Last week, University of Missouri Athletic Director Jim Sterk deemed it necessary, because of numerous requests, to issue a statement regarding the future of basketball coach Kim Anderson. With losses and defections mounting, Anderson’s job status has become the only topic of conversation around the team. The statement, in part, read:
“I clearly understand where our program is currently, and rest assured that we are all disappointed with where we stand entering SEC play.
It is not my preferred style to make public evaluations of our staff in the middle of a season, as that is not fair to our coaches, or players. Doing so would only offer a distraction from their need to focus on preparation for each game.
Evaluations of all staff take place throughout the year, and continue until the season is over. Any decisions that need to be made based on those evaluations will be done at the appropriate time.
We are extremely grateful for our fans and their passion for Mizzou Basketball. Going forward, we need our fans and donors to help us create a great atmosphere at Mizzou Arena.
This is important not only for our current team, but for all future student-athletes considering Mizzou to know that this is a great place to receive a world-class education and compete in a sport they love at a place that supports them.”
After that statement was released, the Tigers lost their first two SEC games. The fact that the AD felt the need to articulate his feelings is ominous for Anderson. But the statement wouldn’t be necessary if Anderson’s overall record in Columbia wasn’t 24-53, with a 6-32 SEC mark. Even given the state of the program he took over, things aren’t looking up in his third season. Losses to North Carolina Central, Eastern Illinois and Lipscomb have demoralized even the most fervent Anderson supporters.
So with that knowledge, I’ve put together a preliminary list of possibilities that I wouldn’t mind to replace Anderson. I think it’s important that Mizzou get someone that has head coaching background in Division I, and hopefully has a history of recruiting in the Midwest and making the NCAA tournament. And it’s important that Missouri buy in, literally, with a contract that will attract someone that can get Mizzou back to the NCAA tournament. In the thirty years prior to Anderson taking over, Mizzou made nineteen NCAA tournaments and five NIT’s, for 24 post-season berths. If Mizzou will pay, the history of the program should be enough to draw a competitive coach. With that, here’s my early list…
• Gregg Marshall-Wichita State Head Coach: Marshall’s resume speaks for itself. His teams have dominated the Missouri Valley Conference for the last four seasons, going 55-3 (including this season) in the conference, and 100-15 overall in the regular season. In eighteen seasons as a head coach, he has led his teams to twelve NCAA tournaments, including a Final Four in 2013 and the Sweet Sixteen two years ago. A huge positive is that he has recruited the Midwest and knows the territory. Marshall is making $3 million this year and next, and that salary rises to $3.5 million in 2018, so we know the price will be high. He has turned down Alabama in the past, but he’s worth a try for Sterk.
• Greg McDermott, Creighton Head Coach: McDermott has been a college head coach since 1994, and has climbed the coaching ladder with impressive success. In 23 years he’s gone 429-266, a .619 winning percentage. In his last five seasons at Creighton, he has made three NCAA tournaments, playing into the third round each time. His history at Northern Iowa, Iowa State and Creighton means that, like Marshall, he has recruited in the Midwest. It might be difficult to pull him out of the Big East, but he’s making $1.3 million. This year the Blue Jays are off to a 13-1 start, and McDermott has them ranked tenth in the nation.
• Jeff Capel-Duke Associate Head Coach: Capel is getting an opportunity to steer the Blue Devils during Mike Krzyzewski’s absence because of back surgery. He’s been an assistant or associate Head Coach at Duke since 2011, and has also assisted Coach K on the USA National team that claimed gold last summer in Rio. In 2002, the 27-year-old Capel became the youngest head coach in Division I at VCU and the following year led the Rams to their first NCAA tournament in eight years. Capel took over a scandal plagued Oklahoma program from Kelvin Sampson in 2006 and went to a pair of tournaments in five seasons. Capel is only 41, already has a head coaching history, and obviously has a great pedigree.
• Frank Martin-South Carolina Head Coach: The 50-year-old Martin is a Bob Huggins protégé, who loves a rugged, banging style and has coached it to success at Kansas State and now South Carolina. In nine years as a head coach, Martin has four NCAA appearances, with all of those coming in his five years at K-State. He has done a good job of building the South Carolina program, winning fourteen games in each of his first two years, then seventeen, then 25 last year. This year the Gamecocks are 12-3. Martin’s contract extension revealed in April calls for him to make $2.45 million this year, with $50,000 raises each year through 2022. The new deal also reportedly contains a $4.8 million buyout after this season.
• Randy Bennett-St. Mary’s Head Coach: Bennett’s experience is almost exclusively on the west coast, be he’s done wonders with the St. Mary’s program, where he has gone to five NCAA tournaments in fifteen seasons. Bennett has a .678 winning percentage and has built a perennial contender, a program that has thirteen straight winning seasons that include nine consecutive years of at least 21 wins, and eight of thirteen with at least 25 victories. The only part of the 54-year-old Bennett’s career that hasn’t been spent out west was a two-year stint at Saint Louis University with Lorenzo Romar at the turn of the century. You would have to think Sterk has a pretty good read on Bennett, seeing as St. Mary’s made its way to San Diego every year to play the University of San Diego while Sterk was at San Diego State. This year St. Mary’s is 12-1 and ranked nineteenth in the country.
• Tim Jankovich-SMU Head Coach: The 57-year-old has a great pedigree, having been an assistant under Bill Self for five years at Illinois and Kansas. This year, he has replaced Larry Brown at SMU and has the Mustangs off to a great start, albeit with talent that Brown recruited. Jankovich had a five year run as head coach at Illinois State, where he compiled a 104-64 record, but didn’t make an NCAA tournament.
• Chris Mack-Xavier Head Coach: This one, admittedly, is a real long shot, because Mack is a Xavier grad and seems happy there. And he’s been great, leading the Musketeers to the NCAA tournament in six of his seven years so far. Since taking over the program from Sean Miller, who went to Arizona, he has a 174-79 record. Xavier plays in the Big East, which produced last year’s NCAA Champions, Villanova. Mack makes almost $1.2 million, and one would have to believe Xavier would compete if a school like Mizzou came after him.
It’s a shame that it isn’t working out for Anderson, who is a great human being and was THE choice of Mizzou boosters every time the job opened after Norm Stewart’s departure. But men’s basketball is one of two revenue sports, and that program just isn’t living up to expectations. The longer they go with Anderson, the deeper the hole the next guy has to dig out of. Whether it’s one of the coaches above or someone else, Sterk needs to get the basketball program heading in the right direction.