December 21, 2014

Can You Go Home Again?

While there have been numerous conflicting reports about whether or not it will even happen, I do worry about all this excitement and desire for Mike Anderson to be the next Razorback basketball coach.

Mike Anderson (AP Photo)Many Hog fans are certain that Mike can restore Razorback basketball to the ’40 Minutes of Hell’ style and success of Nolan and quickly return the program to the glory days.  They envision Elite Eight and Final Four appearances on a regular basis and the return of the Kentucky game to national status on Super Bowl Sunday.  Any other result is simply not within the realm of their imagination.

While I do believe Mike is a fine basketball coach, my fear is that there is no way he can possibly live up to these expectations.

College basketball has changed over the years since Arkansas won the National Championship.  Much of what made the ’40 Minutes of Hell’ unique to Nolan and Arkansas is now standard fare.  10-man rotations, periods of intense pressure defense, pushing the ball in transition, multiple 3-point shooters and a strong half court post game are par for the course for the better teams.

I’ve watched a lot of Mike Anderson teams and games over the past few years.  While some have been better than others, my take is that there are a lot of coaches out there playing version 2 or 3 of this aggressive style while Mike is still coaching version 1.  His teams tend to have the same issues most of Nolan’s teams had — poor rebounding and struggles in half court offense.

Of Nolan’s teams at Arkansas, only the 1994 and 1995 teams had the type of size needed to contend for the National Championship.  Without the contributions of the two seven-foot freshmen (Robinson and Wilson) at key moments, the 1994 team wouldn’t have made the Final Four.

No problem, you say?  It’s possessions that count?  Steals make up for poor rebounding?  Unfortunately, the ball handling skills of today’s players and their ability to handle pressure defense are much better than in the days of Nolan.  They have grown up playing against pressure defenses.

Mike Anderson, or whoever comes to coach Arkansas, will have their work cut out for them to make the program “nationally relevant” again.  Mike would have the added pressure of living up to a time that is now based more in nostalgia than reality.

Thomas Wolfe once wrote, “You can’t go home again.”  Looking for current success by going back to the past is a recipe for disappointment for everyone involved.

There are many strong contenders to be the next Razorback basketball coach.  I’m hopeful we take a good look around before we decide.

  • tomahog

    Well said, I like the MA up tempo style, but if the reports are true about him working Mizzou for a raise and contract extension, I do not want him. He played Oregon last year and he is playing the Missouri fans this year. It reminds me of Houston Nutt with Nebraska and LSU. We do not need these type of characters leading our ball programs. I wish MA the best but my respect for him has been reduced if he is in fact playing the Mizzou faithful. I hope that Long hires us a leader that will restore our program and prove to us that character does matter.

  • Mike in Magnolia

    If MA is not named coach today then it isnt going to happen……Anyone have thoughts about Dickson from Pit? Long does have ties to Pit and reading the Pit blogs the seem to calling for his head.

  • OwassoHog

    Pretty well sums up my thoughts on Mike…

  • Roadhog

    I like Mike, but not to coach Arkansas. HogBlogger has summed it up well: Anderson is a good coach, not a great one, and the expectations would be impossible for him to meet, thereby creating disappointment and, eventually, derision. Move on, Long. There are coaches that better fit our situation, coaches whose names were not on the list posted here last week. I hope Anderson gets a good long contract at Miz.

  • http://razorbloggers NewYorkHogFan

    Nice article. Unlike tomahog, I don’t see anything shady about Mike’s using an offer from us to get a better contract at Mizzou. That’s the whole premise behind auctions. I’m glad Mike is being paid the money regardless of where he goes. But I agree with the article that it will be difficult for Mike to take us back to the glory years of Nolan. Heck, Nolan couldn’t even do that in his later years. Perhaps teams teams today are better able to deal with pressing defenses. Whoever we get should not coach a slow half-court style but should like to run when the game allows. Otherwise the Arkansas fans will become impatient, especially if a couple of years are needed to build the team.

    • tomahog

      If I implied that MA was shady, I did not intend to, I just believe that he signed a contract and if he is playing the moment for additional money, I believe it is not the honorable choice to make. I did read where the UM was already planning to talk about changes before the Arkansas rumors really got started. It does have a lot to do with media making stories and they have fanned the flames. Read more on http://www.stltoday.com/sports. Bernie has a few articles.

