72 hours removed from the news of Mike Anderson’s firing, we have learned a few things. First, Hunter Yurachek is NOT messing around. He understands the rich tradition at the University and he is going to find a coach that can get Arkansas back to national prominence. We also know that our athletic director has a guy in mind that he is dead set on. If Yurachek didn’t have a guy lined up, Mike Anderson would still be here.
Having said this, I do not agree with the decision to fire Mike. I wanted to see how this team would develop and gel together with MA as the Head Hog. I loved the young team that would have been coming back for the 2019-2020 season. Already, freshman Keyshawn Embery-Simpson has entered his name into the transfer portal. Simpson was a 4 star signing from 2017, and showed glimpses of great moments for the Hogs. Hopefully this is a one time transfer and not a domino effect. My biggest concern for the future is maintaining the roster. The sooner the new coach gets hired, the better. As important as it will be for MA’s successor to recruit new guys, it will be essential for him to keep as much of the current team on the roster as possible.
Looking back on the year, a few things stick out to me that makes me believe Coach Anderson would be returning for his 9th year in Fayetteville. What was the weakest area on the team? The four spot, which was manned by Adrio Bailey, Gabe Osabuohien, and Reggie Chaney. Remember Reggie Perry, the 5 star PF from Georgia. He was committed to Arkansas for five months before flipping to Mississippi State due to his father’s health i$$ue$. Perry started in 18 games for the Bulldogs, averaging 9.7 points and 7.2 rebounds. Imagine if we had Perry, which would have lead to consistent production at the four spot. Just imagine. Without a doubt this would have been a tournament team. Add in Khalil Garland, who has an unfortunate health issue, was the #2 player in the state of Arkansas in 2017 but has yet to step foot on the court. This team is easily dancing in March if Perry and Garland played for the Razorbacks. Mike really had no control over those situations as well.
Considering the roster he was dealt with, I feel Mike did a fine job. 90% of the playing time was filled by guys that were either a freshman or a sophomore. 90%. That is remarkable. And to finish 9th out of 14 in a really good conference is nothing to be disappointed in. The highlight of the year was going into Baton Rouge and knocking off LSU, and having Kentucky down 15 in Rupp was something no one expected. This team was going to be really good next year, maybe even Mike’s best year.
The issue with Mike was he never made it to a sweet 16, something the Razorbacks haven’t been apart of since 1996. Although he never accomplished that feat, he had many qualities. The obvious one is zero losing seasons. Not only at Arkansas, but even in his 17 year career. Roy Williams, Tom Izzo, and Mark Few are the other coaches that can say the same. In a time where you can’t go a month without hearing about a NCAA violation, not once was Coach Anderson’s name ever brought up for cheating or violating the rules. Most importantly his love for the game and for his players was a two way street. He cared about his guys and cared for Arkansas like no other. Seeing the overwhelming support from his players on social media over the course of the week is a testament to Mike.
The bottom line is Mike Anderson was a good coach for the University of Arkansas. He took the program from John Pelphrey’s mess and made it into a stable program in his eight years. Mike made the program better, period. He is leaving Fayetteville a better state than what it was when he got here. At the end of the day, that’s all you can ask. He did his job, now it is time for a new voice to come in and elevate the program even higher. The new coach will have high expectations. If the coach comes in and fails to do so, it will be a failure on Hunter Yurachek’s part. The blame will fall on him.
Thank you, Mike.