COLUMBIA — Instead of referring to Missouri men’s basketball coach Mike Anderson as “Coach A” like the rest of the players, two new players are used to calling Anderson “Uncle Mike.”
Brothers Phil and Matt Pressey have referred to Anderson that way ever since their father was Anderson’s roommate during college. Phil Pressey, a freshman, and Matt Pressey, a junior, are both guards for the Tigers and have known Anderson for as long as they can remember.
Phil and Matt’s father, Paul Pressey, who was selected 20th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1982 NBA Draft, played with Anderson in college on a Tulsa team that won the 1981 National Invitation Tournament Championship under coach Nolan Richardson. Before playing at Tulsa, Paul Pressey had played for Western Texas College and Anderson for Jefferson State College, and they played against each other in the junior college national championship game that Western Texas won. Paul Pressey went on to play 11 seasons in the NBA with Milwaukee, San Antonio and Golden State, and he is currently an assistant coach for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Today, Anderson and Paul Pressey keep in touch, both as friends and because Paul Pressey is the parent of two of Anderson's players. Anderson even went so far as to say Paul Pressey is "like a brother" to him.
“When your (college) roommate’s kids start playing for you, that’s hard, that means you’re getting up there (in age),” Anderson said. “But it’s amazing how that full circle goes. I knew these kids before they were even born. Needless to say, they are very good basketball players and good people.”
It’s also been hard for Phil and Matt Pressey, not so much adjusting to the uptempo style Missouri plays, but rather figuring out what to call their old family friend who is now their new coach.
“They called me ‘Uncle Mike,’ ” Anderson joked. “I had to convince these guys I’m not ‘Uncle Mike.’ This is my job, this is what I do.”
Phil and Matt Pressey said now they call Anderson “Coach A” just like every other player on the team does.
“It’s kind of out of me now,” Matt Pressey said. “Coach let me know as soon as I got here, even though he knows me, that it’s all about business.”
Paul Pressey said that growing up, his sons would call Anderson “Uncle Mike,” but that changed when Anderson came to recruit them.
“They always looked at him as Coach, but he’s ‘Uncle Mike,’ you know?" he said. "They always looked at him as a family member. But during the recruiting process, it was down to business. My kids realized that it was a different type of relationship during then.”
The Pressey and Anderson families used to take vacations together when the brothers were growing up, and the brothers would go to Anderson’s camps while he was coaching at Alabama-Birmingham and Arkansas. Because they have known each other for so long, Anderson considers the Pressey brothers to be family.
“A lot of people said when DeMarre (Carroll) and Mike Jr. left, ‘Coach, you don’t have any family left, now what’s going to happen?’ ” Anderson said. “Well, now I have two more. They understand me, they understand this program, and they want to take it to higher heights.”
Phil and Matt Pressey are two of the highlights of Anderson’s 2010 recruiting class that Rivals.com ranked No. 6 in the nation. Phil Pressey is one of the best recruits Anderson has had in his five years at Missouri, with ESPN ranking him as the No. 42 overall recruit in last season's class. Meanwhile, Matt Pressey was named as a first team National Junior College Athletics Association All-American last season.
As highly sought-after recruits, Anderson had to beat out several top programs to bring the brothers to Missouri. Arizona, Connecticut and UCLA were interested in Phil Pressey, and Texas A&M, Iowa State and Gonzaga were looking at Matt Pressey. Anderson and Paul Pressey said the family's relationship helped.
“(My relationship with Anderson) is always going to be what it is (no matter where Phil and Matt went),” Paul Pressey said. “My kids were being recruited by all the different schools, but because of our relationship in the past, I knew that there was no doubt that Mike would take care of my kids as well as to teach them to grow into young men."
Anderson said knowing Paul Pressey so well helps put Paul Pressey's wife, Elizabeth, at ease about where her children are going to school.
“They are the two happiest parents because they get to see their kids play together,” Anderson said. “I know what I’m getting in terms of what kind of kids they are, their character, where they’re coming from. And they know what kind of person I’m going to be with their kids. I think for a parent, that’s an excellent deal.”
Missouri plays an athletic, high-tempo style, and the brothers, especially Phil Pressey, look like a good fit for the system. Phil Pressey was a YouTube sensation in high school, at 5 feet 10 inches, able to jump and dunk over players that were sometimes a foot taller than him.
“It’s interesting, you see all those YouTube’s, and those clips, and some of those clips are done by the guys they’re about,” Anderson said. “I wonder sometimes if the goals are nine feet, 10 feet tall, I don’t know. It’s amazing though.”
Anderson said that for right now, he loves having his old teammate's children playing for him. It might change if they don’t play as tough as he would like.
“I like them right now, but I may not be saying that a month from now,” Anderson said.
The Pressey brothers will be in action for the first time in a Mizzou uniform at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Mizzou Arena during a practice that is open to the public. They will also play Oct. 28 at Mizzou Arena in the annual Black vs. Gold game.