If you don't follow me on twitter, you missed quite a show yesterday. It all started with this:
Hearing Mizzou has not made a decision on whether to bring KA back or not, but that they’ve made overtures to Lorenzo Romar— Sam Snelling (@SamSnellingRMN) March 3, 2016
First things first, let me explain this in a longer format. I am not a journalist. BUT... what I do have is a small, reasonably connected group of sources who will occasionally provide me with info on situations that are useful and interesting.
A few days ago I spoke with one of my contacts who mentioned he'd heard that Mizzou athletic director Mack Rhoades had not yet made a decision on the fate of Kim Anderson, that Mack had been checking back channels, and that his top target was Lorenzo Romar. I thought it was interesting, but I put it in my back pocket because he was a rumor and it was the first I'd heard anything like it.
Then, as I was having another conversation with a completely difference source, who (as far as I know) doesn't talk to the first source, he mentioned basically the same thing. Only, he said that Mack was 50/50 on bringing Kim back and that the person who told him about this was "reputable." I trust both of these people, and I have never been given info from them that ended up being false.
So here are two unconnected people basically telling me the same thing. Seems legit. It's certainly not first-hand information from Rhoades or Romar. Considering that Rhoades hasn't said that Anderson will be back next year, I would guess it might be accurate to think that he hasn't made up his mind.
Again because this is important, my information is...
MACK RHODES HAS NOT MADE UP HIS MIND
I feel like there were a lot of people that saw my tweet above and thought the wrong thing. Mack has not made up his mind. He is, however, doing what an athletic director should be doing: exploring some options so he can make an informed decision.
I guarantee that every athletic director in the country has a file in his desk of people that he would want to hire if he needed a new coach. Mack Rhoades is a smart and aggressive athletic director, so you know he has his list. If he isn't working back channels right now, he's not doing his job. Doing this does not mean he is going to fire Kim Anderson -- it's simply making sure that he makes the most informed decision possible.
I am not gunning for Kim Anderson's job. If anyone has been paying attention to what I've been writing (and I don't expect that's too many of you), I've been building a pretty strong case for his retention. I've even kind of bought in to the whole thing. So I can, and have, made a strong case for keeping him around for next year at the least.
The APR problems, coupled with the lack of a system president and a chancellor, aren't exactly the kind of stabilizing base that most coaches look for when they are ready to make the jump. And I didn't even mention the NCAA sanctions that are yet to be resolved and are hanging over the program for at least a few more weeks. The staff, and Kim Anderson, haven't made the best roster decisions (the two JUCO players they've added were not, um, helpful), but the freshmen class looks very promising and appears to have bought into what the coaches are selling (unlike many of the players previously on the roster).
There is a reason they've had the turnover they've had. The guys at Mizzou two years ago weren't "Kim Anderson guys," and he's about to have a roster nearly full of his type of players. So maybe we need to see what a Kim Anderson team looks like, right?
However, Mizzou's basketball program is at an all-time low. I was emailed by someone who complained to me that I wasn't being positive enough. What is positive about two last place SEC finishes, 19 program wins, zero road wins, a KenPom rating in the 170s, and attendance at home games that is in the dumpster? As I said before, most people thought Anderson would be the guy to stabilize the program, and that still hasn't happened -- nine players have left the program in two years, and we are expecting more before the semester wraps up. Of those nine, four were brought in by Anderson. So...
Romar makes sense for a number of reasons. While he's had some ups and downs at Washington, he's a relentless recruiter who has ties to the Midwest from his time at SLU. And he is a very good friend of the Porter family, which is churning out high-level basketball players. Jontay Porter, a sophomore at Columbia Tolton, has already pledged a verbal commitment to play for Romar at Washington. Romar was in Michael Porter's wedding and is godfather to Michael Porter, Jr. Some think that hiring Romar would basically be to attract the Porters and that's partially true. Romar could hire Porter, Sr (like he tried to do last summer before Mrs Porter nixed the idea because she didn't want to uproot the kids) to the mens side, and bring a member or two of his current staff to immediately begin recruiting.
Now, to make this clear... Mack Rhoades is not hiring Lorenzo Romar. Mack Rhoades is not firing Kim Anderson. The information that I was given is that Mack is not sure what he is going to do, but he has reached out to Romar to gauge interest.
Last year, Mississippi State fired Rick Ray and hired Ben Howland shortly after. The Mississippi State athletic director made sure he had an upgrade in place before he fired his struggling coach. Had he not had a replacement as good as Howland in place, MSU likely would have retained Rick Ray because there were reasons to think they would keep getting better after bottoming out. But I doubt many people would argue that MSU didn't upgrade when they hired Howland.
My job now is to analyze. My analysis is that Mack has a list of three to four guys who he would hire right now. Romar is obviously very high on that list. If he can't get one of them, he'll bring Kim back. This is not me saying that I think that's what he should do or not. At this point I see both sides, but if anything I think I lean towards bringing Kim back. All this can be said without even talking bout whether or not Romar would take the job. He's been at UW since 2002-03, he's got a roster full of talented young players and he's signed a 5-star Combo Guard in Markelle Fultz coming in next year. There is a chance he may lose one or two of his young players to the draft, but his team next year will still be talented and he's still in the mix for Michael Porter, Jr without moving to Columbia. What would entice him? A nice paycheck. Can Missouri offer him enough to get him to leave UW?
With all the turmoil that the Missouri program has dealt with, it would make a lot of sense to just keep the path for one more year, let the APR issues all but clear off, get a president and chancellor get into place, and see what year three under Kim Anderson looks like. I do think that we'll learn a lot more about Kim next year than we have the last two. I'm certainly not convinced that he's the right guy, but my opinion doesn't matter on this. In the end, Mack Rhoades will make the decision to give Kim year three, or make his play for a bigger name. In the case that Kim is not back, I don't think it's a random mid-major coach coming in. I think you'll see one of the names on Mack's short-list, and I think those names are all fairly well known coaches.