so he’s seen how other schools are run, and could really be of great service for Mizzou athletics in that capacity.
We also have no idea what sort of Athletic Director Sundvold would make. He’s certainly a respected man, and smart. But having never been an AD before we don’t know exactly how he’d respond. It’s for these reasons I can’t bring myself to see Sundvold ending up as the Athletic Director. I like him staying on the BoC and helping athletics from that side of things. The other side is that if Sundvold were to be hired at AD, he’s also enough of a businessman to know Missouri cannot afford faltering basketball interest, and losing revenues in a program like Mizzou’s isn’t something that any AD would like.
Serving as the interim Athletic Director, Baker has a lot of momentum for being the person to get the job, and for good reason. He’s a rising star in the industry, inasmuch as Athletics Administration has rising stars. But Baker has been around several different places and excelled at each place he’s been. Before taking the interim title of AD, he was the Deputy Athletic Director in charge of the basketball program, and came from Memphis as a Deputy AD which oversaw the growth of the football program while he was there. Having a previous relationship with Barry Odom could prove helpful as well.
On top of all that, Baker has been a part of several athletic departments dealing with difficult times. He joined the Oklahoma State athletic department shortly before the tragic plane crash that took the lives of 10 people, including eight tied to the basketball program. Then he was the athletic director at Northwest Missouri State when their recently named head coach Scott Bostwick died of a heart attack before coaching a game. Baker then hired Adam Dorrell who has since won two national championships. Baker was also a basketball coach when he served as AD at Rogers State University in Oklahoma. So one would think he’s uniquely in-tune with what it takes to run a program and hire a basketball coach.
The other thing about Baker would be the consistency of knowing the process with which Kim Anderson operates. Baker is the administrator of the basketball program, so he knows more than anyone how Kim Anderson is doing on a day to day basis and would probably be more prepared to make a decision next spring if there isn’t enough progress. His innate intimate knowledge of the state of the program over the course of several years will provide him the information to make the right decision.
This is where things get tricky. When Illinois hired Josh Whitman as AD he almost immediately fired Bill Cubit as the head coach of the football team, gave a vote of confidence to John Groce and then hired Lovie Smith. Obviously very quick decisive moves for a newly hired AD. When Mack Rhoades was hired he ended up being forced to hire a new coach only due to Gary Pinkel’s retirement, but opted to keep Anderson as well as giving Tim Jamieson another shot when he very easily could have cut ties and had very little flack to deal with.
Should the University look outside of Sundvold or Baker, there are plenty of qualified candidates and even those with ties to the University. I’m sure there will be calls to people like Whit Babcock, Mario Moccia, Mark Alnutt and Sarah Baumgartner, but whoever comes in will have a nearly immediate decision to make about the basketball program. This situation, of an outside hire, is the wildcard.
Maybe the best case scenario is Kim Anderson and the basketball team taking the decision out of the hands of the AD, defying the odds and winning more games than any of us expect. We certainly don’t have evidence to date that it’s likely, but it’s still possible.