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Thursday, October 2, 2014

After 15 years, Kim Anderson has made it home

A former Missouri assistant coach and cager, Anderson was turned down for the head coaching job in 1999. Now, he’s back.

Kim Anderson laughs during a news conference introducing him as Missouri's new men's basketball coach on Tuesday, April 29, 2014, at the Reynolds Alumni Center in Columbia, Mo. Anderson, once an assistant coach at Missouri, was most recently head coach of the University of Central Missouri men's basketball team.

Mike Krebs/Senior Staff Photographer
David Freyermuth/Graphic Designer

Kim Anderson made his way to the podium in the Reynolds Alumni Center, and all he could think about was time.

“It took a long time to walk up those stairs,” Anderson said.

A few short steps, but a much longer journey.

Anderson played at MU. He earned two degrees from Missouri. Now he’s back as head coach of the Tigers.

Anderson hasn’t won a game as head coach of Mizzou men’s basketball, yet. He hasn’t won a game as a Division I head coach, anywhere.

Anderson said he wants his Tiger squads to be team-oriented, hard-nosed and defensively sound. The Sedalia native said he wants them to be representative of Missouri. Whether or not that happens remains to be seen.

One thing was clear from Anderson’s introductory press conference: he was finally back where he wanted to be.

“Thanks for bringing me home,” Anderson said.

There was a chance he’d never have to leave Columbia. In 1999, having served as an assistant coach for the Tigers since 1991, Anderson was passed over for the vacant head coaching position in favor of Quin Snyder.

Anderson said when he left MU to become the head coach at Division II Central Missouri, where he won a national championship last season, he never thought he’d be picked to lead the Tigers.

“I think he wasn’t sure if they would ever give it to him,” said Anderson’s son, Brett.

Looking back on it, Kim Anderson understands. He had no head coaching experience at the time.

“I wouldn’t have hired me either in 1999,” he said.

Anderson said he first aspired to be the head coach at Missouri during his first stint as an assistant coach for the Tigers, working under Norm Stewart.

Before coaching, Anderson played for Stewart from 1973-1977. He’s 24th on the program’s all-time scoring list. In 1977, Anderson was the Big 8 Conference Player of the Year.

But it’s bigger than basketball for Anderson.

“(Stewart) taught me so many things, not just basketball,” Anderson said. “If there is one thing I’ll say about coach Stewart: he taught me how to survive.”

It’s that experience that makes it worth it for Anderson to leave UCM. Whenever the Mules were brought up at Anderson’s introductory press conference, the 58-year-old nearly teared up.

He said that in the meeting he held with his old team before left for Columbia, he told them he’d be back whenever he gets the chance.

“I’ll hug them then,” Anderson said.

For now, he’s in Columbia.

Anderson said he first knew he was being considered for the Tigers’ coaching position April 19. He was biking on the Katy Trail in Bryson, Mo. He had to head back into town to get cell service so that he could return the call.

Athletic Director Mike Alden interviewed Anderson at Anderson’s home April 24, Anderson said, and he met with Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin April 26.

Around 2:30 p.m. Monday, Anderson was offered the head coaching position.

Asked if his father had to think long about taking the job, Brett Anderson said with a smile, “probably not.”

When Anderson walked into the Great Room of the Reynolds Alumni Center, with “Fight Tiger” playing, a man in attendance said, “Welcome home, Kim.” Multiple former MU basketball players identified themselves among the crowd.

Anderson’s father, Keith Anderson, had a permanent smile on his face.

“I think it’s amazing,” Keith Anderson said. “I think it’s great. I’m very proud of what’s going on.”

He added: “Good stuff in that Sedalia water.”

Brett Anderson will graduate in a few weeks with a business degree. He said he was planning on going somewhere other than MU for graduate school, but now he might stay in Columbia.

“I already love this school,” Brett Anderson said. “Now I love it even more.”

Anderson has his critics. He’s too old, some say. He’s never been a Division-I head coach, some say. He might not know how to recruit at this level, some say.

Anderson dismissed all of those criticisms during the press conference. Whether or not they prove relevant will have to wait until next season.

For now, Anderson is just glad to be home.

“There’s so many things that have to happen for a guy like me to be the head coach at one of the greatest universities in the country,” Anderson said. “Maybe the stars lined up.”

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