  • GolfHog

    Basketball is defense. It was true for Eddie Ball and true for Nolan. Great basketball is based on defense. One reason Heath’s and Pelphry’s teams looked so pitiful was there lack of effort. You can’t stroll through a game a play great defense. That’s how you win coming down the stretch and in a tight game. Shooting will abandon you but defense is forever.

  • http://www.arkansasexpats.com/ Stephen

    Great post!

  • Jonas

    You are correct. They only time we competed for the national championship we had a big man. In 90 and 91, we had Oliver Miller and Mario Credit. I think that mario was gone by 91, I cannot remember. In 94 and 95, we had Lee Wilson and Darnell Robinson. That is what we have been lacking, although Stephen Hill was a great shot blocker, we have lacked a big man who can score. I do not think that Mike Anderson will be able to recruit a big man who fits his system. He was our lead recruiter for years, and he was not able to do it then.

    • http://www.razorbloggers.net/ HogBlogger

      Recruiting fell off after Andy Stoglin left and then cratered after probation – which, by the way, was caused by the AD’s office. Only with probation ending was recruiting picking up again.

  • HungryHog

    It might be nostalgia blinding me, but I am still a Mike Anderson fan.

    I understand that other teams “know how to deal” with 40 minutes of hell, but I would still like to make them prove it.

    I am a little red neck – I like being from Arkansas, being the underdog – being the scrapper. Teams are now banking on one and dones – that isn’t our style. We are going to be the team that on paper doesn’t really match up – looks like we shouldn’t win. But, we bring the fight of an Arkansan to the game. You can prepare for our 40 minutes of hell, but put Clint McDaniel in someone’s face all night and see how prepared you can be.

    The worst part about the tournament this year is seeing how much parity there is – mid majors are showing the big dogs how to want to win. And we are sitting on the freaking sidelines. We don’t even get to try. I do like to see two SEC teams still in the hunt – along with the TWO Big East teams.

    Arkansas should be in there. I think we can do it with Mike. Make these guys prove they can stop our style. And having high expectations?? I thought that was a good thing?? If Mike gets/takes the job – he knows what his expectations are – he isn’t coming in looking to take years to rebuild a program. I think he has expectations of making the tournament every year and making a deep run every few years.

    It is nostalgic to think of the 90s, but I would rather be the Razorback – snortin and rootin around looking for a way to win – digging in and getting mean. Half court, doing it “the way you are supposed to play” isn’t my style.

    I still like Mike.

    • OwassoHog

      I still like Brad!

      • Carolina Hog

        Love Brad. Got a man crush on Brad. Open the checkbook and bring him home. When Butler fouled with 2 seconds left to presumably lose the game to Pitt, he didn’t yell at his kid or the ref or even change expressions. He calmly walked down the bench to tell a player to get in the game. He is Mr. Cucumber.

        Having said that, it doesn’t seem that we are after him. I think Mike or Buzz are great improvements over the last 10 years and whoever we get would benefit from the early momentum of a top 5 recruiting class. I love all three, but I hate Jimmy Sexton and am cautious about the idea of having another client of his on campus.

  • http://www.therazorbackblogger.com/ GonzoHog

    It’s being rumored now that Buzz Williams buyout is too high for the UofA to pay. This is a real bummer for me if true. He’s my favorite.

  • uvahog

    I want to play devil’s advocate to this article since everyone here seems to be agreeing.

    1. Expectations: Do you really think our expectations after the last decade are that if Mike comes then we’ll automatically be on the way to the final four soon? I think our expectations, of course I can only really speak for myself, but I believe the majority of Arkansas basketball fans believe that Anderson might be able to get us to the point of relevancy even in the SEC, will fill Bud Walton, and might, just might be able to get us some deep runs in the tourney.

    2. Poor rebounding and struggles in half court offense: And yet we managed to win a national championship.

    3. Steals: If you watched that Marquette game against Pitt, which I’m sure most Hog fans did because of the Buzz buzz, you’ll notice that Marquette won that game because of their ability to steal in Williams up-tempo style of play. And who’s to say that we cant get big guys to come to Arkansas if Mike is here instead of Buzz or Brad or anyone else?

