Posted by Matt Norlander
So Mike Anderson is leaving one job for another. One BCS school for another. A lot of fans may be confounded by this because, on the surface, Arkansas and Missouri don’t appear to be too different in terms of status. In fact, right now, Missouri is in better shape than Arkansas (though Arkansas is still slated to have a firm freshman class coming in next season). So it's tough to justify the move in a few ways.
Well, Arkansas is a better job than Missouri; that's why Anderson is in the process of moving his life from Columbia to Fayetteville. Arkansas isn’t the school or program it once was, but when it’s winning and competing for SEC titles and Final Fours, it’s a top-20-in-the-country job, in my opinion. So that’s why Anderson’s going. That, and he’s an Arkansas guy; Anderson was an assistant at the school for more than 15 years under Nolan Richardson. Richardson: You know, the guy who delivered Arkansas its only national title, 17 years ago, then came within 40 minutes of winning another one the next year.
Anderson wasn't a candidate upon Richardson's departure nearly a decade ago. The school's doubled back on the man who made UAB a feared team in March during the mid-2000s and took Missouri to the Elite Eight in 2009. After five years, Anderson's leaving. This could have the potential to be great (yes, great) for both parties.
Without Anderson, Missouri appears to be in good shape in the short-term. Some may think the Tigers are in a lurch, but that's hardly the case. Anderson leaves the program with just one departing senior, Justin Safford, who averaged only 6.4 points per game this season. Check the roster. Four junior starters, who will be senior starters, are back next year, plus Missouri's been freed from Anderson's seven-year, multi-million dollar contract. That means the athletic director can chase VCU's Shaka Smart, Marquette's Buzz Williams or Richmond's Chris Mooney — all of whom would be considered home-run hires in Columbia.
All of them, as you know, are still coaching this week, as their teams are playing Thursday and Friday in the Sweet 16. With the Big 12 deflating to 10 teams next year (Colorado is going to the Pac-12; Nebraska to the Big Ten), coaching within the league also becomes an attractive option, as the overall challenge is lessened with two fewer squads, even if said squads were consistently in the Big 12 basement.
Smart and Williams now become the primary targets. Both have reputations and connections in the South, so if Missouri could snatch either one, they'd bolster the program's viability immediately. Plus, both have been winners in recent years, and isn't that the most important thing? If Mizzou is to "win" and come out of this with good face, then nabbing one of the three names listed above — or hoodwink us all and rope in a viable, familiar candidate currently coaching at another school — is the objective.
The Missouri job is a very good one, a job that should be attractive enough to lure away one of the cha-ching candidates you've heard floated over the past week. If that happens, Tigers fans shouldn't be sad one bit over Anderson leaving them behind. In fact, it might end up being in better shape than it was with Anderson.Photo: US PRESSWIRE
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