Matt Jones is the online sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and Northwest Arkansas Newspapers.
Coaches talk down incident as 'miscommunication'
Missouri head coach Frank Haith argues a call in front of assistant coach Dave Leitao, left, and associate head coach Tim Fuller, right, during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Arkansas Tuesday, March 5, 2013, in Columbia, Mo. Missouri won the game 93-63. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)
COLUMBIA, Mo. In the second heated game between Arkansas and Missouri this season, a pair of odd confrontations between the teams' head coaches was the talk of the postgame.
Going into the second media timeout of the first half, Tigers coach Frank Haith stepped and gestured toward the Razorbacks' bench before being restrained by an assistant. ESPN cameras showed Arkansas coach Mike Anderson laughing it off moments later.
Following the game, the two men appeared to share another exchange while shaking hands. Both coaches talked down the incident following the Tigers' 93-63 win.
Anderson, the former Missouri coach who made his first trip back to Mizzou Arena, called it a misunderstanding.
“I don’t think it was much," Anderson said. "I think it was probably miscommunication probably on his part or my part. I don’t make too much about it, though.
"He and I will talk."
Added Haith: "I'm emotional and I was emotional for my team. I was encouraging my team and I think he thought I was saying something else, but I was only talking to my team."
A chorus of boos reigned throughout the arena as Anderson and his Arkansas assistants, all of which left Missouri with him, entered the arena just before tip-off and again in pregame introductions. Anderson, a former Razorbacks assistant coach for 17 years, said he had no intention of leaving the Tigers' program shortly before accepting the Arkansas job in 2011.
Anderson coached the Tigers for five seasons, leading the program to three consecutive NCAA Tournament trips after taking over amid an NCAA investigation. In 2009, he led Missouri to the Elite Eight.
He was asked extensively about his departure following the game, including if he regretted leaving for Arkansas.
"When I came in here — and people write about it, but they don’t talk about it — there was a lot of stuff taking place then," Anderson said. "And at that time, (athletics director) Mike Alden, I told him, 'Mike, I will make you look good. I will do the job. I will have it be one of the top programs in the country, one of the top 25.' I told him that. It’s going to be a brand, and that brand is that kids are going to first-class, they’re going to graduate, they’re going to do the right things on and off the court. Five years later, I think we did that, and not only that, we’re changing lives. I think we’re changing guys’ lives. That gets missed out on. It's not just basketball with me.
"So when you talk about regrets, I have no regrets about being at the University of Missouri. The people were great to me, and I thought my family and I appreciated the time we had here, and we did the best we would do. As a coach, and as a person, that’s all you can do. So I don’t what the regret’s about."
The two teams split their regular season series in their first year as conference foes. Arkansas beat Missouri 73-71 on Feb. 18 in Fayetteville.