MU wants Anderson to return but can't promise that he will

COLUMBIA | In at least three telephone conversations in the past 24 hours with men’s basketball coach Mike Anderson, Missouri athletic director Mike Alden has expressed his hope that Anderson will return to lead the Tigers for a fifth straight season.

But Alden told The Star before MU’s Black & Gold spring football game today that Anderson has offered no assurance that he will turn down what is believed to be an offer from the University of Oregon for a reported $2 million to $2.5 million a season.

“Mizzou is the place we want him to be,” Alden said. “We want him here. We made that clear.”

Alden said he believed MU had made that evident 11 months ago when it more than doubled Anderson’s yearly guaranteed compensation to $1.55 million in a seven-year contract that came on the heels of Anderson’s third MU team playing to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.

“Missouri’s done a lot,” Alden said. “If we just keep doing what we’re doing, that’s what we need to be doing.”

The Eugene (Oregon) Register Guard newspaper, on its website today, raised the possibility that Missouri might not be willing to raise Anderson’s compensation package less than a year after doing so the last time.

Alden declined to comment on that question today. However, talks with more than half a dozen members of MU’s academic and athletic administration, and with some influential boosters, indicated Missouri probably would not raise Anderson’s compensation in response to the Oregon situation.

The reason, several of those persons told The Star, was that to do so risked setting a precedent in which Anderson could make new salary increases a yearly request in a time when economic conditions within the University of Missouri system were spartan at best.

Several MU athletic department officials have told The Star that they expect Anderson to return to Missouri as the coach of a 2010 team that includes a projected top-10 national recruiting class.

Alden stopped short of offering that assurance, while reiterating that he certainly wanted Anderson to return and attempt to drive MU basketball to a third straight NCAA Tournament under his tenure.

Chad Moller, MU media relations director, confirmed to The Star today that Anderson had in his possession a copy of a statement school officials had prepared on Friday to be released upon Anderson’s confirmation that he would stay at Mizzou.

“We have put together a statement preparing for the best-case scenario,” Moller said.

As of noon today, Anderson had not approved its release.

Anderson remained in El Paso, Texas, early today, where he was taking part in a charity golf event organized by his mentor and former Arkansas head coach Nolan Richardson. Anderson twice Friday refused to comment when approached by print and media representatives in El Paso.

His agent, Jimmy Sexton, did not return a request for comment made by The Star.

Alden said he anticipated Anderson would return to Columbia tonight. Missouri’s basketball banquet is scheduled for Sunday.

The Oregonian reported on its website today that, according to sources at Missouri, Anderson was expected to announce his decision at Sunday's basketball banquet. But MU athletic and sports information officials told The Star today they have no indication that is the case.

The Eugene Register Guard reported today that Anderson met with former Oregon athletic director Pat Kilkenny in El Paso, that “it wasn’t a lengthy meeting,” according to an unnamed source, but one detailed enough to allow Kilkenny to outline Oregon’s proposal to Anderson.

The Eugene newspaper’s report stated that “any deal for more than $2 million in annual compensation would make Anderson the best-paid coach in the Pac-10.”

MU officials said that when Anderson signed his latest contract at Mizzou, the compensation package ranked fourth in the Big 12.