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Jeff Eisenberg

Oregon can save face if it lands Missouri's Mike Anderson

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Most Missouri fans went to sleep Thursday night confident that Oregon's brief flirtation with Tigers basketball coach Mike Anderson had been rebuffed.

They'll wake up to a new report that may make them uneasy once again.

According to a story in Friday's Oregonian, former Oregon athletic director Pat Kilkenny met with Anderson to discuss the job on Thursday in El Paso, site of a charity golf tournament hosted by former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson. Such a meeting would seem to discredit a Kansas City radio station's report that Anderson had already turned down a $3 million a year offer from the Ducks the previous day.

If Oregon can lure Anderson with its Nike ties, newly built arena and buckets of cash, that would salvage a clumsy coaching search that has careened aimlessly for about a month now. The Ducks and their search firm, Spencer Stuart, appear to have an exaggerated sense of self worth, having reportedly reached out to Tom Izzo, Billy Donovan, Jamie Dixon, Mark Turgeon and Brad Stevens only to be rebuffed by each.

The length of the search is especially laughable considering that Ernie Kent's demise was imminent months before his actual March 17 dismissal. It has cost Oregon more than just bad press too: Forward Drew Wiley said Wednesday he will transfer because he can't wait any longer to find out who his coach will be and elite Portland-area recruits Terrence Jones and Terrence Ross plan to announce their college choice later this month whether the Ducks have a coach or not.

Anderson may ultimately spurn Oregon too, but aside from Turgeon, he might be the only logical candidate the Ducks have been linked with so far.

He coaches a fast-paced style of basketball that is attractive to fans and recruits. He's shown the ability to revitalize programs in a hurry at Alabama-Birmingham and Missouri. And his $1.55 million-a-year salary is one the Ducks appear to be able to eclipse with ease.

Early reports were that the money wasn't enough to lure Anderson, who turned down offers from Georgia and Alabama last spring believed to be worth about $2.1 million a year. It would certainly be understandable if he did the same to Oregon considering he's got a highly touted recruiting class coming in and a Missouri program positioned to contend in the Big 12 for the next few years.

But Arizona stumbled through a coaching search last spring just as ugly as Oregon's and then somehow coaxed Sean Miller into leaving Xavier. Maybe Oregon can pull off a similar last-ditch feat.

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