The Razorback Nation welcomed home one of its own on March 23, 2011, when Mike Anderson was named the 12th head men’s basketball coach in Arkansas history. Charged with bringing back the winning tradition that was synonymous with the Razorback program throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, Anderson enters his sixth season at Arkansas and 15th year as a head coach in 2016-17.
After losing 72 percent of scoring production heading into the 2015-16 season, Anderson continued his history of developing players as Arkansas finished third in the Southeastern Conference in scoring at 78.2 points per game and paced the league in three-point field goal percentage, turnover margin and assist/turnover ratio. Despite dropping eight games by four points or less, Arkansas never wavered and caught fire toward the end of the season to win four of its final five regular season games and finish eighth in the SEC. The Razorbacks became one of five teams to post a .500 or better record in conference play each of the last four years.
A longtime assistant and associate head coach at Arkansas, Anderson spent a combined nine years as a head coach at the University of Alabama-Birmingham and the University of Missouri before returning to the Razorbacks.
One of just 10 current Division I head coaches with 10-plus years of experience and no losing seasons, Anderson’s 14 years at the helm of a program have resulted in a 302-162 record, nine 20-win campaigns, seven NCAA Tournament appearances, two Sweet Sixteen berths and a run to the 2009 Elite Eight.
During his first five seasons at Arkansas, Anderson produced a 102-64 record and was the first head coach in program history to win 18 or more games in each of his first four years. Anderson has also re-established Bud Walton Arena as one of the toughest places to play and brought excitement back to the tradition-rich program. In his first five years, Arkansas has won 80 games (80-12) in Bud Walton Arena, including an arena-record 17 during each of his first three years. The 2012-13 squad posted just the third unbeaten SEC home record (9-0) in program history and the first since 1998. The success on-and-off the court has translated into fan support as Arkansas returned to the top 25 in national attendance the first four years, including No. 11 in 2014-15.
Fans caught a glimpse of the glory days in 2014-15, as the Razorbacks returned to both the NCAA Tournament and SEC Tournament championship game for the first time since 2008. Highlighted by a victory over Southern Conference champ Wofford in the second round of the NCAA Tournament and a program record six SEC road wins, Arkansas produced the sixth-most wins in program history with a 27-9 record. Of course, the up-tempo style of play donned the “Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball” reached another level, as the Razorbacks led the SEC in five different statistical categories, including scoring (77.4), assists (16.1) and turnover margin (+3.8).
The 2014-15 campaign brought back memories of the 1990s, as Arkansas finished second in the SEC at 13-5 and spent eight weeks ranked in both the Associated Press Top 25 and USA Today Coaches Poll. Anderson’s attention to detail in skill development helped sophomore Bobby Portis become just the second Razorback in program history to be named the SEC Player of the Year by both the Associated Press and league head coaches. Portis was the first Razorback to surpass 1,000 points and 500 rebounds as a sophomore and went on to become the 12th player in program history to be selected in the first round of the NBA Draft, when he went 22nd overall to the Chicago Bulls.
In 2013-14, the Razorbacks returned to the postseason for the first time since 2008 by earning a spot in the NIT. Improving its SEC Tournament seeding by two spots for the second straight year under Anderson, Arkansas finished fifth in the league standings at 10-8, while reaching the 20-win plateau (22-12) for the first time since the aforementioned 2007-08 campaign. Highlighting the 22-win season was the program’s first season sweep of SEC rival Kentucky and a 5-1 mark against teams that advanced to the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament and NIT.
The Arkansas faithful witnessed the benefits of the coach Nolan Richardson-era style of play that Anderson teaches as the Razorbacks led the SEC in scoring (80.1), assists (15.3), steals (8.4) and turnover margin (+5.5), figures that all ranked in the top 30 in the nation. Individual development was also critical to Arkansas’ improvement in 2013-14 as Bobby Portis became the sixth freshman in program history to earn All-SEC honors, snagging a spot on the All-SEC second team, SEC All-Freshman squad and USBWA All-District VII team.
Anderson’s ability to change the direction of programs is nothing new. He inherited a program at Missouri that had been sub-.500 for two consecutive years and within three seasons, Anderson rejuvenated the program and had the Tigers dancing toward the Sweet 16. He guided Missouri to an overall record of 111-56 (.665) in five years with 13 wins over ranked opponents, four NCAA Tournament victories and a 75-13 mark at home.
Adapting his style of play from his mentor and Hall of Fame coach, Nolan Richardson, Anderson’s teams are known for playing “The Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball.” His up-tempo style and tough defense allowed Missouri to make the biggest turnaround in college basketball during the 2008-09 season, when the Tigers went from 16-16 in Anderson’s second season to 31-7 a year later. The turnaround of the Missouri program was not lost on the national analysts as he was named the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) National Coach of the Year and the Clair Bee Coach of the Year in 2009 after he led the Tigers to the Big 12 Tournament championship and NCAA Tournament Elite Eight.
