Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gordon: Anderson Needs Time to Fix Mizzou Mess

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gordon: Anderson Needs Time to Fix Mizzou Mess

Article excerpt

Today the burning question for Missouri basketball is this: Do they make HazMat suits big enough for a 6-foot-7 college coach?

The clean-up job Kim Anderson signed on for was far worse than he and most everybody else imagined. Last season he had to remove toxic elements from the program so he could build a proper team framework.

Fans hoped the process would produce more victories than player suspensions, but, again, the mess was worse than we knew. Anderson proceeded carefully with his makeover, avoiding classroom risks because of the dismal academic progress rate of previous teams.

And he knew there was more trouble on the horizon. Recruiting transgressions committed on Frank Haith's watch would eventually lead to harsh self-sanctions from the program and further scrutiny from the NCAA. This further complicated the rebuild.

This latest news explained many things: Haith's hasty exit for a lesser job, forward Jakeenan Gant's suspension during his freshman season and associate head coach Tim Fuller's disappearance first from the recruiting trail and then coaching altogether.

Oh, and athletics director Mike Alden retired abruptly while the hoo-ha was brewing.

So all those boosters ready to run off Anderson after Tuesday night's Arkansas fiasco can put down their torches and pitchforks. This regime needs at least a third year and probably a fourth to complete the massive clean-up operation.

Anderson's overriding task is to re-establish some character in the basketball program and put it back in good stead with the NCAA. He must also develop players, make progress in the won-loss column and lay the groundwork for future recruiting.

But he must travel a straight and narrow path while doing so, avoiding all those shortcuts that produced 76 victories (with 23 of them later vacated) during Haith's tumultuous regime. Those parameters change how fans, boosters, AD Mack Rhoades and future campus and university leaders view this coach.

Anderson learned hard lessons during last season's 9-23 struggle and made positive changes in his coaching staff. He brought in a freshman group willing to work hard on and off the court, adding key guard K.J. Walton late in the process.

He ended up with one of the youngest Division I teams for this season, due to the defection of Johnathan Williams III and Teki Gill- Caesar. The academic demise of JUCO transfer Martavian Payne subtracted additional athletic maturity.

Mizzou's nonconference schedule played out as expected this season. The Tigers beat the teams they brought to Columbia to donate a "W" and they lost to more experienced power conference schools away from home.

They opened SEC play with a predictably lopsided loss at Georgia, then returned to Boone County to step on the depleted Auburn Tigers Saturday night. But then the Arkansas game happened, a 94-61 loss at home. …

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