Wednesday, March 23, 2011 | 8:38 p.m. CDT;
updated 4:24 p.m. CDT, Thursday, March 24, 2011
COLUMBIA — The Mike Anderson era at MU ended Wednesday with Anderson accepting the head men’s basketball coaching position at the University of Arkansas.
After leading the Tigers for five seasons at Missouri, Anderson decided to return to the school where he was an assistant for 17 seasons. The Razorbacks announced the move Wednesday night on the program's website shortly before MU Athletics Director Mike Alden announced Anderson's decision at a news conference at Mizzou Arena.
"I want to talk about the job that Mike Anderson and his staff have done here at the University of Missouri, which has been an outstanding job," Alden said. "We've been blessed that he has been with us for the past five years."
Alden said he learned at 6:45 p.m. Wednesday that Anderson was resigning.
Alden said that until Tuesday afternoon, he felt as if MU and Anderson were working toward a contract extension and had spoken in person to him about it as recently as March 16 in Washington, D.C. But shortly after 5 p.m. Tuesday, Alden said he received a telephone call letting him know there was a request from Anderson’s agent, Jimmy Sexton, asking for permission for Anderson to speak with Arkansas.
“At 9:15 last night, coach and I had the opportunity to talk, and we did talk about that request he made,” Alden said. “He wanted to talk to me, hoping that we would grant him permission to talk with another institution. I asked him to sleep on it and we could talk about it tomorrow.
“At 12:30 this afternoon, the chancellor and myself visited with coach Anderson on a conference call and at that time, he asked us directly for permission to talk with another institution. We talked for about 20 to 30 minutes, various issues and things, and we granted that permission.”
It was at that time that Alden said he told Anderson that, if Anderson does speak with Arkansas, than any potential contract extension offers with Missouri would be terminated.
Alden said that at 6:20 Wednesday evening, Anderson called him, asking to speak with him in his office. It was at then that Anderson told him he would be resigning from his position as the Missouri men’s basketball coach and taking the job at Arkansas.
The St. Louis Post Dispatch reported Tuesday that MU agreed on a contract extension for Anderson that – if it were to be agreed upon by the university curators – would have increased Anderson’s salary from close to $1.5 million to about $2 million and added two years to his current contract (making it valid through 2018).
According to reports from Arkansas media outlets, the contract Anderson accepted stipulates that he will receive $2.2 million per year for seven years, which will mark about a $650,000 increase over his 2010-11 salary at Missouri.
Anderson did not attend the news conference, but Missouri players Marcus Denmon, Kim English and Laurence Bowers sat at the podium with Alden. Anderson spoken with his players at a 7 p.m. team meeting Wednesday at Mizzou Arena then left the stadium.
The Tigers players spoke fondly of their former coach. They said Anderson told them that the call home was too strong to resist.
"I don't feel Coach Anderson would have left here for any place other than Arkansas," Denmon said.
Arkansas dismissed its coach, John Pelphrey, on March 13 after he led the Razorbacks to an 18-13 record and a ninth-place finish in the SEC. Speculation about Pelphrey’s replacement began almost immediately.
Anderson, who was an assistant coach at Arkansas under Nolan Richardson from 1985 to 2002, was mentioned as a candidate for the position, but he reaffirmed his commitment to Missouri on March 4 and again on March 17 after the team’s loss to Cincinnati.
“I’m excited about what’s taking place at Missouri, and I plan on being at Missouri,” Anderson said. “That’s the bottom line.”
Anderson, who was hired in 2006, went 111-57 in his time with the Tigers and brought the team to the NCAA tournament for the past three years. It advanced to the Elite Eight in 2009 but lost in the second round in 2010 and in first round this season.
Before coming to Missouri, Anderson was 89-41 in four seasons at Alabama-Birmingham. Anderson was hired at UAB after being part of three Final Four trips with the Razorbacks as Richardson's assistant, including when they won the national championship over Duke in 1994 and finished as runners-up to UCLA a year later.
Following Richardson's firing in 2002, Anderson served as Arkansas' interim coach for two games. He then interviewed for the position before being passed over in favor of Stan Heath.
Heath lasted five years at Arkansas, finishing 82-71. He led the school to back-to-back NCAA appearances in his final two seasons in 2006 and 2007, but he failed to unite the fans in the wake of Richardson's firing and the subsequent discrimination lawsuit he filed over his departure.
Pelphrey struggled to do the same in his four years with the Razorbacks, with attendance in the 19,200-seat Bud Walton Arena falling to its lowest levels since the building opened. The Razorbacks averaged 17,148 in his first season and steadily fell until averaging 12,022 this season.
During its national championship season of 1993-94, Arkansas averaged 20,134. This season, the school drew a season-high 14,174 for its game against Mississippi in February.
Pelphrey finished 69-59 with the Razorbacks, though he did sign one of the top recruiting classes in the country last fall.
— Missourian reporters Joan Niesen, Nick Forrester, Ben Frederickson and The Associated Press contributed.