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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Anderson is the right choice, if not flashy

Anderson has a trait that MU’s past three coaches didn’t: he’s from Missouri.

It’s been a week since Kim Anderson was introduced as the new head coach, and with the hire, a new door opens for the Missouri basketball program. While there have been mixed opinions on how he will do as head coach and whether or not he is “the answer,” Anderson is the right choice.

Anderson is 58 years old and is coming off a Division II national championship with the Central Missouri Mules. Prior to his time at Central Missouri, he spent two separate terms as an assistant under legendary Tiger coach Norm Stewart and was also an assistant at Baylor.

It’s a good hire for the university, the alumni and the fans. It also brings in a friendly face to the program.

Here’s a guy who played for Missouri, was an assistant at Missouri and was already passed over three times to be the head coach of the Tigers. He comes to a team that just lost its two best players in Jordan Clarkson and Jabari Brown. He enters a media storm that questions his ability to fix off-the-field issues and bring in quality recruits. But still, Anderson couldn’t be happier to be back at his alma mater.

Anderson made a big statement this past week, as four-star power forward Jakeenan Gant, who committed to MU when Frank Haith was the head coach of the Tigers, said he would honor his commitment to Missouri for the upcoming season. Getting Gant to stay is just the first of many tasks Anderson will need to complete in order to rebuild this team.

Unfortunately not every task can be accomplished. Kevin Punter, who originally committed to the Tigers, chose Tennessee earlier this week following his decommitment from Missouri on April 28. There’s also a chance four-star guard Namon Wright could land elsewhere. He is seeking a release of his letter of intent, but he is still heavily considering Missouri, according to what his coach Ivan Barahona told the Los Angeles Times on Saturday. Currently, Missouri has two open scholarships with the dismissal of former transfer Zach Price, but if Wright chooses to sign elsewhere, Missouri would have an extra scholarship to use.

But players are just one component of building a successful team. Another extremely important part is the coaching staff behind the head coach. Anderson has started the process of naming his staff, bringing assistant Brad Loos over from Central Missouri, re-naming Bryan Tibaldi as director of basketball operations and retaining assistant Tim Fuller.

Retaining Fuller is a huge positive for the program moving forward, as his recruiting abilities were crucial in signing Gant and current freshman power forward Johnathan Williams III. Fuller was also important in swaying Anderson’s first commit D’Angelo Allen to choose Missouri this past weekend.

Anderson also has a positive trait that none of Missouri’s past three coaches had: he’s from Missouri. Anderson has great ties with high school coaches in the state, and if he can keep some of the talent from going to competing schools, it could potentially pay huge dividends. Imagine if St. Louis talent like Ben McLemore, Bradley Beal or Otto Porter were in Tiger uniforms. Instead, under the watch of other coaches, they went to Kansas, Florida and Georgetown, respectively.

For now it seems like Anderson is fitting in just fine. Sure, Mike Alden could have tried to hire a coach with Division I experience and Final Four appearances, but the flashy hire isn’t always the right hire.

What Missouri needed was a coach that cares not only about winning, but about character. The fans need the security of knowing that this coach wants to be here and that he wants to develop a strong and successful team. Anderson embodies all of those qualities and I am confident he can rebuild this team and rebound to winning ways. The turnaround won’t happen overnight, so I don’t think it’s fair to write him off before he even coaches a game.

Cheer, complain or don’t say anything at all. Until Anderson steps on the floor next fall, all we can do is wait.

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