COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — For the second time in just over one year, Missouri coach Mike Anderson has turned down a hefty raise and the chance to revive a moribund power conference program to remain with the Tigers.
The latest suitor was Oregon, which fired Ernie Kent a month ago after a 16-16 season and ninth-place finish in the Pac-10. Anderson confirmed Sunday that the job was his if he desired.
"We listened," he said. "I owe it to my family."
Anderson met with former Oregon athletics director Pat Kilkenny on Thursday night while in El Paso, Texas, for a charity golf tournament hosted by his mentor, former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson.
Anderson issued a statement Saturday night affirming his commitment to Missouri, but the two-day silence and the timing of the interview — Missouri hosted its year-end team banquet Sunday afternoon — raised concerns in Columbia.
Anderson just completed his fourth season at Missouri and has led the team to two consecutive NCAA tournaments after a five-year drought. He signed a seven-year, $10.85 million contract extension one year ago after leading the team to a record 31-win season that ended one game short of the Final Four.
That pay raise came soon after Georgia reportedly offered Anderson more than $2 million to lead its program. Oregon, which has tried to lure other high-profile coaches to replace Kent, was reported to be willing to pay even more, thanks to school benefactor and Nike founder Phil Knight.
Such overtures from other programs are the price of success, Anderson told reporters Sunday before the team banquet.
"There are going to be other (interested) schools," he said. "When you have success, that's what takes place."
Anderson said that all along his heart remains with Missouri. He hailed a "tremendous recruiting class" that ranks among the nation's best and includes point guard Phil Pressey of Dallas and his older brother Matt, a junior college transfer. Their father is former NBA guard and New Orleans Hornets assistant coach Paul Pressey, Anderson's former teammate and roommate at Tulsa.
"A lot of people fail to understand Mike Anderson, who he is," Anderson said. "My players are my family."
The recruiting haul also includes the nation's top-ranked junior college player, 6-foot-8 forward Ricardo Ratliffe from Central Florida Community College. He and Matt Pressey committed to Missouri the day before Anderson's Oregon interview.
Missouri was picked to finish near the bottom of the Big 12 this past season, but went 23-11 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament despite the loss of three 1,000-point scorers. Anderson's 54 wins over the last two seasons is second-best in school history.
Anderson said he doesn't expect his flirtations with other job offers to cost him back home.
"I don't think there will be any backlash," he said.
There certainly was none at the Missouri team banquet, with speakers from athletic director Mike Alden to the state's top politician praising Anderson's work. The coach received a standing ovation when introduced.
Gov. Jay Nixon, an avid basketball fan, noted how Missouri toppled Oregon twice this season: a 37-point home drubbing in early December as well as victory in keeping Anderson off the annual coaching carousel.
"It was great to be here on Dec. 5 when we defeated Oregon. And it was nice to defeat them again yesterday," Nixon said.
University of Missouri system president Gary Forsee thanked Anderson and his team for their role in lifting "the spirits of our state." From a podium overlooking the Mizzou Arena floor, he reminded Anderson of a promise he made when hired four years ago.
"We're going to hang a national championship banner in this arena," Forsee said. "And it's going to happen because of Mike Anderson."