Missouri basketball fires coach Kim Anderson ahead of SEC tournament
Kim Anderson was never quite embraced by most Missouri fans, even after starring for the Tigers' men's basketball team in the 1970s and serving two stints as an assistant to beloved coach Norm Stewart.
His won-loss record may have had a lot to do with that.
Unable to get his alma mater on track, Anderson was relieved of his job Sunday after less than three seasons in charge. Athletic director Jim Sterk said in a statement that he asked Anderson to step down after the SEC Tournament, where the No. 14 seed Tigers play Auburn on Wednesday night.
"This decision has been very difficult for me personally because of the tremendous respect I have for Kim," Sterk said. "I know how hard he and his staff have worked to turn the program around over the last three years. However, the lack of on-court success has resulted in a significant drop in interest surrounding our program, and we could not afford for that to continue another year."
Anderson took over a program in disarray after leading Central Missouri to the Division II national championship, but he went just 26-67 with the Tigers. That included a 7-23 mark this season.
Their loss to Auburn in their regular-season finale Saturday was the program-record 35th straight road defeat. It left the Tigers 2-16 in the SEC, tying a program and conference record for losses.
"Missouri is a special institution to my family and I, and I am grateful for having had the opportunity to serve as the head coach at my alma mater," Anderson said. "While we have faced significant challenges over the last three years and been unable to achieve the on-court results everyone would have liked, I do believe we have been able to stabilize the program."
Anderson took over in 2014 when Frank Haith abruptly left for Tulsa, the program already having fallen off from the heights it achieved under Mike Anderson. He called returning to Columbia his "dream job," but the task of rebuilding the once-proud program turned into a nightmare.
Kim Anderson won just nine games his first season. He won 10 the next. And his inability to lure top talent from the St. Louis and Kansas City areas made things just as bleak in Year 3.
After opening the season with an overtime loss to Xavier, Missouri later was stunned at home by North Carolina Central and Lipscomb. More losses followed in quick succession.
Things have been even worse off the court.
Just before Haith left, the school received a verbal notice of inquiry from the NCAA -- Anderson said he wasn't aware of the investigation when he was hired. And last August, the NCAA accepted the school's self-imposed sanctions over infractions involving its men's basketball program, but tacked on an additional year of probation through this August.
The NCAA infractions committee panel's findings over what it said were roughly $11,400 in improper inducements and benefits given to players and a recruit by two boosters came nearly seven months after Missouri admitted NCAA violations dating to 2011.
Hoping to blunt NCAA punishment, the school announced in January 2016 that it was vacating its 23 wins from 2013-14, banning itself from the 2016 postseason and stripping itself of one scholarship last season and a second scholarship no later than 2017-18.
The school, while agreeing to pay a $5,000 fine, also permanently banned one unidentified donor who the NCAA said provided impermissible benefits to three players and one recruit in 2013-14. The benefits included compensation for work not done at a business through a summer intern program, along with housing, $520 cash, local transportation, iPads, meals and use of a local gym.
The NCAA concluded that a second booster also provided impermissible benefits to 11 basketball players and three members of a player's family. Missouri has said those benefits included reduced rates at a hotel along with meals and a boat ride, and that a student manager provided transportation.
More off-the-court troubles could be looming.
In November, a former tutor resigned and publicly said she can document at least a dozen instances of serious academic fraud involving men's and women's athletes during a 16-month period.
Yolanda Kumar said she felt pressured to keep athletes academically eligible -- particularly football and men's basketball players -- and at least two academic coordinators for athletes in revenue-generating sports encouraged, promoted and supported her activities.
The school has said it is investigating the allegations.
Associated Press writer Jim Suhr contributed to this report.