This week’s hiring of Kim Anderson as Missouri’s new men’s basketball coach doesn’t just signal a new era on the basketball court — it also raises hopes for a cleaner slate with issues surrounding Tiger athletics.
Lately for men’s basketball games at Mizzou Arena, there have been more open seats despite them being sold. Even newly-appointed head coach Kim Anderson recognizes that. He concluded his introductory news conference this week with a clamorous message.
“All of you that have tickets to the games that sit down there below, where the yellow is, would you please come to the game?” pleaded Anderson.
The question was met with applause.
“That’s a big issue,” said Mizzoui athletics director Mike Alden. “I think as you take a look at the attendance standpoint, you know we’re always trying to look at the fact that we want to make sure that we’re packing all of our venues and, in particular, basketball.”
In recent months, basketball and football have taken their hits with incidents away from competition. Dorial Green-Beckham, the Tigers’ prized football recruit, was dismissed from the team after multiple brushes with the law. Also, former basketball coach Frank Haith, who has since left to coach at Tulsa, suspended two players —Wes Clark and Shane Rector — before MU’s game in the National Invitation Tournament. Both were arrested in March on marijuana possession charges. Plus, Zack Price, who transferred from Louisville to MU, faces a felony charge of tampering. He’s no longer on the basketball team.
Moving forward, Alden concedes the athletics department doesn’t need any more distractions. He hopes Anderson will clean things up on the basketball front.
“When you see situations that take us away from that, which has happened over the last couple of months, certainly that’s disappointing and you don’t want that to take place,” said Alden. “So as you look at that going forward, you want to make sure you continue to insure that the leadership of your program embodies those kinds of characteristics that you expect from your students.”
Former Tiger standout Jon Sundvold applauds the hiring of Anderson, but cautions anyone who thinks that college students, even under Anderson, will avoid trouble.
“You’re not going to say Kim Anderson might not have a kid do the wrong thing when he gets here,” said Sundvold.
Nevertheless, Alden mentioned character and integrity in his introductory remarks on Anderson. In addition to the player incidents, Haith served an NCAA-imposed suspension at the beginning of last season. The suspension closed the book on an NCAA investigation that Haith carried with him from the University of Miami.
In the opinion of Kansas City Star columnist Vahe Gregorian, the Tigers were conscious of turning over a new leaf with the hiring of Anderson.
“They’ve been stained by NCAA stuff with two out of the last three coaches,” said Gregorian. “Now obviously the Frank Haith things were at Miami, but Missouri can’t keep having that. You can’t have that again. Combine that with all the other things Kim brings to it and that’s what makes the Rubik’s cube work here.”
The Tigers believe they’ve restored some pride with the hiring of one of their own. Now MU will keep its fingers crossed the athletics department won’t be dealing any more with police blotters and NCAA investigations.