Mike Anderson coached 168 Missouri basketball games. On Saturday, he'll coach in another one. But this time, Anderson will be on the opposing sideline.
On March 23rd, 2011 Anderson was named the head coach at Arkansas, where he had spent 17 seasons as an assistant to Nolan Richardson.
"I would like to thank Athletic Director Mike Alden, Chancellor Brady Deaton and Deputy Chancellor Michael Middleton for their support during my five years at the University of Missouri," Anderson said in a release from Arkansas that night. "I am also grateful to the student-athletes, coaches, staff, students and the Tiger fans that were a part of helping us bring winning basketball back to the University of Missouri. Together, we enjoyed tremendous success. My family and I will always be thankful for the opportunity we had to be at the University of Missouri."
For the most part, that was all Tiger fans heard from Anderson as he exited stage left for Fayetteville. But Missouri's move to the Southeastern Conference became official on July 1, 2012, Anderson and Mizzou basketball were once again on a collision course.
"Playing Missouri and playing against some of my former players and not only that they're in my family, and so, that's gonna be the hardest part when you talk about competition is guys that you brought in and you've seen them have some tremendous success," Anderson said this week. "At the same time, we'll see when that time comes. I think more than anything else, it's Arkansas versus Missouri. I always put things in perspective and that's what you're gonna see."
There are some mitigating factors in this reunion. First of all, the game is in Fayetteville. There will be no loud greetings, rude or otherwise, from Missouri fans for their old coach in a road game. Second, only two Tigers who were recruited by or played for Anderson are on this Mizzou team.
"I haven't thought about it yet," Phil Pressey said. "It's gonna be a fun game. I haven't seen him in a while. It's gonna be fun to see him again."
Pressey had perhaps the deepest roots with Anderson of any Tiger. His father, Paul, was Anderson's roommate when the two were at Tulsa together. He and older brother Matt, who finished his Missouri career after last season, grew up calling Anderson "Uncle Mike." Arlyn Bowers, the uncle of current Tiger Laurence Bowers played for Anderson and Richardson at Arkansas.
"He'll send me text messages and stuff just to check on me. Like I tell anybody, it goes beyond basketball," Laurence said. "He's been close with the family, whenever I have a good game, he'll text me, stuff like that. We keep in touch."
Pressey, too, says he has kept in touch with Anderson since the coach's departure from Columbia.
"Emotions are going to be high, definitely, especially for Phil and myself playing against our former coach," Bowers said. but we're just going to treat it like every other game. It's going to take a whole team effort. Me and Phil aren't going to try and do anything out of character. We're going to try to get a win."
"There will probably be some emotion on their part," Anderson said. "I've gotten a chance to see them, haven't seen them in person play, but very aware of what they're capable of doing and what they've done in their careers at the University of Missouri."
Bowers won 46 games with Anderson as his coach at Missouri, Pressey 23. The anger from Tiger fans has not yet faded. But the only two Tigers who ever played for him have moved past any raw emotion that may have been evident on that March evening when Anderson left Mizzou Arena for the final time.
"I honestly believe he brought in one of the best classes and I'm not saying that because I'm in it," Bowers said. "I feel like Mizzou basketball was kind of on the downward side. Coach Anderson brought in that 08 class and I think we kind of turned it around a little bit. I think that class I think he did a great job with that class. he had a winning record here. He did some great things."
The Tigers just hope he doesn't have anything great in store for them on Saturday.
"My uncle Arlyn he played there so it's a chance for him to go back, although I think he's gonna be," Bowers said before hesitating. "Well, he BETTER be rooting against them."
The Tigers and Razorbacks tip off at 3 p.m. Saturday. PowerMizzou.com will provide Instant Analysis and coverage throughout the night from Fayetteville.
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