Like It is:

Anderson methodically building, his way

By: Wally Hall
Published: Wednesday, April 12, 2017
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson smiles after the Razorbacks' win over Georgia Saturday, March 4, 2017, in Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson smiles after the Razorbacks' win over Georgia Saturday, March 4, 2017, in Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

On March 23, 2011, Mike Anderson was introduced as the head basketball coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks and many, present company included, thought 40 minutes of Hades was back.

Anderson didn't bring the phrase with him when he returned, instead choosing Fastest 40, but what most folks have failed to understand is Anderson is Anderson and not Nolan Richardson.

The situations they inherited at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville were similar, though Anderson might have had it more difficult.

Richardson inherited players who were recruited before the shot clock was adopted for the 1985-1986 season. In those days, a 50-48 game was considered fun and Dean Smith's Four Corners offense was the rage.

Richardson got all he could out of that first team: The starters averaged 50.5 points per game and went 12-16.

Anderson squeezed what he could out of his first set of starters, who averaged 38.3 points per game for an 18-14 team.

Both coaches had a better chance to win the lottery than get a decent full-court press going.

Richardson's six-season record was 142-51 and Anderson's is close at 128-64, but there is still no semblance of Richardson's choke-them-to-death pace on defense, and there won't be.

It is more difficult to get kids to play defense these days. Most learn through summer basketball that their future is in the NBA, which values scoring instead of defense. Almost all believe they are going to the league.

Second, it is almost impossible to get an opponent so fatigued they become cowards, like Richardson's teams did. There are eight mandatory TV timeouts (they call them media timeouts, but yours truly has never called a timeout), and each team gets four timeouts (up to three in the second half).

TV timeouts are said to last three minutes, although it does seem at times like someone's watch is very slow. So before a coach ever calls a timeout, he knows he's got 24 minutes in a 40-minute game to let his kids get their breath back.

So Anderson, just like North Carolina's Roy Williams, picks his spots to turn the heat up, which was one of the reasons that NCAA Tournament game was so entertaining.

One area where Richardson and Anderson are very similar, and it really is the way most schools do it, is they aren't interested in one-and-dones.

That's not to say Anderson didn't try to recruit Malik Monk; he did, but he definitely didn't pout about Monk's decision because he knew he was at Kentucky for just one year, and if a team is going to have success with one-and-dones, there can't be just one on the team. That generally destroys chemistry.

The closest Richardson came to a one-and-done was Joe Johnson, who probably would have left after his freshman season but wasn't declared eligible until the second semester. Johnson entered the NBA Draft after helping the Razorbacks to two NCAA Tournament appearances.

Johnson was taken by Boston with the 10th pick in the first round of the 2001 NBA Draft and last week became the 42nd NBA player to score more than 20,000 points. He's played in 77 games for the Utah Jazz this season and averages 9.2 points per game.

There is no doubt that Richardson is one of Anderson's mentors and role models. Anderson played for him and coached under him for 20 years. But after 15 years as a head coach, with an overall record of 328-172 and eight NCAA Tournament appearances, he's earned the right to be his own man.

Anderson loses three seniors from this year's 26-10 team. They accounted for 40 percent of the scoring and 37 percent of the rebounding, and he's already looking forward to the challenge.

Sports on 04/12/2017


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