NASHVILLE, TENN. — It came roughly 24 hours later than most expected, but it came none the less.
A night after a thrilling comeback overtime win against Auburn, Missouri’s 86-74 loss to Ole Miss in the second round of the SEC Tournament marked the end of Kim Anderson’s three-year run as the Tigers head coach.
The numbers speak for themselves: A dreadful 8-46 conference record and just 27 wins in 95 games at Missouri.
But that doesn’t make it any easier to say goodbye for a man who clearly loves the Missouri basketball program that he played for 40 years ago and poured his heart and soul into trying to rescue from a tough situation when he inherited it as a coach in 2014.
“I think we did some good things,” an emotionally drained Anderson said in the moments following the loss to Ole Miss. “We just didn’t win enough games and we didn’t generate enough money. And when you don’t do that in college athletics, you don’t get to keep your job. And I’m not bitter. I certainly understand that.
“If you were to ask me ‘When did you know that you were going to get fired,’ I would have said probably the first day I got the job. Because there was a lot of challenges that had to be met. And we met them and did a pretty good job, but we just didn’t win enough games.”
That was one of the constants in Anderson’s final address as the team’s leader. He believes the team is in a better place than when he inherited it, no matter what the wins and losses may indicate.
“I certainly hope that– for whoever the coach is– that we have provided a little bit of a building block for them or whatever,” he said. “I maintain when I was hired it was pretty much asked of me to stabilize this program. And it took a while. And obviously it took too long, but I’m proud of what we’ve done and I know there’s a lot of people out there that aren’t. But there’s no one out who has sat in my shoes for the last three years and no one out there knows the challenges we’ve had. You guys don’t know it. No one knows it but me.
“I’m not trying to be a martyr or anything like that, but I think when I walk out of here and when I leave, we did some good things.”
“I was proud of the way we hung. I’ve been proud all year. We just couldn’t get back below 10. Again, proud of these guys. Proud of their effort last night and tonight. Not sure we had a full tank of gas and we just struggled again.”
Anderson, who joked about getting his first technical foul of the season during his final game, addressed his team in the locker room when it was all over. He said it was emotional, and the players seemed to reflect that. Terrance Phillip was visible emotions, and Kevin Puryear struggled for the words to describe what it was like being in that locker room for a final time with Coach Anderson.
“He said that he was happy that he had the opportunity to live out his dream and coach us. It was emotional,” Missouri’s Kevin Puryear said. “It’s never easy saying goodbye.”