COLUMBIA – Publicly, Mike Anderson operates within a set of self-imposed borders that he refuses to cross.
He doesn’t unleash fiery rants during press conferences that can make reporters regret asking their questions, like Kansas State’s wide-shouldered Frank Martin.
Colorado (12-14, 3-9 Big 12) at Missouri (20-7, 8-4)
WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday
WHERE: Mizzou Arena
RADIO: KFRU/1400 AM
TV: Fox Sports Midwest
He rarely criticizes individual players, something Texas Tech’s Pat Knight does freely during the Big 12 Conference’s weekly teleconference.
And he seems to keep his most candid thoughts to himself, unlike most coaches in a conference not at all lacking for outspoken and brutally honest bench-patrolling personalities.
Instead, Anderson prefers to maintain a relatively tight seal around the inner workings of the Missouri men’s basketball team, causing him to come across as soft-spoken and gentle. But ask his players and you’ll get a completely different description.
“He seems calm to everybody else, but inside of the team, in practice and in the games, in the huddles, he’s a mad man,” forward Laurence Bowers said.
Sometimes Anderson’s strategy is pounding his players’ eardrums, like he did to Zaire Taylor for failing to stop Nebraska’s Ryan Anderson from draining five first-half 3-pointers during Missouri’s (20-7, 8-4 Big 12) most recent win Saturday. Other times it’s getting under their skin, a tactic that helped inspire Marcus Denmon to a career-high 24-point outburst against Nebraska after three straight quiet games.
Keeping his criticism and most frank comments private, Anderson has a calculated way of delivering messages that varies for each player.
“Depending on what player he’s talking to, he definitely knows how to get inside their head and get the best out of them,” guard J.T. Tiller said. “He can be loud with you and scream at you and yell at you if that’s what you need, (or) just say something really quick.”
Like when he told Tiller during games against Baylor and Kansas last year that those teams had the best guards in the Big 12. “He was like, ‘If they’re not, prove me wrong,’” Tiller said.
“He motivates you by saying little stuff that he knows is going to piss you off but that’s going to make you go out there and play a lot harder,” Bowers said.
Bowers, like Taylor and Denmon on Saturday, has learned to answer personal jabs from Anderson.
“There’s been instances that he’s called me soft,” Bowers said. “He’d say, ‘Bowers, you get pushed around a lot.’ And I just go out there and try to respond to it.”
Tiller said Anderson knows where to push his players and how far to take it, though his prodding is well-intentioned. It’s a side seen only by those within the team, who know there’s more to Anderson than the reserved and unruffled man he appears to be.
“He comes out of his comfort level if he knows that’s what he has to do to win a game,” Tiller said.