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A new face

Thus far, Mike Anderson has received positive reviews as new coach
Monday, March 27, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:37 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

After Quin Snyder resigned as Missouri men’s basketball coach, Jason Horton said he was unsure about his own future with the Tigers.

Horton said on Feb. 13 that he was going to “finish out the year and see what’s going on after the season. I’ll weigh my options.”

But Sunday, Horton said that the hiring of Mike Anderson showed him enough to return for next season.

“Oh most definitely (I’ll be at MU next year),” Horton said.

Horton, who is spending his spring break with his family in Dallas, said he hasn’t spoken with any of his teammates about their basketball futures.

“I can’t speak for those guys because I haven’t talked to anybody, but I hope so,” Horton said of his teammates’ return. “I anticipate they’ll come back.”

One Tiger who has not committed to returning to Missouri is leading scorer Thomas Gardner. Gardner, who would be a senior next season, declared for the NBA Draft on March 22 but has not hired an agent, leaving his amateur status intact. Gardner could not be reached Sunday for comment, but said when he declared for the NBA Draft that the new coach would not affect his decision.

Anderson said he has already spoken to some of the players about their plans for the upcoming season. The “fastest 40 minutes in basketball” has players looking forward to playing under the new system that starts and ends with defense.

“I’ve already talked to some of the players,” Anderson said. “They have been excited about what’s going to take place.”

Horton, who has seen Anderson’s UAB teams play, was impressed.

“I’m going to approach it with an open mind,” he said. “I mean I’m pretty happy, because I like the approach his teams have. From what I’ve seen it looks really fun to play.

“We’ve kind of been playing phone tag a little bit, but I’m sure I’ll talk to him soon.”

Another person around the program who hasn’t talked to Anderson is Gary Link, special assistant to athletic director Mike Alden. Link, who was part of the four-man search committee to find Snyder’s replacement, said he wasn’t part of the final interviewing or hiring process. As of Sunday, he had not spoken to Anderson but said he supports the hire.

“He’s our coach, so I support him,” Link said. “Anderson is a very intelligent guy. I think he knows what’s going on.”

During the press conference announcing his hiring, Anderson was asked about the issue of who would constitute his coaching staff and about Melvin Watkins, who was acting coach from Snyder’s departure until Sunday and was an assistant coach before that. Watkins has not said he whether he would consider staying on as an assistant under a new coach, but several players and key recruits have expressed a desire to play under Watkins.

Anderson did not mention Watkins, but said that he was “big on loyalty” and made references to his assistants from his tenure at UAB.

Though Watkins’ was passed over for the head coaching job, he approved of MU’s hire.

“I know he’s going to do an excellent job,” he said. “They made a good hire.”

Former Arkansas and Tulsa coach Nolan Richardson agrees. Anderson worked with Richardson for more than 22 years as a player, assistant coach and assistant head coach. Richardson, who described himself as “a trailblazer for many years,” recognized the significance of race in the hire of Anderson. Though interim coach Watkins is black, Anderson is the first black head coach of any MU athletic program.

“That is progress at its best,” Richardson said. “Hats off to the state of Missouri, the citizens of Missouri, and the University of Missouri.”


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