Dear former-Missouri-head-basketball-coach-turned-Arkansas-head-basketball-coach Mike Anderson:
We get it. You love Arkansas. Arkansas is familiar and makes you feel like yourself and it’s home. Coaching at Missouri was kind of like dating the best friend of the girl you really love. She’s a lot like your true love; she’s close, but not quite “the one.” She’s good enough while you wait for the girl you really love to wake up, realize your true worth, and give you the time of day. She’s close enough to the real thing that you really do like her a lot, but still feel pretty OK about stringing her along, too. After all, she’s not “the one.”
We get that. I get that. We understand that you and Arkansas have this special bond that you’ll just never have with Missouri. I understand that 17 years in Fayetteville is a long time and you have roots there. I understand the money was better, the people want you there, and the fact that the Hogs have won a national championship before brings in 4-star recruits. I get it.
I even get that this is the way the business works. Most coaches don’t stay at one school for the majority of their careers. There was always an understanding in the back of every Missouri fans’ mind that one day Mike Anderson would leave. And I’m fairly sure most of us had an inkling it would be for Arkansas. It’s just part of the business. Good coaches attract attention. And they move to different universities and different programs. It’s sad that players get deserted and hurt in the process, and I hate that for Mizzou’s team, but it really is simply part of college basketball. The reality is that Missouri will lure a coach away from his team in the very near future.
What I don’t get, Mike Anderson, is the way you handled this whole mess.
Because I like you. I really like you. I like like you. I thought you were a man of character and principle who modeled the same for his team and called them to a higher standard in the classroom, in conduct, and on the court. And I, unlike some Mizzou fans I’ve seen posting in various places across the Internet in the last few days, remember the mess that Quin Snyder left and the way you worked to restore the program’s honor and respectability. I will always respect you for that.
Plus, you got us into the NCAA tournament three years in a row and even led the Tigers to an appearance in the Elite Eight in 2009. That’s one game away from the Final Four and that’s something to be proud of.
But then came this whole debacle and the will-he/won’t-he controversy of the past week. Like a boyfriend who’s been accused of cheating, you acted offended and claimed you wanted to retire at Missouri when the first whiffs of the Arkansas offer being more than gossip began to surface. You promised key recruits you would be there next year. You went oddly silent when a simple “yes,” “no,” or “I’m thinking about it” to the media would have at least symbolized a modicum of respect for the players, fans, and boosters who have supported you, respected you, defended you, and stood behind you.
I guess what I’m saying is that you handled this break-up all wrong. We could have parted on mutual terms, with all the respect and honor you had earned during your tenure at Missouri still intact. But it appears ever more clear (or at least it feels like it to those who thought so much of you) that you lied to us. And you lied to recruits. But most of all, you had promised your players that they would be the first to know if you were leaving—and instead of doing that, you let the rumors and news stories and “sources close to Anderson” do everything but shout the news from the mountaintop. You had an opportunity to be a man of your word, and you didn’t take it.
Quite frankly, you’ve left a lot of loyal Mizzou fans and Mike Anderson supporters wondering if you were really the man we thought you were.
The way you handled this last week may have tarnished forever what had been a good relationship, one that could have ended with mutual respect, admiration, and best wishes.
Your break-up skills could use some work. Or at least the tiny bit of common decency and the respect a university who has treated you so well deserves.
But as I said to a friend on Tuesday or early Wednesday when the rumors were still circulating, I liked you. And I still do. But at the end of the day, you’re just a man, and you’re just a coach. You restored the respectability of a program that had been tarnished, but you haven’t been able to get us to that next level—and this year’s disappointing season proves it—and maybe someone else can. Someone else is going to get the chance to develop Missouri into the kind of basketball program it really could be—and you bailed on that exciting opportunity. With the $2 million we so publicly threw at you trying to keep you in a relationship you’d obviously checked out of, we can get a coach who really does understand us.
Obviously, Arkansas is your first love. You weren’t the man for us. But someone will be—and you’ll have to watch it all from across the state line.
Thank you for all the good things you did for Mizzou’s basketball program (and there are many) and best of luck.
A tried-and-true Mizzou fan who’s just a bit disappointed in you