Nov. 3, 2006
Columbia, Mo. -
Mike Anderson: Vision of a Champion
By Josh Fowler, Media Relations Student-Assistant
Mike Anderson has a vision. He wants to see a national championship banner in Mizzou Arena. "I think in order to have anything; you've got to have the vision." Anderson said. "My quest is to win a national championship and those things are set in place here."
Anderson can't see the future, but he's confident because he's been there before. As a player he won an NIT title at Tulsa in 1981. As an assistant head coach he won a national title at Arkansas in 1994. Recently, he took the UAB Blazers to prominence as a Cinderella story in the NCAA tournament. In the simplest terms, Anderson is a winner.
"I'm probably one of the most competitive persons you're ever going to see. And if you're in a game with me in anything, and I still play a little bit, I play to win."
Anderson said. "I'm not a good loser, let's put it that way."
With a fast-paced approach and a hallmark for pressure defense, Anderson has seen the success of his game plan at Arkansas, where it was known as '40 Minutes of Hell;' A constant assault on an opposing team's endurance. Now, Anderson brings his plan to Mizzou, where it should be faster than anything the Big 12 has ever seen.
"Our style is going to be up-tempo basketball, predicated with defense. We're going to be playing a lot of players, hopefully, and at the same time it's a lot of exciting basketball." Anderson said. "I think you'll see great defensive plays, deflections, alley-oops, guys taking charges. It's just non-stop action, it's entertaining basketball, but at the same time, it's winning basketball."
Anderson sits in his office at Mizzou Arena. Outside the window, off in the distance lies the Hearnes Center, casting a shadow of years of Mizzou basketball tradition. Anderson sees himself as the next step in that tradition, and his style matches the history as Tiger teams of the past.
"When you think traditionally, especially some of the teams that have played here in the past, during the Norm Stewart era, it was about defense. They were real tough, feisty, defensive-minded teams. And that's something we want to bring back." Anderson said. "We want to attack you on defense and on offense. We want a team that's going to play together and play an unselfish brand of basketball."
He's part Norman Dale from Hoosiers, and part Bill Cosby. He's a basketball disciplinarian, a natural born leader, a motivator, and a compassionate father with a sense of humor. Anderson sees his team as nothing short of immediate family.
"I'm very family oriented, even as we talk about our basketball team." Anderson said. "They are a part of my family. It helps create cohesiveness on and off the floor. So far I think our guys have worked extremely hard and I think they're excited about what's going to take place."
Anderson may be a father to many all the time, but when practice starts and the whistles come out, Anderson turns into that hard-nosed fundamental coach you'd see in movies. And just like in the movies, he's got his team up at 5:30 a.m., for conditioning.
"I think in anything, in order to be successful, you have to pay a price." Anderson said. "If you can get through the workouts, then I think once you get to practice and get into that mode of practice, it's a piece of cake. The games are going to be fun, if you can just get through that. And I think that's what `40 Minutes' is all about."
This year's Mizzou squad returns just eight players from last season's 12-16 club. With a new style of play, and a new coach, Anderson is rediscovering this year's team.
"Right now I still don't know what we have. I think it's going to be like a box of Cracker Jacks when you open it up, it will be like `Surprise!' and I hope that surprise is good." Anderson said.
Anderson has a few surprises for fans and for Mizzou's opposing teams. A genuine people person, Anderson has already made dozens of visits around the state. Regardless of whom he's talked to, Anderson says that he senses the same feelings among fans.
"People want that pride back. I think they're thirsty for things to take place. They want it to happen. Being a new coach is kind of like being on your honeymoon. I'm undefeated so I'm a real popular guy right now."
He's a popular guy on the phone as well. While sitting in his office, Anderson's cell phone rings. "Hello!" he says. "Yes Sir, are you en route? Just stay on 44."
The man on the other end of the line is Anderson's mentor, former Razorback coach Nolan Richardson; The Godfather and innovator of `40 Minutes Of Hell' and championship basketball at Arkansas. "He's coming down for Mizzou Madness, and a few practices." Anderson said.
After spending 17 years under Richardson, Anderson is ready. He's ready to quench this state's basketball thirst and return the Tigers to the nostalgic time when NCAA tournament bids and conference titles were a common sight in Columbia.
On his right hand rests a ring that seems bigger than a golf ball. In the middle of the ring, surrounded by diamonds are three raised green letters: `UAB.' Down the sides are the phrases "Sweet Sixteen" and "Conference Champs," two phrases Mizzou hasn't heard in a while.
The ring represents Anderson's second UAB team that went to the `Sweet Sixteen' three years ago by shocking the world and No. 1-seeded Kentucky. It was Anderson's coming-out party as one of America's up-and-coming head coaches.
"Hold on a second," he says. He reaches into his bag and pulls out another ring, slightly older and just as large. With a gigantic red `number 1' on the front, it doesn't have to say anything else. The ring reminds everyone who the champ is, stating proudly on one side, "University of Arkansas Razorbacks - National Champions 1993-1994."
This golden ring represents Anderson's quest - his vision - He wants one for Mizzou. "Turn it to the other side" he says, in an almost playful way. "Does it say '40 minutes of hell on it?" It does. Anderson smiles.
He has a vision; of championship banners, a packed arena and of the Big 12's most feared team, running roughshod over the competition. And although he doesn't call it '40 Minutes of Hell' anymore, when opponents come to Mizzou Arena, they should know exactly what they'll be getting.