    4. Nostalgia: I believe the fan’s interest in Mike is based on more than just nostalgia, though that is indubitably a factor. He’s done quite a lot a Mizzou, not exactly a preeminent basketball program, and fans who like Mike believe he could do even more at Arkansas not simply because he sat on the bench next to Nolan.

    5. Cant go home again: We are not looking for current success by looking to the past by considering Mike Anderson to be our coach. He’s proven he can do good things at a lesser basketball program, he’s an Arkansas man–17 years, and he may be the highest quality proven coach that we might have a realistic chance of getting including the coach crushes of this blog, Buzz and Brad. If Mike is the prime target, first and, if he’s hired, last, then Long did so because he put feelers out to people like Buzz and Brad and decided we had a better chance of getting Mike.

    • OwassoHog

      Here is my take of other folks expectations:

      1) At least Sweet 16 – year 1

      At least Sweet 16 or better – year 2

      At least Final 4 – by year 4

      2) Resolved by mid year 2

      3) Significantly improved year 1

      4) Totally Nostalgia based but with some reality of better coaching (not sure how much)

      5) Personally, many think that Jeff Long has a plan… but making it happen is another story.

    • http://www.razorbloggers.net/ HogBlogger

      1. Yes, I think a lot of people’s expectations are that high.

      2. We won a National Championship with a team that wasn’t great at rebounding but did have a solid half court offense. For 13 of his 17 years, Nolan’s teams tended to struggled in the half court. May/Day/Miller and Beck/Thurmond/Williams were the exception teams. Poor rebounding is a matter of statistical record with both Nolan’s and Mike’s teams.

      3. Maybe Mike will recruit “big guys” and get them to come. How many solid big men did Nolan have in 17 years? Not many, as post players did not see Nolan’s system as a path to the NBA.

      4. I agree that Mike is a quality coach and would greatly help the program. My point was that there are many others that could do the same.

      5. I disagree. I think many are looking to the past and the restoration thereof as the prime reason to get Mike back. It will be very easy for that Superman logo on Mike’s chest to morph into a target if he doesn’t meet the fans “expectations.” If you look in the following comments at OwassoHog’s take on others expectations then expectations are pretty high.

      I played for a coach that had led our High School team to the finals of the State Tournament and followed that up by playing in college. When he started as coach he was thought to be Superman. When he left, after doing a very solid job but not coming close to making State, he was basically run out of town on a rail. More often than not these type of ‘coming home’ stories do not end well.

      If the coach is Mike Anderson I’ll support him. Whoever the coach is I’ll support him. Whoever it is we will also blog about him–unlike the ‘hands off’ approach we took to Phelphrey the last few years.

      • uvahog

        It just sounds like to me that there is more to the squeamishness regarding Anderson than comes across here. Your logic and the logic of those questioning the MA hire is severely flawed. First, you say that our expectations for Mike will be too high and it might not end well. Then you say that Mike’s teams might have the same problems that Nolan Richardson’s teams had (even though we went to 3 final fours and won the national championship under him). So what you’re really saying is that your expectations for our basketball program are so high that hiring Mike Anderson is not going to be good enough. Not even the Nolan of the 90s seems to be good enough as most of his teams had issues. We ain’t going to turn into Duke or UNC. Its not going to happen. And to your point about bigs and the NBA, playing for Duke is not often a path to the NBA but they seem to win a good bit.

        If your point is that there are other coaches that would do just as well as MA (better?) then your problem is really with Anderson and the way the Nolan era ended. I for one want to see Mike come back just to rectify what happened. Broyles and White should have never let Nolan go. Hiring Anderson would right a great wrong in the UofA’s sports past. And if MA can’t get us back to relevancy and yearly tournament invites then we’ll move on.

        And Hog fans took a “hands off” approach to Pelphrey because we all knew that he was the only fool who would even touch the Razorback basketball program after Broyles, White, and Heath ran it into the ground. We had to give him some time to excoriate the past and fix the academic issues.

      • uvahog

        And on the expectations, I think Owasso is confusing expectations with hopes. I expect Mike to bring us back to relevancy. I expect him to take us to the tourney 7 or 8 out of 10 times. I hope he brings us to the final four; I hope he can win us a national championship, but I hardly expect those things, not after the decade we’ve had. I don’t expect anyone, not even Bill Self at this point, to be able to win us a national championship in the 2010s.

