Mizzou moves on from the failed Kim Anderson experiment, turns to Cuonzo Martin; is top-recruit Michael Porter, Jr. coming, too?

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I wrote THIS when Kim Anderson was hired in April 2014. I so wanted to be wrong.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t.

And, it was much worse than I ever imagined.

How bad was it?

  • TWO 13-game losing streaks
  • 0-30 in true road games
  • 2-41 away from Mizzou Arena
  • 8-46 SEC record
  • Worst win percentage (.284) in Mizzou history
  • First SEC program with three straight 20-loss seasons
  • MOST losses EVER in a season by a SEC program (24)

But that’s not all of it. Not surprisingly, attendance dropped. You have to win games, but you also have to put butts in seats. Kim Anderson did neither.

He was also overwhelmed on the recruiting trail. As a former D2 head coach (he was no Bo Ryan), and a poor staff, its no wonder it turned out how it did in recruiting. He did land two 4-star’s – KJ Walton and Jordan Barnett. Barnett, however ended up at Missouri as a transfer, coming over from Texas as a semester transfer. He was Missouri’s best player the second he stepped on campus. During Anderson’s tenure, there were 30 players (1 5-star, 5 4-stars and 24 3-stars) rated 3-star or better, and Anderson, who promised to close the borders, when hired, landed two of them – both 3-star players (Cullen VanLeer and Kevin Puryear). This in a microcosm, is why Missouri was unable to win games in Anderson’s tenure – lack of talent. I firmly believe Anderson is a solid coach, and he would have won at a higher rate with Frank Haith players than Haith himself did. But, Anderson and his staff, never would land those players. Talent plays, and it can overcome shaky coaching – even bad coaching. But nothing overcomes lack of talent, just ask Anderson and Doc Sadler. You can be the best coach in the world, but it doesn’t matter if you don’t have and you can’t get the talent.

Ironically, Anderson’s most talented roster was his first, where he inherited a Top 25 recruiting class from Frank Haith, and was able to keep them all, thanks to an assist from former Haith assistant who stayed on board with Anderson, Tim Fuller.

Unfortunately, he ran off every player that was recruited by Haith, minus graduating Ryan Rosburg, within two years. 13 players had transferred out or been dismissed. That is a full roster’s worth of scholarship players gone. It’s yet another reason in a long list of reasons, why Anderson failed. You can’t have that much roster turnover year after year and expect to win. Ironically, Missouri only lost one player from this season (below average PF Russ Woods), and Anderson expected to “be a lot better next year” as a result of having so many players returning.

But, we’ll never know and it sucks for Anderson. It was his dream job. He is, and always be a True Son. His team’s played hard and never quit, but, they just weren’t good enough. Like he said earlier this week, it’s a performance-based business, and he didn’t win enough games.

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Cuonzo Martin is the next man up for Mizzou, agreeing to a 7-year, $21 million deal earlier today.

“We are thrilled that Cuonzo is returning to the Midwest and that his family will now call Columbia home,” Mizzou Director of Athletics Jim Sterk said. “From the outset of our search, our goal was to find a coach who had demonstrated success, academically and on the court, while also sharing our values and who can help to reignite interest in Mizzou Men’s Basketball among our fan base. I believe we found all of that and more with Cuonzo and I look forward to watching him compete for championships and postseason appearances for many years to come.”

Martin, the former Purdue player and assistant, is the 19th head coach in program history. It will be the East St. Louis native’s fourth job. He coached three years each at his first three stops. In his most recent stop, Martin was 62-39 at CAL, where he made one NCAA Tournament and one NIT berth. He also coached three years at Tennessee and three at Missouri State. He made the NCAA Tournament once at Tennessee, advancing to the Sweet 16 in 2014. He is 186-121 in nine years, including a 60-44 mark in six years combined in the SEC and PAC-12

In all three situations, he entered into a rebuild, and was successfully able to do it.

At Missouri State, he inherited a team with two seniors and mostly freshmen and sophomores, going 11-20 in his first go-round, then went 50-21 the last two years, advancing to the NIT in his final year, before heading to Tennessee to take over for Bruce Pearl, who was suspended, then fired for NCAA rules infractions (ironically, he’s back in the SEC). He took over a team that was 19-15 the year before and had only a couple of seniors, went 19-15, then 20-13, and 24-13.

At Cal, he went 18-15, and has since gone 44-23 with a winning record in Pac-12 play twice.

So, why Martin – who Missouri passed over once before (albeit a different administration)?

