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Mike Anderson returns to Missouri to play the team he left

Tuesday, March 5, 2013 | 11:41 p.m. CST; updated 12:01 a.m. CST, Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson leaves the court after the first half during a game against Missouri on Tuesday at Mizzou Arena. Missouri beat Arkansas 93-63.

COLUMBIA — The house he used to live in was bare.

The driveway was vacant, the lights were off, the blinds were shut, the steps that led to his front door were covered in a four-inch sheet of snow.

The house on Foxwood Court was empty, because nobody lived in Mike Anderson's old home anymore.

“It’s been on the market ever since he left,” his former neighbor said.

***

All eyes were on the away team's tunnel. 

The Arkansas players had already jogged out to the court, and so had the trainers and assistant coaches. The National Anthem was minutes away, and the one person that the fans wanted to see had yet to surface.

Mizzou Arena was packed, full of fans that wanted to support and cheer on the Tigers on Senior Night and also get a glimpse of the former Missouri coach.

He took two steps out of the tunnel, and you could hear his arrival.

Anderson, who coached at Missouri for six years, who led the Tigers to three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, who won the 2009 Big 12 Championship, was booed.

***

The bartender was confused at the question. Why would Harpo's have any Mike Anderson memorabilia? After all, he left Columbia on bad terms.

In early March 2011, when Anderson was still a Tiger, he dismissed rumors stating that he had interest in coaching at Arkansas, even telling the Columbia Daily Tribune that he planned on “being at Missouri for a long time, retire here.” But on March 23, 2011, Anderson left Missouri for Arkansas, signing a seven-year contract. 

The bartender thought for a moment, then walked toward the backroom to the second bar. There, in the corner on the second shelf, was a white, Missouri basketball.

It had stains. It had dust. And it had a faded Mike Anderson signature.

***

Anderson’s police escort was on high alert. His chair was placed directly behind the Arkansas coach.

The fans were chanting, heckling, and screaming at every Razorbacks mistake, and the policeman was making sure that nothing got out of control.

During the timeouts, he would turn his chair to face the crowd, eyeing every person who screamed insults at Anderson during the brief moments of silence.

Anderson stood on the court, his hands at his sides. Phil Pressey, the same player he recruited, the son of his college roommate (Paul Pressey), just made a contested 3-pointer.

He called a timeout.

Arkansas was now losing 30-15 with 7:47 remaining in the first half, the biggest deficit at that point in the game.

Anderson huddled his team and screamed at them, while the policeman swung his chair around.

***

The trophy he won is enshrined in a smudge-less glass display window in the room next to the main entrance of Mizzou Arena. 

Lights from the top shine directly at it, while a basketball net rests on the right hand side. A large Big 12 Conference logo sits in the middle, a gold plaque stating below “Tournament Champions.” 

This is Missouri’s 2009 Big 12 tournament championship trophy.

It was a team that went 31-7, a team that was one win away from the Final Four, a team that had Laurence Bowers, a team that was coached by Anderson.

***

He was quiet.

No more yelling, no more pacing, no more clapping. Anderson stood motionless on the court.

Alex Oriakhi had a put-back layup that pushed Arkansas’ deficit to 30 points. Anderson watched, maybe in awe of his former school’s performance, maybe in shock of his.

Seconds passed while fans screamed.

Arkansas was 18-11 coming into this game, needing at the very least to win the rest of its games for a chance to make the NCAA Tournament. Last year, his first year, the Razorbacks were 18-14, and did not make it to the big dance.

Anderson shook his head, and snapped out of his gaze. He quickly turned his back to the court, and continued his pace along the bench.

***

He looked like he just wanted to get out of the arena.

When the final buzzer sounded, the score was 93-63 in favor of his former team.

He walked to shake Frank Haith’s hand, his replacement, the coach who won 30 games at Missouri in 2012 with the same guys Anderson recruited. They stood and talked for a few seconds before Anderson moved down the line to give two of his former players, Bowers and Pressey, a brief hug.

Following his congratulatory handshakes, he headed toward the tunnel. He slowly walked with his escort, refusing to stop for the photographers, refusing to make eye contact with the jeering fans, leaving the court of Mizzou Arena. 

Supervising editor is Grant Hodder.


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