Alumnus Kim Anderson helms basketball program.
As a Missourian born and raised in Sedalia, a lifelong Tiger fan, a two-time graduate and a catalyst for Coach Norm Stewart’s tough Big Eight squads of the mid-1970s, Kim Anderson has probably heard Mini Mizzou play “Every True Son” a few thousand times. But when he was officially introduced as the school’s new head basketball coach April 29, 2014, at the Reynolds Alumni Center, the lyrics were overwhelmingly poignant.
Every True Son, so happy hearted, skies above us are blue.
Fresh off a national championship at the University of Central Missouri (UCM), his Division II residence for 12 years, Anderson was greeted by shouts of “Welcome home, Kim!” as he pushed through an emotional speech.
“This is my dream job,” said Anderson, BS Ed ’79, M Ed ’81. “I’m Mizzou through and through. This is my home state. This is my alma mater. I know how special this program is to so many people, and it holds that same significance for me.”
Blue skies, indeed.
Although, to many, Anderson seemed destined to helm Mizzou basketball since his All-Conference playing days, his route to the other end of the bench was circuitous. As a gangly youngster growing up about 70 miles southwest of Columbia, Anderson first met Stewart at a Mizzou basketball camp in Lexington, Missouri. Stewart took notice of the then-6-foot-2-inch, coltish eighth-grader reared by a former UCM track athlete.
“If you want an eagle, you get an eagle’s egg,” says Stewart, BS Ed ’56, M Ed ’60. “I told Kim, ‘You’ve got all of the ability, and some of it is going to depend on how much you grow, but it looks like you’re going to grow. We’ll be back to recruit you, and you’ll be coming to the University of Missouri to play basketball.’ ”
As predicted, Anderson sprouted to 6 feet 7 inches and received additional scholarship offers from Texas, Memphis State, Kansas State and Kansas. Anderson, however, had Tiger tunnel vision.
“I used to listen to Mahlon Aldridge calling the games on the radio when [Bob] Vanatta was coaching,” Anderson says. “I grew up wanting to be a Missouri Tiger.”
It was 1973, the year the NCAA rescinded a rule making freshmen ineligible, when Stewart realized the center was already ready for significant minutes. During Anderson’s sophomore season, he emerged as a fiery force in the paint. By his junior season, he led the team in shooting percentage as the Tigers advanced to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament. Anderson had one of the best seasons in Mizzou basketball history in 1976–77, leading the team in scoring and earning Big Eight Conference Player of the Year honors.
“The things that defined me as a player: aggressive, played hard, dove on the floor,” says Anderson, who still holds the Mizzou record for disqualifications in a career and a season, fouling out 13 times in 1974–75 and 34 times total. “The opposing team might say I was borderline dirty, but obviously, I wasn’t. I played with a great deal of emotion.”
The Portland Trailblazers, coached by the late Hall of Famer “Dr. Jack” Ramsay, appreciated that emotion enough to select Anderson in the second round of the 1977 NBA Draft. It was a short and sweet professional career culminating in Europe before Anderson took an assistant coaching job on Stewart’s staff in 1982.
“If you’re a real coach, the clock doesn’t ever come into play,” Stewart says. “You coach kids 24/7/365, and you enjoy it. Well, he enjoyed it. He worked tirelessly.”
Anderson put in time as an assistant at Baylor along with two terms at Mizzou, where at one point he felt he might have a shot at the head coach position upon Stewart’s retirement. When MU went another direction in 1999, Anderson took a job as an administrator at the Big 12 Conference headquarters in Dallas.
“At the time I left, I thought I’d never be the head coach at Mizzou,” says Anderson, who accepted the UCM gig in 2002. “Coach Stewart taught me how to survive. When you get knocked down, he teaches you how to get back up and keep going. He teaches you how to fight but not in a literal sense. Not everything is going to go your way. You’ve got to be able to get back up.”
In Warrensburg, Anderson developed a style of basketball that ultimately put him in the top 10 in Division II career coaching victories. As the all-time winningest UCM coach, he led the Mules to three 30-win seasons, the only 30-win seasons in school history.
“His teams are always going to be the toughest on the court,” says John Gilliam, former guard on the national champion UCM squad who is now a graduate assistant at Mizzou. “He preaches defense. His guys are going to do every little thing you can possibly do to win the game. They’re going to go get every 50–50 ball.”
Anderson’s immediate challenge will be to inspire a roster with 10 underclassmen and only one senior with playing experience at Mizzou. Although his 2013–14 UCM team showcased 10 newcomers, climbing to the top of the Southeastern Conference — a league that featured two of the Final Four teams — might prove a greater challenge.
“I hope we can build a core group of players from Missouri, but in order to compete in the SEC, you have to be able to recruit nationwide,” says Anderson, who feels his alumni status could benefit that process. “It’s very easy for me to sell this place because I lived it. I lived it as a player, and I lived it as a coach.”
One of Anderson’s inherited players, junior forward Ryan Rosburg (Chesterfield, Missouri), has already bought into the new coach’s system. As a high school player who visited Anderson’s UCM camps, Rosburg has admired the coach for years.
“He’ll get on the court every now and then and throw in a sky hook or show me some crazy moves while I’m tripping over my feet,” says Rosburg, who looks forward to playing for a former center, a rarity among NCAA coaches. “You know this is where he wants to be. It’s not just a step to try to go somewhere else to make more money. I really, truly believe he would turn down anything else to be here because he’s a Missouri guy.”