The Mike Anderson era at Missouri has been officially over for less than an hour, but already, Missouri fans are in desperate search for an obituary that clearly defines his legacy. And as the Anderson-to-Arkansas affair has twisted and turned throughout the last five days, Tiger fans have progressed through the first four stages of the Kübler-Ross model of grief.
Denial, anger, bargaining and depression have all come into play. As of Wednesday night, acceptance is officially on the horizon.
Anderson's legacy is still a matter of debate, but this much is sure: Mike Anderson was not the savior of Missouri basketball. But that statement shouldn't devalue what he accomplished in five years.
Anderson was no savior. Instead, he was the national guard. The basketball program he was called upon to salvage five years ago was the NCAA equivalent of a disaster area. The Quin Snyder reign left nothing but wreckage and debris. Not only did Anderson face the task of building a winning program, he faced the task of winning a public relations battle in a community that had zero respect for the players on his roster.
His wins on the court came simultaneously with his wins in the community, a fact that is oddly more correlation than causation than one might think. He built trust with the people of Columbia, Missouri, which is why the biggest question about Anderson's time at Missouri was not what he accomplished in staying at Mizzou, but what he accomplished in leaving.
Whether it is just or unjust (and that is a debate that will rage far beyond the walls of SB Nation), Missouri fans feel burnt by Anderson's departure. Fans will cite that Anderson was all about the money, though he previously turned down two more lucrative offers during his time at Missouri than the one he accepted at Arkansas. He leaves behind the recruiting class of 2008, a group of Kim English, Marcus Denmon, Laurence Bowers and Steve Moore that was indelibly and inextricably linked to Anderson.
Given due time, Anderson's era should be remembered fondly. His 111-56 record at Missouri meets or exceeds the reasonable expectations for success that awaited him upon arrival. But perhaps most importantly, he left the Mizzou basketball program well ahead of where it was when he found it. Under Anderson, the Tigers went from nothing to something.
Mike Anderson didn't finish rebuilding a house in the disaster zone that was Mizzou basketball. And though he never reached the goals set he set for himself, if Missouri ever finishes the job, it may have Mike Anderson to thank for its foundation.