COLUMBIA — On the telephone, the man nicknamed Big Nasty seems fairly nice.
In fact, when Corliss Williamson talks about his former assistant coach from when he played at Arkansas, he is actually pretty sweet.
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mizzou Arena
Radio: KTGR 100.5 FM/1580 AM
“I love Coach Anderson. He was a good coach as an assistant,” said Williamson, now head coach at Central Arkansas.
Williamson and Missouri coach Mike Anderson will sit on the sideline as competing coaches for the first time when No. 13 Missouri hostsCentral Arkansas on Saturday.
18 years ago, Anderson was an assistant under Nolan Richardson for the Arkansas men’s basketball team. Williamson was a freshman on the team. Over the course of three seasons, the player and the assistant helped the Razorbacks reach success that included an NCAA National Championship in 1994. By the time Williamson left Arkansas for the NBA after his junior season, he was one of the top players in the nation. He was the thirteenth player selected in the 1995 NBA Draft and played 12 years in the NBA, highlighted with a championship with the Detroit Pistons in 2004.
But before Williamson won an NBA Championship, and before Anderson became head coach at Missouri, they were both at Arkansas. The friendship started there.
“He was one of those coaches that if you needed to get extra shots in after a practice or after the game, he was there to help us,” Williamson said.
Over time, Williamson began to know Anderson off the court as well, and the two have continued to stay in touch over the years.
“I got to know the kids, watch them grow up, get a chance to see his son, Little Mike, playing for him,” Williamson said.
Watching Michael Anderson Jr. play for Missouri was special for Williamson because he can remember when “Little Mike” was ball boy for the Razorbacks. Anderson Jr. no longer plays for the Tigers, but, being a graduate assistant for Missouri, he will likely get to see Williamson on Saturday.
Mike Anderson can recall Williamson's traits as a player that might have foreshadowed his future as a coach.
“He was a student of the game. He was one of those guys that would ask questions,” Anderson said.
After moving on from Arkansas, Williamson continued to go to Anderson with his questions. The bond that grew between a young player and a young assistant coach led to the scheduling of Saturday’s game.
“Coach A and I, we talk sometimes once or twice a month. We used to keep in touch while I was playing in the NBA, and since I’ve been a coach he has been a mentor. I’ve been able to call him for advice. He calls me and checks on me,” Williamson said.
While Mike Anderson will not be offering Williamson coaching advice on Saturday, the Bears' coach hopes his team will learn by example.
In his first season as head coach of Central Arkansas, Williamson is working to adopt the same “40 Minutes of Hell” style he learned under Noland Richardson , the same style Mike Anderson brought to Missouri after he left University of Alabama at Birmingham.
“I’m trying to get us to the point where we can play the style of basketball that I played when I was at Arkansas, the way that Coach Anderson has Missouri playing now. In order for our guys to see where they’re trying to go, they have to see firsthand and experience what it is like,” Williamson said.
Williamson has good reason to buy into the theory. After all, it’s the same style of play that led his team to a national championship in his junior year at Arkansas.
“It’s a fun style to play and it’s a fun style to coach. It’s effective,” Williamson said.