All in The Game: So Long, Mike Anderson
March 24, 2011 § 4 Comments
Add me to the list of thousands who prematurely ejaculated on the Mike Anderson story. (By all means, feel free to compliment my eloquent phrasing in the comments section.)
I should’ve let the story completely unfold, and I thought I had by ignoring all the Arkansas rumors over the weekend along with CBS’s very premature reports* about Anderson being gone by Monday. When the Post-Dispatch and a few other outlets reported that Mizzou AD Mike Alden was reconfiguring Anderson’s contract yet again, I figured that was that. The Arkansas rumors had died down but not before Anderson’s agent (who I refuse to name) had hijacked Mizzou for more money. Another offseason, another pay-raise that was earned not through exceptional performance incentives but by flirting with various job openings.
*By the way, much like Stephen A. Smith doesn’t deserve positive recognition for his “reports” about LeBron, Wade and Bosh in Miami being a done deal way before it was confirmed this past summer, this asshole anchor in Tulsa deserves no credit. He was throwing cowshit (or whatever the shit of choice is in Tulsa) at the barn and hoping it would stick. It did, but that doesn’t mean he’s less of an asshole, and it doesn’t let CBS off the hook for taking an unconfirmed story and running with it.
Oh well, I thought. That’s the cost of having a good coach. Anderson played a huge part in pulling the Tigers out of the shithole Quin Snyder left upon his exit,** so while this annual flirtation charade is old, we have to do what it takes to keep our coach and keep continuity with the program. There will always be a Georgia, an Oregon and even a dream job (for him anyway) like Arkansas. But I honestly thought Anderson was a man of his word and wanted to stay at Mizzou — a program he rescued from the abyss and built into something respectable and fun to watch (if not a true year in, year out contender yet) — for good like he said.
**For the record, I didn’t hate Quin nearly as much as most of my Mizzou fans. I think he was a better recruiter than Anderson, and he was a more talented coach. Unfortunately, Quin let drugs and hubris get the best of him, which obviously affected his performance and his rapport with his players. However, anyone who says the entire Quin Snyder era was a dark stain on Mizzou and that Mike Anderson was Mizzou’s savior is very much overstating the truth.
I was wrong. BUT, as is the case with most stories aside from Jeffrey Dahmer’s taste for flesh, this Mike Anderson story is not a simple black and white issue. On the one hand, most of us would jump at the chance to take our dream job, especially if we received a long-term contract that included a substantial pay increase (probably at least 40 percent for Anderson) loaded with sweeteners. Obviously, on the other hand, Anderson preached his loyalty to Mizzou and then apparently did an immediate about-face and preached his desire to Arkansas. Plain and simple, we Mizzou fans were played, and now a lot of us are acted like jilted lovers.
Which is understandable. And if you choose to hold a grudge against Anderson for the rest of your life for the way he handled this situation, I suppose you’re justified. He did go against his word. Personally, Anderson’s departure would have been much more palatable had he just been up front and told Mizzou and us fans that he appreciated all the school had done for him but that he couldn’t pass up an opportunity to coach the school that has played such a significant role in his life. A statement like that*** would have been in line with everything I thought Anderson stood for, which is: respectability, accountability and honesty. The way he handled this situation has shattered that Anderson Paradigm for me.
***Honestly, though, how are coaches supposed to handle these situations? Let’s say you coach School A, but School B is interested in you. If you acknowledge the rumors from B and tell A’s fanbase that you are indeed listening and interested, then A automatically accuses you of having one foot out the door and not being truly invested. If you automatically deny the rumors and say you’re not interested, then you look like a jackass when B gets serious and knocks you out with an incredible offer. If you do the “honorable thing” and “honor your contract” like so many fans demand, then you better be damn sure that you have a shit-ton of job security because once things go south, fans and the AD will turn on you, and you’ll be fired from A. After that, you’ll have to go coach at some shitty school just to even get consideration from B again, although it’s much more likely that you’ll have lost any and all leverage and awesome opportunities forever. Loyalty in sports, or the lack thereof, is a two-way street.
HOWEVER, and this is a big however (which is why it’s in CAPS!), Anderson still is not a bad guy by any means. He’s not John Calipari, who left Memphis with its pants down and dick flapping in the wind to take a monstrous contract at Kentucky. He’s not Billy Gillespie, Calipari’s predecessor, who, according to a friend, notified his Texas A&M players via text message that he was leaving College Station. He’s not Bob Huggins, who unceremoniously left K-State — which took a big risk by hiring him — after one year to jump to the Big East. Anderson helped rebuild this program for five years, gave it an identity and a brand, and left it in good standing with pretty talented players.
From what I gather, Anderson is an honorable man who probably has suffered many sleepless nights recently, whereas Calipari likely slept like a baby after he left Memphis in shambles. I think Anderson just wanted to be liked and couldn’t stand to be villainized on the way out of Mizzou Arena. So instead of getting out in front of the situation, Anderson tried to please the Mizzou faithful while his mind was in Fayetteville. I’m sure his scumbag agent and other handlers didn’t exactly give him good advice either.
Mizzou will bounce back from this minor setback just fine. We’ve made a name for ourselves, and we still have a talented core of players. We’ll bounce back. As for Anderson and this whole fiasco about his coaching future, I’ll leave you with my favorite quote from my favorite show.
It’s all in the game.