I believe that Martin was Missouri’s third choice, although we’ll likely never know. With Wichita St.’s Gregg Marshall No. 1 (he was last time, too, even if it was unrealistic both times) and still-current Indiana coach Tom Crean as No. 2. Sources say that Missouri assistant AD Brian White, brother of Florida’s head coach Mike White, met with Crean sometime recently and it did not go well. So, it was off to Martin, whom Missouri officials met with on Sunday, and then resigned today at California following his loss to Cal St Bakersfield in the first round of the NIT (he owes Cal $1.2M).

He has ties to the Midwest and has recruited the area while a Purdue assistant and again as a head coach at Missouri State. He stuck to more regional recruiting while at Cal and Tennessee, but his relationships and the respect for him in the St. Louis area are as high as ever – although there is no guarantee that he will clean house there, but he most certainly will do better than his three predecessors. But, he’s certainly well-liked there and would have a better chance of keeping St. Louis players in-state than any Mizzou coach before him. He’s also a proven recruiter. He has landed multiple five-star recruits, including two NBA draft picks at Cal in Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb.

There’s already a ripple effect. Martin, who was considered the favorite for the Illinois job, turned it down. And now, maybe we know why. The Porter’s.

Michael Porter, a former Missouri women’s assistant, was offered a spot on Kim Anderson’s bench, but spurned it to head to the great Northwest to join friend Lorenzo Romar’s staff, ensuring that his son – the No. 1 player in the 2017 recruiting class – Porter, Jr. ended up at Washington. When it was clear Anderson’s time at Mizzou was done, Romar’s name popped up, but mainly because of the Porter’s. There was some speculation whether or not Porter, Jr signed a financial aid agreement or a letter of intent with UW in the fall. It is a pretty big difference, as a Letter of Intent binds the school and the prospect together for a calendar year. A financial aid agreement binds the school to the kid, but only becomes binding for the prospect when he shows up in class. Technically, a prospect could sign a financial aid agreement with any school that would let him and still go anywhere he wanted to go. With whispers of the Porter’s itching to return back to hometown Columbia, Mo, hype on the hometown kid playing for Missouri resurfaced. Minutes after Missouri named Martin as its next head coach, Washington announced the firing or Romar, who went 9-22 with the potential No. 1 NBA pick on the roster this year and a Top 5 recruiting class on the way. Minutes after that, ESPN’s National Director of Recruiting Paul Biancardi announced that Martin had already added Porter, Sr to his staff, pointing to Porter, Jr coming to Mizzou. Then, it was reported that the younger brother, 7-foot Jontay, will re-classify and join his brother Michael in the class of 2017.

HUGE.

Currently, Missouri has two scholarships. The Porter brothers could essentially take both of them. Martin also had four commits to Cal, so who knows what happens to them. Prior to Anderson’s “resignation,” he had one commit, 4-star Texas PG C.J. Roberts, who said he would have to wait and see who the next coach was before deciding what to do next. Hopefully he stays, and it would be a great start to the turnaround, and with Porter, Jr, they could regain relevancy, immediately. I think a good comparison would be Ben Simmons at LSU last year. They might not make the NCAA Tournament, but they would be relevant, and after these three years, that’s a start for Missouri. Now, you can’t do what LSU did, and go 2-16 in the SEC the year after (if Porter was a one and done, as expected). You have to build on it.

There’s also another Wild Card in another 5-star, Jeremiah Tilmon, a 6-10, 225-pound F/C from East St. Louis (but attended high school in Missouri) – Martin’s old stomping ground. Martin is on him, even though he was NOT recruiting them for Cal. Now, we know why. Tilmon had Missouri on his list, but is a current Illinois signee. With the recent firing of Jim Groce, he can open up his recruitment. What if Martin landed both (Porter and him)? It doesn’t take long to turn it around in basketball if you get the right coach and a couple guys who can play.

Of course it’s all speculation. As is the question on if this a destination job for Martin, or is it another stepping stone.

Many questions will be sorted out over the next couple weeks. It’s likely that there will be more fallout, such as current players leaving. That happens with coaching changes. Hopefully, Martin will replace them with better players and bring a winning tradition back to Missouri, use his St. Louis ties to recruit that area with success, and bring back fans to Mizzou Arena.

WIN. GAMES.

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3 Comments

  1. Greg Cochran

    I just hope Cuonzo Martin turns the program around. I was hoping MIZZOU would hire Tom Crean, let’s hope Martin, a native of East St. Louis will turn the program around let’s hope Cuonzo Martin doesn’t pull a Frank Haith oon the basketball program and still blame Frank Haith, and that dimwit former AD Mike Alden for Kim Anderson’s failures to the basketball program and I blame the NCAA for Kim Anderson’s failures as well.

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