By Nate Allen Sports
FAYETTEVILLE – Hired March, 23, 2011, before a joyous throng at Walton Arena as a University of Arkansas 17-years assistant to Nolan Richardson come home to be the Razorbacks head coach after nine years head coaching the University of Alabama-Birmingham Blazers and the University of Missouri Tigers, Mike Anderson was fired as Arkansas’ head basketball coach Tuesday, Arkansas Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek announced through a press release.
“After a review of the program, including an analysis of the past eight years and a look forward, I have made a decision that a change in leadership will best position our men’s basketball program for future success,” second-year Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek said via the press release. “In the past eight seasons, we have won a number of games and have made appearances in both the NIT and the NCAA Tournaments. However, in my evaluation, we have not sustained a consistent level of success against the most competitive teams in the nation to enable us to compete for SEC and NCAA Championships on an annual basis. That will continue to be the benchmark for our success throughout our athletic program.”
One of only four current coaches without a losing season in 15 years head coaching, Anderson just concluded an 18-16 season two rounds into the NIT for his eighth Arkansas year that produced a 169-102 record with seasons of 18-14, 19-13, 22-12, 27-9 (the best Arkansas record since Richardson’s 31-3 1995 national runner-up team) 16-16, 26-10 and last season’s 23-12.
His teams advanced to three NCAA Tournaments and twice to the NIT. In the SEC they went 6-10, 10-8, 10-8, 13-5, 9-9, 12-6, 10-8, and 8-10.
While at Arkansas, Anderson inherited a basketball program that had suffered APR (Academic Progress Rate) penalties that never occurred on his watch recruiting players vastly improving the program’s academic standing. Also he apparently has kept the program unscathed through the recent FBI investigations into widespread college basketball illegalities including the suspension of the head coach at SEC champion LSU and the firing of an assistant at SEC Tournament champion Auburn.
Yurachek acknowledged Anderson’s integrity in the press release.
“During his tenure with our program, Mike Anderson has represented the University of Arkansas in a first-class manner and with the highest level of integrity on and off the floor,” Yurachek said. “We are grateful for Coach Anderson’s many contributions to our program and most of all for his investment in the lives of the many student-athletes he has coached. He has been a positive influence on their lives, encouraged them and supported them on, both their individual and collective, academic and athletic journeys. We wish Mike, his wife Marcheita and the entire Anderson family the very best.”
Yurachek announced the beginning of a national search while Melvin Watkins, Anderson’s top assistant at Arkansas and Missouri and the former head coach at Texas A&M and the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, currently assumes head coaching responsibilities.
“With our great history and tradition, a loyal fan base and a fully supported program within the SEC, I am confident that we will identify a leader that will elevate our men’s basketball program to a nationally competitive level on an annual basis,” Yurachek said the liar press release. “In an effort to most effectively identify and secure our next head coach, I do not plan on providing further comment related to our search until its completion. I appreciate the understanding and support of all Razorback fans as we move forward in this process.”
Indeed Yurachek did not return a phone call for further comment.
Anderson was not quoted in the press release and had already left his office Tuesday.
On Twitter, Razorbacks Daniel Gafford, the sophomore first-team All-SEC center declaring he was turning pro before the two NIT games and not accompanying the Razorbacks for their 84-72victory at Providence and 63-60 loss at Indiana, all expressed love for their coach and dismay for his dismissal.
“Never understood how he handled so much hate thrown at him,” Gafford tweeted. He helped me mature from a freshman to the man I am now. Can’t thank this man enough. I hate that this happened to you but it it is an opening for another blessing for you Coach. Once a Hog always a Hog.”
Sophomore Jalen Harris, this season’s starting point guard after redshirting last season as a transfer from the University of New Mexico, tweeted, “Can’t think you enough @MikeAndersonUA. You and your coaching staff believed in me when no one else did. This one hurt man.”
Mason Jones, the sophomore junior college guard averaging 13.6 points this season, tweeted: “Thank you coach A. I love you man. You gave me a scholarship when nobody else wanted to.”
By Nate Allen Sports