The University of Missouri introduced Mike Anderson as its new head basketball coach on Sunday, over a month after Quin Snyder stepped down. Anderson comes to MU after four seasons at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, where he led the Blazers to three straight NCAA Tournament appearances. In 2003-2004 Anderson, who is a Birmingham native, led UAB to the Sweet 16. This season, they were 24-7 and were bounced in the first round of the tournament by Kentucky.
Anderson employs the same up-tempo, full-court defense style popularized by his former boss, Nolan Richardson. “40 minutes of hell”, as it was known, helped lead the Arkansas to the 1994 National Championship. UAB was third in the nation in steals this past season.
That kind of basketball doesn’t just happen. Anderson admitted that it won’t be an easy process, saying, “We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.” But he doesn’t see it as an impossible task. “If I can go to UAB and get them guys turned to playing that kind of basketball, surely we can get these guys on the right track at Missouri.”
But do the remaining players want to be in Columbia and play for Anderson. Thomas Gardner has already announced that he wants to go pro and other players have made noise that they might transfer. Anderson isn’t concerned.
“When Quin left, of course, (it’s like) the daddy is gone. They don’t know what’s going to take place,.” Anderson said. “Well now there’s a little light at the end of that tunnel. Now it’s my job as the coach, now, to make sure I can reach out to them and let them know, ‘Hey we’re gonna be OK.’ “.
To say that Nolan Richardson was an influence on Anderson is an understatement. Anderson played two seasons under Richardson at Tulsa and then became a volunteer assistant for him in 1982. When Richardson left for Arkansas in 1985, Anderson followed and remained in Fayetteville, until accepting the head coaching position at UAB.
Anderson is no stranger to MU basketball. In the 80’s and 90’s the Tigers and Razorbacks squared off in 10 straight seasons beginning in the 1988-1989 campaign. Arkansas won seven of those ten meetings, taking the last six.
“When I think about Missouri basketball I think about Norm Stewart in the same sentence,” Anderson said, “I always remembered how tough, how hard-nosed his teams were.”
Anderson has a career coaching mark of 89-41 and has never missed the post-season as a head coach—UAB advanced to the NIT in 2003, before three consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament. In his 24 seasons as a head coach and assistant coach, only two teams he has been associated with have ever missed the post-season.
There is some social significance attached to Anderson’s hiring. He is the first African-American, full-time head coach, of any sport, at the University of Missouri. For some, this may be an important facet of Anderson’s arrival, but he takes a less-historical approach. “I think Mike Alden, he went out and hired the best qualified coach for this position and that happened to be me. And I guess I happen to be black.”
But Anderson isn’t naïve enough to think that some may put extra pressure on him for being black and on Athletic Director Mike Alden, who hired him. He went through a similar situation at UAB, where he was also the school’s first African-American coach. At that time he reassured then-Athletic Director Herman Frazier, who is also black, that he made the right move. “I told him at that point, ‘Hey, I’m gonna make you look good.’”
While a trip back to the NCAA tournament and challenging for a Big 12 championship would please a lot of Tiger fans right now, Anderson has set his sights a little higher.
“My quest is to win a national championship. I can get it done here.”