        And I really don’t get the Jeff Long hate on this board. It is just baffling to me. What more do you people want? We are Arkansas; not Florida or Alabama in football; not Kentucky or Duke in basketball. We will never be as dominant as those teams. It is just not going to happen. We can be good; we can compete; we can even win championships; but no one is going to turn us into those teams; and no athletic director is going to be able to draw the really big names to coach here. We have to create our own really big names. The Petrino hire was a unique situation and will not be repeated in the future.

      • OwassoHog

        Absolutely not confusing the two. Too many folks out there are expressing that this is a certainty. I’d be ok with the expectation but this is definitely not my sense with the noise out there.

  • Kentucky Hog

    I believe that bringing Mike Anderson back to Arkansas would be a mistake. Too many memories of the end of the Nolan reguime. It will take 3.8 millions dollars according to reports to buy out Buzz Williams contract. With all of that being said, I think that a Mark Turgeon from Texas A&M or Gregg Marshall are strong coaches who both play tremendous man to man defense and are demanding of their players and have high expectations.

  • http://www.jlrguitar.com Jimmi R.

    Buzz Williams is the guy. His interview on ESPN today showed why this man shold be the next coach of the Arkansas Razorback Basketball Program. He has wit, style, and isn’t afraid to say he’s not all that compared to Roy Williams or other peers who are his seniors.

    He has class and his style of play is a cross between those of Eddie Sutton and Nolan Richardson in many ways. fans will fill the seats for this man and players will come to the program who have the character, maturity and humbleness to be taught basketball from someone who lives and breathes the game.

    You’ll see graduation rates improve, fewer embarrassing off-the-court incidents, and improved academic performance, along with some Big east style toughness on the court. This guy is better than another up-and-coming without being a neophyte in a so-so league.

    Arkansas better grab him as soon as his team exits the tournament…which may not be until April 4th!!

    Jimmi R

    • uvahog

      I don’t think we want Big East style of anything other than maybe media attention!

  • http://www.razorbloggers.net Walking on Sunshine

    I will be happy with Mike or Buzz. I think both will get us back to the up tempo, high energy style of play.

    With Mike…it’s like reading a book and you stop and put it down three-quarters of the way through. If you don’t ever pick it back up, you’ll always wonder how it ended.

    If he’s hired, we’ll sit back down, and enjoy the final chapters. Let’s hope its a happy ending.

  • GolfHog

    It’s looking more and more like it might actually be Mike. He certainly was my first choice although after I saw the list there were some pretty appealing names there. I hope it can be a real healing for the basketball program. Having Nolan living in Fayetteville and not part of the program was not a good thing. Whether Mike can capture lightning in a bottle is of course another question. He will have a good freshman class to work with and not a bad returning group if Marshawn stays on. I hope that the fans will come out and welcome him back while welcoming the new Arkansas kids.

    We know one thing for sure, we’ll see real D-1 basketball on the floor again. And, that is all I ever really asked.

    • uvahog

      That is it exactly. The extent of realistic Hog fans expectations are that we get to see real power conference basketball in Bud Walton.

  • Mike in Magnolia

    You can take it for what is worth. Ben Linsey Assistent coach for MA who is from Magnolia Ar, and father is the AD at Magnolia High School has told the local coaches that MA has told them to get ready to move. Like I said you can take this for what it is worth. This is what the local coach told me just this morning. So there ya go. If I’m wrong just don’t hate on me….lol

    • Mike in Magnolia

      Let me add Ben is a grad assistant.

  • Soupdhog

    Lots of good opinion on this board, but it comes down to this: is Anderson a step above Pelphrey? If the answer is yes, the history doesn’t matter. To my recollection, Anderson wasn’t key to any of the Nolan issues, he was just associated with him.

    I never thought Anderson might jump to Arkansas. If he does, it is certainly a step up for the Hogs and we have a greater chance of keeping the incoming recruiting class. A step in the positive direction.

    If Anderson doesn’t come, I really think we are in a quandry. Lots of quality openings currently that make it extremely competitive to get a quality coach. It’s a sellers market, and makes things really expensive for the Hogs to land someone.

