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Monday, April 28, 2014
Missouri's twisted route to its coaching hire

By Dana O'Neil


After enough intrigue to satisfy a daytime soap opera cliffhanger, Missouri on Monday announced that Kim Anderson would be its next men's basketball coach.

Anderson could very well be a fine hire. He won at the Division II level, leading Central Missouri to the 2014 national championship, and leaves the school with an impressive 274-94 record. There are more than a handful of guys who toil in the shadows at the Division II and III levels who are every bit as talented and qualified as their spotlight-hogging Division I peers, but just don’t get a chance.

He’s also a Mizzou guy, a former assistant and player from the glory days under Norm Stewart. He gets the nuances of the place. Better that the place gets him, so a fan base that did not regard warmly the most recent coach should warmly welcome Anderson.

Kim Anderson
Missouri on Monday hired Central Missouri's Kim Anderson to be its new coach.
Kudos, too, to the school for taking a man who, from what one can glean, has integrity and standards, as opposed to a recycled Division I head coach who would pack his own blemish cream.

So this is not to mock the choice.

This is to question the twisted, unnecessary, cloak-and-dagger process that got to this choice.

Coaching searches bring out the silly in everyone. Twice during the Missouri waiting game, reporters, following tail numbers on private planes, went to the airport. Jay Wright turned out to be a bunch of weekend golfers. Anderson turned into a literal and figurative fishing expedition.

But Mizzou has managed to add to the level of absurdity here.

Athletic director Mike Alden hired Collegiate Sports Associates Executive Search and Consulting and, according to The Kansas City Star, paid the search firm $42,500 plus expenses to find Anderson.

Who is in the school’s alumni directory.

And whose Central Missouri offices are a little more than 90 miles away from Columbia.

Alden didn’t need a search firm. He needed a telephone and a full tank of gas.

Or Dora the Explorer. She would have done it for $25,000, I bet, so long as she had her handy-dandy backpack and friend, Map.

But hiring search firms is what college athletic directors do now -- apparently because hiring coaches isn’t what they do anymore.

And so the university shelled out more than $40,000 to find one of its own, a man whose background it presumably knew and did not need to check, and a guy who was always going to be more than happy to take the job.

Maybe the search firm was part of the Gregg Marshall litmus test, but Alden didn’t really need a search firm for that, either.

A banker would have been more useful. Or a loan officer.

It’s not that $42,500 is a big hit to the budget of a Power 5 conference school, but rather than just hire a search firm because everyone’s doing it, why not see if you can hire the Division II guy down the street on your own?

Odds are, you probably can.

Of course, the search firm offered the priceless bonus of plausible deniability so that both school and coach could deny having contacted or been contacted by one another up until the moment Anderson was hired.

Even though everyone knew Anderson had been contacted and would take the job if offered.

This was the equivalent of a middle school girl's secret crush. The only one who thinks it’s a secret is the girl involved.

Which leads us to the other bit of sheer goofiness -- the total subterfuge in which Missouri handled the announcement.

On Friday, the board of curators called an emergency meeting for Monday. Most everyone presumed it was to endorse a new coach.

That meeting ended at about 3:30 p.m. ET, with the curators saying there would be no official announcement.

Except for the official announcement naming Anderson as the coach that came at 4 p.m. ET.

Now, a school has a right to control its own message and, after losing control and face in the whole Matt Painter tap dance during the previous coaching search, it’s reasonable that this school in particular wanted to control its message.

But for all of that mystery and secrecy, you half-expected Mizzou to announce it had rebirthed a cryogenically frozen form of John Wooden to be its coach.

Or at least Marshall.

Instead, all of this drama led to the otherwise anonymous Division II guy most everyone figured would get the job, anyway. So what was the point of the secret society stuff?

This was a soap opera whodunit ending with some bit-part character actor as the murderer.

Of course, the goal is to hire the right guy.

Maybe Missouri did just that and if Anderson turns out to be a winner, no one will remember how he got here, even if the mad method of Mizzou seems mighty memorable right now.