This is the story of two men, separated by age, skill-set and background, and how the divergent strings of life can tie us all together.
Back in 2001, Kim Anderson was an assistant commissioner for the Big 12 Conference helping the league office oversee men’s basketball. Part of his duties took him to Stillwater, where he met with legendary coach Eddie Sutton and his staff – which included a lowly graduate assistant named Wren Baker.
From there, Anderson left the Big 12 to take the head coaching job at Central Missouri, where he would cross paths with Baker again, then as conference rival Northwest Missouri State’s athletics director – this is after Baker did a stint as the youngest high school principal in the state of Oklahoma – and the former gave advice to the latter about how to rebuild a struggling program.
Then their paths intertwined again. Baker eventually left Northwest Missouri State for a deputy AD job at Memphis and stayed Mack Rhoades, freshly hired away from Houston to serve as Mizzou’s AD, tapped Baker to serve as his deputy. While running external relations for the Tigers’ athletics department, part of Baker’s duties is to oversee the men’s basketball program.
A men’s basketball program that is in the process of a rebuild, with a new head coach hired three weeks before Baker’s arrival last month. That head coach happens to be a former Big 12 assistant commissioner and Central Missouri head coach.
Anderson, 60, now runs a program overseen by Baker, a man 24 years his junior. And, as Baker told the Columbia Tribune, their relationship at Missouri is in solid hands because it got off to the right start 400 miles, 15 years and two jobs ago, back when Baker was a lowly graduate assistant that could do nothing to help the elder, more established Anderson.
“I always say, ‘If you want to see someone’s true character, watch how they treat the graduate assistants,’ ” Baker said. “He didn’t treat me any different than he did Coach Sutton. He knew my name, knew my background, would always come over and ask me how I was doing and talk to me. That just makes a huge impression on you when you’re in a position like I was in.”
The coaching profession loves to stress to young and aspiring coaches to always be on, because they’ll never know when a potential boss is evaluating them for a hypothetical position on a future staff. But, as the relationship of Baker and Anderson shows, the reverse is just as true.