COLUMBIA — Anthony Peeler is happy for Phil Pressey, but that’s not what he wants to talk about.
After all, records are meant to be broken, and his career assists record that Pressey broke Saturday lasted more than 20 years.
Peeler, who is currently an assistant coach at Division II Virginia Union University, wanted to talk about Missouri. The former guard had a successful 13-year NBA career, but his greatest basketball memories still lie in Columbia.
One of the most versatile players that has played at Missouri, Peeler was as much of a threat on offense as he was on defense. He starred for the Tigers from 1989-1992, a stellar career that led to an All-American selection (’92), being named conference male athlete of the year (’92), scoring 1,970 points (third all-time at Missouri), and the 15th overall pick by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1992 NBA Draft.
Missouri is where his loyalties lie, though, which is why Peeler is trying to return.
As a coach.
“It would be a dream come true,” Peeler said by phone. “That’s the reason why I started coaching.”
Peeler has been coaching for six years now since he retired from the NBA in 2005. He was a head coach for two years in China, and is now in his fourth year as an assistant at Virginia Union. He says he loves coaching, not only because it allows him an opportunity to teach young players, but it also gives him an incentive.
With success, he might some day be able to return to his alma mater.
“Every day when I’m here with Virginia, that’s all they hear: Missouri this, Missouri that,” Peeler said. “They do all the drills that Missouri does. I wear a lot of Missouri stuff. They know my heart is in Missouri.”
Before coach Frank Haith was hired in April 2011, Peeler tried to get in touch with Missouri to see if there were any coaching opportunities available on the team. He never heard back, but there were no hard feelings.
Coaching, like most things in life, requires a lot of experience and support, something that he will gain with time.
“When Missouri was unsure about who they were going to hire, I had to keep going,” Peeler said. “It gave me more time to teach, learn, and get better at my craft.”
Much of that craft comes from one of his former coaches.
Peeler claims that a lot of the techniques he learned were from playing under legendary former Missouri coach Norm Stewart, and that this has made coaching easy.
Stewart, who also starred for the Tigers as a player before getting into coaching, thinks that Peeler would make a great coach.
“So many players enjoy playing the game, but understanding it and learning it is a different process,” Stewart said by phone. “Anthony understands the game. He loved to play it. He was a great player. I think he’d be an excellent coach.”
Whether or not Peeler will have an opportunity to coach at Missouri in the future remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure — coming back to Columbia is the ultimate goal.
Asked when he would like to return, Peeler laughed and responded, “yesterday.”
For now, Peeler will continue to improve his technique at Virginia Union. Regardless of what happens, his legacy at Missouri will never be forgotten.
After all, he still holds the school’s all-time record in steals with 196.
“Is anybody getting close to that?” Peeler asked, laughing.
Pressey has 174 and counting.