Mike Anderson will always have his supporters in Arkansas.
In the end, though, he didn’t have any titles and Tuesday afternoon was fired after eight seasons of winning … but no conference titles and not enough NCAA games.
With his first major coaching decision, athletics director Hunter Yurachek reinforced the opinion I had from his first week that he’s about competing for championships.
Second place is just the first loser, in my opinion. Maybe for the first time since Frank Broyles, that opinion might be shared by the guy doing the hiring and firing for the Razorbacks.
Oh, I have no doubt Anderson WANTED to win every game he coached. But it all too often appeared he didn’t have the burning desire in his gut that made him think he HAD to win.
Nolan Richardson had it. It may or may not have diminished after his second straight national title game, but that’s an answer we’ll never know to question that’s no longer relevant. His record certainly tailed off after that, but there were a lot of changes happening in college basketball that may have affected things as much.
Just as Bret Bielema didn’t appear to have that burning drive that he HAD to win, at times after losses Anderson had this nagging habit of essentially appearing to shrug it off as one of those things that happens in college basketball.
All of that is what you get reading between the lines of Yurachek’s prepared statement issued announcing Anderson’s firing.
“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.”
For Hog fans, that should come as a very positive sign.
Chad Morris seems to get that in football. He says over and over the new standard is being the best for a football program that fell below mediocrity during Bret Bielema’s time. Bobby Petrino’s two good years kept it from being just average.
Dave Van Horn understands that standard in baseball. Mike Neighbors gets it in women’s basketball (which has as much positive buzz as anything right now). Even coaches in the other sports get it or the guess is they won’t be around Fayetteville very long.
Anderson got eight years to build his program. He went about it the right way. There wasn’t any drama, scandals or cheating in a sport that is filled with it.
The culture Morris talks about in the most visible sport appears to be what Yurachek embraces, too. That’s competing for championships. Every year.
In football that means trying to get somewhere other than Memphis or Shreveport in late December. In basketball that means the NIT is just a chance for some more practice and the standard is winning at least two games every year in the NCAA.
Anderson’s ultimate issue appears to be he won only two NCAA games in eight years.
Not one single person has ever had a negative thing to say about Anderson that I’ve heard. You won’t get a negative from me, either. None of the criticism aimed at him is personal.
Anderson had plenty of time to build a championship-caliber program. Don’t bother with excuses because there isn’t a single one you can come up with that is sufficient.
Just being above .500 isn’t good enough in the world of college sports these days. Maybe that’s good enough for a fan base that all too often appears okay with anything less than at least a shot at a title … every single year.
Razorback fans shouldn’t be content with slightly above average in any single year. That should never be acceptable.
It doesn’t appear to be okay with Yurachek, either.
And, fans, that’s not a bad thing.