Anderson’s “The Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball” has resulted in his team’s ranking among the nation’s elite in multiple statistical categories, while compiling some staggering numbers that have resulted in opponents fearing the up-tempo style of play. Anderson’s clubs have led the nation in steals four times and have been in the top 10 in steals nine of 15 years, while finishing in the top 30 in scoring eight times. Since 2002-03, Anderson’s teams have accounted for five of the 28 team totals around the country of 350-plus steals in a season, while he has won the turnover battle in 382 of 464 career games.
The influence of “The Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball” has been obvious in Anderson’s return to Fayetteville as the Razorbacks finished in the top 10 in turnover margin and top 20 in steals during each of the last three seasons. Last season, Arkansas ranked in the top 25 nationally in assist/turnover ratio (18th), turnover margin (17th) and blocked shots per game (22nd).
Anderson led Missouri to the NCAA Tournament during each of his final three years with the program. His 2008-09 squad marched all the way to the Elite Eight, defeating nationally-ranked Marquette and Memphis, before falling to Connecticut. He returned the Tigers to the postseason in 2009-10, leading Mizzou to the second round of the tournament and completed the trifecta with a second round exit in 2010-11.
Missouri’s success was due in large part to Anderson and his coaching staff, who searched for the best talent available to fill the needs of “The Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball.” That search led to back-to-back Big 12 Newcomers of the Year, Missouri’s first Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and Sixth Man of the Year and multiple All-Big 12 honors. Missouri’s 2010 recruiting class was the best in the Big 12 and ranked in the top 10 in the nation by every recruiting service.
Anderson’s first head coaching stop was at UAB, where in four years he amassed an 89-41 (.685) record with the Blazers. His teams made four consecutive postseason appearances, including three NCAA Tournament runs. Anderson’s 2003-04 squad went all the way to the Sweet 16 after it defeated No. 2 Kentucky in the second round.
He was named the Ray Meyer Conference USA Coach of the Year in 2004 after leading the Blazers to an overall record of 22-10 and a share of the league’s regular season championship. UAB’s first round NCAA Tournament victory over Washington was the Blazer’s first since the 1986 season and the Sweet 16 run was the first since the 1980-81 season.
While many believed that UAB would be rebuilding following its run to the Sweet 16, Anderson and his coaches went back to work developing talent and recruiting, and produced a 22-11 record the following year. The Blazers advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament and defeated SEC Western Division champion LSU in the first round of the Big Dance.
Anderson’s success at both UAB and Missouri made him the ideal candidate to fill Arkansas’ coaching vacancy when it opened. A 10-day search ended when Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long made his hiring official on the evening of March 23, 2011.
“We are extremely excited to welcome home Mike Anderson to the University of Arkansas as our new head men’s basketball coach,” Long said. “Under Mike’s leadership, I am confident the Razorbacks will be successful in the future on-and-off the court. The decision to hire Mike Anderson as head coach is based on my firm belief that he is the right person to lead the Razorback program today and in the years to come.”
A part of the history and tradition that is Arkansas basketball, Anderson was a volunteer assistant, assistant coach, recruiting coordinator and assistant head coach over 17 seasons with the Arkansas basketball program under Richardson. During that run, the Razorbacks made 15 postseason appearances, five Sweet 16’s, four Elite Eights, three Final Fours, finished as national runner-up in 1995 and won the 1994 National Championship.
Anderson was a part of perhaps the greatest run of basketball in Arkansas history as it matched many of the biggest names in the sport in total wins, NCAA Tournament appearances and Final Fours. The Razorbacks won five outright conference championships during his 17 years on the bench, an SEC Western Division title and Arkansas’ only SEC Tournament championship in 2000.
Anderson’s coaching career began as a volunteer assistant at his alma mater, Tulsa, where he worked with Richardson for three years before moving to Arkansas. His teams were 69-22 (.758) in those three seasons and earned two NCAA Tournament berths.
He played two seasons for Tulsa after transferring to the Golden Hurricane program from Jefferson (Ala.) Junior College. A two-year starter, Anderson averaged 12 points per game. His hard-nosed play helped Tulsa win the NIT Championship in 1981 and make the NCAA Tournament in 1982. He earned his bachelor’s degree in education during the spring of ’82 from Tulsa.
Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Anderson was an All-State and All-City guard at Jackson Olin High School. He averaged 19 points as a senior and took his team to the state semifinals as a junior.
Anderson and his wife Marcheita have three children; Darcheita, a real estate agent, Mike Jr., a former player for Coach A while at Missouri and Yvonne, who played for Texas and is currently playing in a professional league in Italy. Anderson and his wife are also known as Popi and Mimi to their four grandchildren: Aiyana, Miikayla, Laila and Anderson.