On a cold drizzly Saturday morning in Fayetteville, Arkansas, when most people would love to sleep in, thousands gathered in Bud Walton Arena to welcome Mike Anderson home. A thunderstorm rumbled through Northwest Arkansas the night before, and it seemed as though the energy from the storm had carried over, manifested itself into the thrill and joy of the fans. The spirit squads and mascots were leading the crowd in cheers. Everyone was excitedly participating. The environment was not much different than that of a game. People dressed in their Razorback Red, homemade posters held high, as kids and adults alike gazed wide-eyed at the images showing on the big screen. The atmosphere was alive with a sense of euphoria. Yes, it is a great time to be a Razorback fan!
Coach Mike Anderson took the podium after calling the Hogs, sporting a Razorback hat. The crowd went wild, of course! It was no secret that he was absolutely thrilled to not only be back coaching at Arkansas, but that there was no other place he’d rather be at that moment. Mike Anderson had come home. He talked about the saying that “you can’t come home twice”. He talked about how he had proved that saying wrong. Twice.
He was raised in Birmingham, AL and after his first tenure here at Arkansas, he went to be Head Coach at UAB. Now he’s back home for the second time as Head Coach, this time with the Arkansas Razorbacks. He described his two previous coaching positions, first at UAB and most recently at Missouri, as a journey. One of many emotions and experiences. He spoke of the success he brought to both of the universities’ basketball programs. And though he was successful at both places, he said “the call of the Hogs” was a constant echo in his mind. He could never quite shake the idea that Arkansas is home.
His children were born here. The fans are like none other. Their passion is unmatched. Arkansas is his dream job and his dream has come true. Mike Anderson did not attempt to hide any emotion during his press conference. It was a raw, intimate meeting between a man full of hope and good cheer and his loyal fans that have just as much hope. Hope for the future of Razorback Basketball. We all want to be back in the spotlight. Mike Anderson plans to waste no time in getting there.
Fewer than 24 hours after the announcement of his hiring, he was on a plane to visit with recruits. That is dedication. That is a hard-working man. He touched on that, as well. He made the bold statement that “no one will out work Mike Anderson and his staff. No one.” He’s not afraid of work. He said “working is just an attitude.” Good man. He then goes on about his plans for the upcoming season. He talks about filling up the arena. He’s used to Bud Walton Arena being a full house. Used to it being so loud, that the referees have to cup their hands over their ears to hear each other. He’s “used to winning!”
Mike Anderson is a self-proclaimed competitive man. If he’s playing marbles with his mother, he’s playing to win. If he’s fighting a bear, “you better help that damn bear!” This is the portion of the press conference that Coach Anderson begins to get even more fired up than he was before. And so does the crowd of 5-6,000 fans, family members and the University of Arkansas staff.
Coach Anderson goes on about his style of play. The fastest forty minutes in basketball. Intense defense. “When we hit the floor, we’re gonna hit ‘em when they get off the damn bus!” (The crowd goes wild). He again talks about the large number of fans that showed up to welcome him home. He then states that you better get your tickets now, because we’re about to fill that arena up! He closes with many thanks to all involved in bringing him home, thanks his family and beautiful wife and one last, glorious Hog Call. It’s never sounded better than with Mike Anderson leading the way.
As with any new coach in place, a system will take some time to adjust. No one is better equipped or more experienced to handle rebuilding a team than Mike Anderson. We know from his enthusiastic and impassioned press conference, that the desire is there. We know from what he did at UAB and Missouri, that he is capable of bringing Arkansas back to the top. We know how hard he is willing to work and we’ve seen him go at it already. If his staff shares that work ethic and those ethics can be passed along to players, Arkansas will climb their way back to where they once stood. Arkansas Basketball is on its way back, folks. The Razorbacks will be feared. They will be winners. Coach Mike Anderson will be at the reigns the whole way, pushing, coaching, working, leading and most importantly, winning.
Soon, dancing days will be here again.
Aimee Miller for Hog Database