    Regarding UVA’s comments, I’m really surprised. The Hogs WERE an elite program under Nolan and were at the level of Duke and UNC. We had everything laid out to start a long term dynasty, but Nolan and Broyles screwed it up. We hit rock bottom thanks to them, and under Long and Pelphrey have brought the program up to mediocre. Hopefully the next coach can take us back to that level as soon as possible.

    • uvahog

      I’m not saying we weren’t an elite program but we don’t need to have delusions of past and present grandeur either. We are more of a Georgetown than a Duke, UNC, or Kentucky:

      Duke: 15 Final 4s; Four championships; UNC: 18 Final 4s; Five championships; Kentucky 13 Final 4s; Seven championships

      Georgetown: 5 Final 4s; 1 Championship; Arkansas: 6 Final 4s; 1 Championship.

      I’m not disparaging Arkansas; I just think we need to be more realistic about short-term and long term expectations. Obviously, we all want to build the program so that we are a Duke, UNC, and Kentucky, perhaps even a UCLA, but we aren’t close to that right now.

      • GolfHog

        30 years of top twenty status did not need to be followed by ten years of mediocrity. Heath and Pelphry had no business even interviewing for this job. That was administrative incompetence at best. This should put us back on track.

    • Soupdhog

      Just imagine what our final 4 and championship count may have been over the last 10-12 years if the administrative screw ups didn’t occur :). Probably closer to Duke’s record.

      I agree Golf – Nolan and Broyles destroyed the program due to their egos. It’s a shame, but it’s in the past. Long and Pelphrey have helped us move forward.

      • Carolina Hog

        I like the credit given to Pelphrey and Long. It’s too easy to sit back and criticize everyone, but we are in far better shape now than four years ago. Long deserves credit for mending fences with Nolan or this hire would never even be a possibility. And I think Long deserves credit for going after his first choice and getting it done. I’m pretty happy with the leadership of Jeff Long. He often gets no credit for Bobby P. because it sort of fell in his lap, but I also think its easy to take for granted the fact that he has made Bobby P. happy. How long would Petrino have put up with Frank? Go Hogs!

      • OwassoHog

        Shoot, I wonder what our count should have been under Nolan. He definitely had the talent to one more than 1. This is really a shame that he didn’t.

  • Roadhog

    UA administration has created these financial problems by their lousy contract negotiations with former coaches. Too many buyouts; not enough wins. The trustees and the administration need to quit letting the foundation run the athletic department.

    The current situation with the basketball coach is starting to feel worse all the time. My gut feelings about the program have been right so far, no need to distrust them now. Hiring Anderson would be a mistake–not a fatal one, but one that could prevent the team from achieving elite status again.

    I think it was Jay Bilas who acknowledged that Arkansas was an elite program. The administration needs to start acting like one.

  • RazorHog

    I agree with Mike in Magnolia about Jamie Dickson from Pitt. I think he would be an excellent choice. However, I am a Razorback fan through and through and whoever is chosen that’s who I’ll support.

  • Roadhog

    Like most of you, I will support whomever they pick to coach the Hogs. More and more it looks as tho it will be Mike Anderson. As I’ve said before, I like Mike, personally, but there is one thing that bothers me about him: his W/L record.

    Pelphrey came with a middling record and did not improve upon it. The SEC is a pretty tough league most of the time.

    As a businessman, an investor, and a gambler (pool player), whatever the game, I must win 60% of the time just to break even financially. I have to win 2/3 of the time to make a profit, which is about where MA’s record stands. And that’s pretty good. But I must win over 70% of the time to make a living. Anderson is not there.

    It shouldn’t be hard to win 2/3 of your games when 1/3 of your opponents are hand-picked patsies: you only have to break even against your peers. But if you can win 2/3 of the games IN YOUR LEAGUE then you’re in business. You can finish in the money, make a living, and sometimes compete for the trophy. Less than 70% and you’re not a contender.

  • http://www.razorbloggers.net/ HogBlogger

    uvahog — for the record, I have no problem with Mike Anderson as coach. He will fill seats and do well. He just wouldn’t have been my first choice.

    Also, for the record, your thoughts on what all my ‘real’ thoughts might be aren’t even in the ball park. When I write a post, I tell you what I think. There’s nothing hidden behind the curtain.

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