Mike Anderson isn't the only heir apparent to take over the program of his coaching mentor. Other assistants have stepped in to similar situations at programs that - like Arkansas - have won a national title or two. I compare Anderson's and Richardson's first two seasons at Arkansas with Tom Izzo/Jud Heathcote, Eddie Sutton/Hank Iba, Craig Esherick/John Thompson and others...
In the end, only the head coach will be blamed.
Yes, this season, guard B.J. Young at times resembled an over-caffeinated rickshaw driver careening into dense traffic without the slightest intention of bringing anyone aboard. Sure, last offseason the accuracy of Mardracus Wade’s three-point shot apparently learned how to ski downhill. And yes, Marshawn Powell at times mightily struggled with free throw shooting. Especially in the 7-15 clunker he threw up two weeks ago in a 72-75 loss to Vanderbilt.
It was the Hogs’ fifth consecutive opening game game loss in the SEC Tournament, marking the fifth consecutive year Arkansas missed out on the NCAA Tournament and the 16th straight season without an NIT Tournament berth.
It no longer matters how Arkansas entered this pit of gloom. All fans want to know is how quickly the program will get out of it. And, more importantly, how quickly the program will get back to the top.
Three years from now, fans won’t get hung up on any one player’s lack of court vision or another player’s season of erratic shooting. The fans won’t even care if the Hogs win a few more games in the SEC Tournament and annually start playing in a round or two of an NCAA Tournament.
They will be looking at the big picture.
In 17 years as an assistant under Nolan Richardson, Mike Anderson learned how to build programs that could consistently beat the nation’s best teams – on any court. He learned what kind of talent and basketball IQ is necessary to build a program that can make three Final Fours, what kind of cold-blooded killer instinct it takes to win a title.
How well Anderson applies these lessons and how close he gets to achieving the benchmarks of success that Richardson set will ultimately determine Anderson’s legacy. Will he always be seen as Richardson’s chief lieutenant/heir apparent, or will he be seen as a giant in his own right?
The rest of this SYNC article is in two parts here and here.