In some ways, Mike Anderson is a very familiar figure to Hog fans. After all, he spent 17 years as one of Nolan Richardson's assistants, and he helped assemble the rosters that led the Razorback program to the greatest heights it has ever seen. But what is he like as a head coach? We think we have a pretty good idea, but we'll also be the first to admit that we haven't watched a ton of Missouri Tigers basketball games over the past five seasons (those reruns of "My Mother the Car" are awfully hard to turn off). So we decided to pester someone who spent a great amount of time following Anderson's Mizzou teams: Bill C. of the outstanding Tigers blog Rock M Nation. We think you'll enjoy this perspective on Anderson's tenure in Columbia. Many thanks to Bill for his time.
Expats: How have Mizzou fans reacted to Anderson's departure? Is he regarded as a villain after saying a couple of weeks ago that he wanted to retire in Columbia?
Bill C.: Missouri fans aren't used to being ditched. The last time they lost a major head coach to another school was, coincidentally, when Frank Broyles left Columbia after the 1957 football season. That, combined with all of Anderson's "I want to retire here" talk not very long ago, led quite a bit of Mizzou fans to feel quite scorned about how everything went down. It's like a girl breaking up with you in the end; you're bitchy and snide now, but that will pass over time.
Expats: Generally speaking, what were the on-court strengths and weaknesses of Anderson's Missouri teams?
Bill C.: Anderson's teams were good in all the ways one would expect — they would speed you up and turn you over, and if the officials were calling fouls in a specific way, they were damn near impossible to beat. His "back atcha" style (Oh, you scored? That's great. Here we come.) was a crowd pleaser, and it's a very enjoyable way to watch basketball. However, the desire to run led to occasional defensive rebounding difficulties (they are going to try to get away with keeping the bare minimum number of bodies back to rebound), and the fouls can add up in a hurry if the team does not adapt to how a game is being called. Their style of motion offense is not conducive to drawing a lot of fouls either, so a lot of times — particularly in road games — Mizzou ended up in situations where the opponent shot twice as many free throws.
Expats: Slightly different version of the question above: What were Anderson's strengths and weaknesses as a head coach, as the CEO of a major college program?
Bill C.: He's a system guy more than an in-game coaching guy. He obviously DOES make in-game adjustments, but his strengths are in the "our identity is stronger than your identity" department. He's not a Brad Stephens-style, possession-to-possession coach.
Expats: After having watched him for five seasons, what do you think is the ceiling for Mike Anderson as a head coach? Can he lead a program to the point that it's regularly a legitimate threat to reach the Final Four?
Bill C.: Recruiting is the question mark. He finally made some breakthroughs in last year's recruiting class, but Tony Mitchell (five-star SF/PF from Texas) never qualified. He went hard after DeMarcus Cousins but didn't get him. Rebounding was constantly an issue, and the lack of an elite big man certainly didn't help that. Really, the situation he appears to be inheriting at Arkansas is extremely favorable for him. He gets to inherit a very highly-rated recruiting class, and if he succeeds with them, then other recruits could quite possibly flock due to the success. As you probably learned from Nolan Richardson's tenure, you don't need many elite recruits to play this system and win big, but Anderson needed at least one more than he had the last couple of years.
Expats: What were your favorite and least-favorite moments of Anderson's career in Columbia?
Bill C.: Well, obviously the 2009 Elite Eight run was at the top of the list. Everything about that season -- the undefeated home record, Big 12 Tournament title, etc. -- was just golden. That was the year that proved that you can win big with Anderson's system; it was the perfect mix of his players (only two Quin Snyder recruits were left over at that point) and experience (three seniors were key). As for the least-favorite ... well, the end of this season wasn't great, but it would have to be Athenagate, I figure. Anderson is a character guy, but that incident proved that he is not immune to bad-character individuals.
Expats: Years from now, how will Mizzou fans remember the Mike Anderson era?
Bill C.: In time, they will see it as the tenure that brought Mizzou back to some semblance of relevance. The last few years of the Quin Snyder era were just awful in so many ways, and in three seasons Anderson made Mizzou fans realize that the program could still be a major player in college basketball. We obviously hoped his tenure would be much longer than five years, but in all it was a success. I guess the other factor in how Anderson's tenure is viewed will be how his successor does, eh? Mizzou fans will view him in a much more kind light if the next guy succeeds at an even higher level.