Monday, March 27, 2006

MU turns to Anderson; Alden hangs on


— From Truman the Tiger to pompom-shaking cheerleaders, the backdrop for Missouri's unveiling of new men's basketball coach Mike Anderson at Mizzou Arena Sunday afternoon was pure celebration.

For embattled athletic director Mike Alden - who hours earlier seemingly survived efforts to fire him - relief may be the operative word.

A grim-faced group of university leaders, joined on speaker phone by Missouri curators from across the state, spent two-and-a-half hours behind closed doors during an emergency meeting to discuss unspecified personnel matters.

The topic of discussion, according to numerous media reports, was the fate of Alden, who has been under consistent public fire since mid-February over the handling of former men's basketball coach Quin Snyder's resignation.

After the curators' meeting, system President Elson Floyd declined comment, but spokesman Joe Moore said no vote was taken. And University of Missouri-Columbia chancellor Brady Deaton, who attended the meeting, said Alden is still on the job.

Two hours later, Anderson, a former Arkansas assistant lured from the top job at Alabama-Birmingham, spoke glowingly of Alden, his new boss.


Sky Gilbar/AP Photo

Missouri basketball coach Mike Anderson addresses the media.

"I have the utmost confidence in Mike Alden," Anderson told reporters and fans. "I see some great days ahead. And it's going to be under the leadership of Mike Alden."

When he resigned in early February with six regular-season games to go, Snyder said he was forced out by Alden, receiving the news from Gary Link, a Tiger broadcaster and Alden assistant. Alden has denied that account, and two university investigations stopped short of verifying Snyder's charge.

On Sunday, Alden called the talk of his possible ouster a "distraction" that takes a back seat to the announcement of Anderson's hiring.

"My focus hasn't been on that really at all, to be honest with you," he said. "My focus has been and will continue to be on doing the best job I can possibly do as the athletic director of this institution."

Alden clearly has the support of Deaton, his boss, who before introducing Anderson hailed the athletic director for bringing the coaching search "to a successful completion."

"We cannot be any more satisfied with the outcome," Deaton said.


G.J. McCarthy/AP Photo

New Missouri men's basketball coach Mike Anderson fields a question during a news conference. Anderson was named the Tigers' coach Sunday in Columbia, Mo.

Anderson, the first permanent black head coach in a major sport at Missouri, signed a five-year contract, said Alden, who declined to immediately release the terms of the contract.

Anderson, 46, is a former assistant to Nolan Richardson at Arkansas and played for Richardson at Tulsa.

As head coach at UAB for four years, Anderson had an 89-41 record with three NCAA Tournament appearances. UAB was 24-7 this season and lost to Kentucky 69-64 in the first round of the tournament.

After Anderson's introduction, Deaton reiterated that Alden remains in his good graces.

"We're charging ahead," he said. "Mike is athletic director and has done a great job.... We couldn't be any happier."

Alden took over the Missouri athletics department in 1998 after leading the athletics department at Southwest Texas State University the previous two years.

Under his watch, the department's operating budget, $13.7 million when he took over, has nearly tripled.

And by most accounts, Alden has excelled at fundraising, a vital part of any athletics director's job. Most notably, he helped secure a $25 million donation from Bill and Nancy Laurie and $35 million in state bonds to help build the new basketball arena.

Anderson would not discuss whether he was given any assurances as to Alden's long-term future before taking the basketball job. He also declined to say whether his choice would have been different had Alden been ousted earlier Sunday.


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