COLUMBIA — You can count two legendary former coaches in the list of people in support of Mike Anderson after Missouri’s most recent off-the-court issues.
Former Missouri coach Norm Stewart and former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson said they approve of the Missouri coach’s handling of the basketball team in the past week.
Anderson suspended five players on Tuesday for a fight outside Athena Night Club last weekend left one player with a broken jaw. Missouri played with only eight available players in Wednesday’s loss to Nebraska, which was in last place in the Big 12 Conference at the time.
“That was absolutely what I would have done,” said Richardson, who coached Anderson at Tulsa and then had him as an assistant for 20 years at Arkansas and Tulsa, via telephone from his home in Fayetteville, Ark., on Friday.
After talking to police on Friday, one player, Jason Horton, was arrested and two of the players, Marshall Brown and Leo Lyons, were reinstated Saturday for Missouri’s 77-74 win over Kansas State.
“I don’t worry about what coach Anderson is doing,” said Stewart, who was honored for his induction into the University of Missouri Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame at halftime of Saturday’s game. “He’s doing great.”
Stewart wouldn’t say how he would have handled the situation.
“You never know,” Stewart said. “But I support Mike and what he’s doing.”
Both former coaches said they had talked to Anderson since last Sunday but neither said that he told Anderson what to do.
“I don’t have to question his feelings because he knows that because of those things (similar decisions while at Arkansas) we became a better program,” Richardson said. “Maybe not a better season, but a better program. That’s the bottom line.”
So far fans seem to be buying into that logic too. The crowd has been overly supportive in Missouri’s last two games, more so than it has been all season, and fans on Internet message boards have been mostly supportive as well.
“I think he has dealt with the whole situation the best he would know how to deal with a situation of that nature,” Richardson said. “I think that he’s got to prepare the university not for a season, but the preparation is for many seasons. And sometimes you have to do things that many coaches would not have done.”
Stewart said he thinks the fans’ opinions are “in unison”.
“I think everybody is in support of what Mike Anderson has done since he got here and what he’s doing now,” Stewart said.
As for Anderson himself, Richardson said Anderson never really lets people know what he is thinking, which makes him a better coach.
“The thing about Michael, you never could tell when he was down or when he was up,” Richardson said. “He kind of kept his head up. He worked extremely hard. All that does is make him a stronger person, a stronger coach in figuring out how too operate, how to win with less talent. All those things will come as a blessing in disguise. I don’t see him panicking or letting anyone know exactly how he feels.”
Richardson said he thought the Tigers had “turned a corner” after converting a close game into their first road win of the season on Jan. 26 at Colorado. After Saturday’s win over Kansas State, Missouri might have picked up right where it left off.
“Tell the fans to have some patience and Michael will deliver.” Richardson said.