By Matthew Fairburn
As Kim English, Laurence Bowers and Marcus Denmon took to the podium in a crowded media room at Mizzou Arena to address the departure of then-coach Mike Anderson nearly two years ago, nobody in the room could muster a smile.
The disdain for Anderson’s abrupt and unexpected departure from the Missouri basketball program was felt among the team’s seniors, who had played their entire careers with Anderson. It was felt in Phil Pressey, who’s father played with Anderson at Tulsa, leading to the subject of transfer rumors in the weeks that followed his coach’s resignation. And it was felt among Tiger basketball fans, as Anderson left town to take a job at neighboring Arkansas.
A lot has changed since that press conference in March of 2011. For starters, Pressey and Bowers are the only players still at Missouri that were a part of the Anderson era. In the year that followed Anderson’s resignation, coach Frank Haith led Missouri to a Big 12 Tournament Championship and No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, while Anderson and Arkansas failed to reach the postseason.
With Missouri’s move to the Southeastern Conference, the two teams are scheduled to face one another for the first time on Saturday, Feb. 16 in Fayetteville, Ark.
But instead of focusing on history between Anderson and Missouri, the Tigers are more concerned about their play on the road. Missouri picked up its first road win of the season on Wednesday, while Arkansas is undefeated at home this season, including an upset against Florida.
“Teams are going to play better at home than on the road,” Haith said. “But to get in the postseason, teams have to win road games.”
While the Tigers haven’t said much regarding Saturday’s showdown with their former coach, Anderson said it will be tough to play against his former players.
“Playing against Missouri and some of my former players, it’s not only that, but they’re in my family,” Anderson said in a teleconference on Monday. “That’s going to be hardest part.”
Anderson also acknowledged that Bowers and Pressey will be playing with some emotion when the two teams meet.
“There’s probably going to be some emotion on their part,” Anderson said. “I’m very aware of what they’re capable of doing and what they’ve done in their careers at Missouri.”
Saturday’s game in Arkansas is sold out to the general public. The two teams meet in Columbia on March 5, and as of Wednesday, student tickets were still available for pickup.
If there is a rivalry between the two teams, neither side is saying much about it. Both Anderson and Missouri appear to be willing to settle things on the court.
Saturday’s game is scheduled to tip off at 3 p.m.
Supervising editor on this story was Megan Rentschler