ST. LOUIS – Billed as "The Fastest 40 Minutes in College Basketball," Missouri never quite became a must-see team in five seasons under Mike Anderson.
The search began Thursday for Anderson's replacement, and for someone who can build more excitement at a school that's coming off its third straight NCAA tourney bid but seemed to regress this season after briefly cracking the Top 10. Missouri was 23-11 and especially vulnerable away from Mizzou Arena with a 1-7 Big 12 road record, limped in as an 11th seed, and quickly bowed out against Cincinnati.
Athletic director Mike Alden believes Missouri is a destination hire, and wants the new coach to feel that way, too. That didn't always seem to be the case with Anderson, who had flirtations with Georgia in 2009 and Oregon in 2010 before saying yes to Arkansas on Wednesday.
Alden has a history of hiring coaches from mid-major schools who've been assistants at the Division I level. Football coach Gary Pinkel was a longtime assistant at Washington under Don James before enjoying solo success at Toledo, women's basketball coach Robin Pingeton was at Iowa State before making a name at Illinois State, and of course Anderson was Nolan Richardson's right-hand man for 17 seasons at Arkansas before climbing the ladder at UAB and Missouri.
Among potential early candidates are three coaches with area ties: Matt Painter of Purdue, Cuonzo Martin of Missouri State and Ben Jacobson of Northern Iowa. The latter two fit the mid-major profile while Painter is a former assistant and head coach at Southern Illinois.
Missouri has hired an outside firm to assist in the coaching search, just as the school did before hiring Anderson. Alden wants someone who can recruit nationally and keep the program's graduation rate high.
Left unsaid was whether a school that offered Anderson a deal averaging $2 million a year would be ready to spend that amount on the next coach. Alden did not return a telephone message from the AP on Thursday. School spokesman Chad Moller said Alden would be "incommunicado" until the coaching search was completed.
"I just think we have to identify the person out there that identifies with the characteristics I talked about earlier," Alden said Wednesday. Wherever that person comes from, we need to make sure it's the right fit.
"This isn't a basketball coach, this has to be a representative of our institution."
Anderson's introductory news conference at Arkansas is scheduled for Saturday.
Given Missouri had a junior-laden team, it's unlikely that many players will transfer. One prime possibility might be freshman guard Phil Pressey, the son of former NBA player and Anderson teammate Paul Pressey.
Junior Matt Pressey, Phil Pressey's older brother, was a backup this year.
"I can't speak for those guys," junior guard Kim English said. "They both love it here but they'll talk with their families and decide what to do."
Sophomore guard Michael Dixon tweeted "Ima Missouri Tiger 4 Life" on Wednesday, not long before Anderson's departure became official.
Missouri won 77 games in Anderson's final three seasons, the best three-year stretch in school history, and made it to the Elite Eight in 2009. The Tigers were 14-1 and ranked ninth after whipping North Alabama in late December, but lost five of their last six.
Throughout the season the team appeared undisciplined with players often cranking up ill-advised shots while disregarding game situations. Missouri was unbeaten at home before losing to Kansas in the finale, but aside from that game and a few others there were thousands of no-shows at home games.
Fans typically tried to beat the traffic home even if the outcome was in doubt.
Junior guard Laurence Bowers said Anderson's decision was tough to swallow, given he's known the coach "almost my whole life."
"Hopefully we can get somebody good that can take this senior leadership to the promised land," Bowers added.