March 13, 2011
It is Selection Sunday, which means the best week of the year is officially underway. Over the next few days, I'll have a chance to check out Otto Porter Jr. (the next Missouri Tiger commit?) chase another state title, I'll be in attendance with scouts and front office personnel from 32 NFL teams as Blaine Gabbert and Aldon Smith take the next step toward being multi-millionaires. But the highlight of this week is clearly the NCAA Tournament, of which the first four days mark the four best days in sports.
Missouri is going to be a part of that tournament again, the third straight year it has happened. And that probably should be the story today. Where is Missouri going and who will it play?
Alas, it seems it is not. Last night, Trey Biddy, who is the publisher of HawgSports.com, the Arkansas site on the Rivals.com network, sent out the following message via Twitter: "Sources say the paperwork on John Pelphrey's buyout is done and an announcement will be made next week." Arkansas television stations have since corroborated the tweet, saying the University will fire Pelphrey in the next few daya.
And, with that, my friends, Missouri Tiger fans hit the panic button. Again. A friend of mine and a Tiger fan posted the following on his Facebook page: "And so it begins....Mike Anderson the next head coach for Arkansas." The vast majority of the 50 comments since have bemoaned the fact that the man that drug Missouri basketball from the depths of depression within minutes of the Final Four is now headed to greener pastures and the school at which he coached for 17 years.
Except he's not. I mean, I guess it's possible that he eventually is, but Mike Anderson has done nothing to induce such panic. A little more than a week ago, Anderson was asked about the rumors Pelphrey was out and that Anderson would replace him. He initially offered a non-committal and disheartening statement about focusing on Kansas and not his future destination. But the next day, Anderson told the Columbia Daily Tribune: "I plan on being at Missouri for a long time, retire here. I'm happy. I think that's the most important thing. It's always about being happy."
Anderson went further: ""In this day and age, speculation always runs rampant all the time, and it seems like every year, we get to this stage and speculation starts growing. So people are saying something - people that I don't even know. One thing, I don't deal in speculation. So it's getting old, really.
"My point to you is that No. 1, I'm a Missouri Tiger. We love it here. I said we're going to win a national championship. We're going to do it here. I plan on being at Missouri a long time. That's where I'm coming from."
We have been unable to confirm whether Anderson sealed the deal by pinky-swearing that he is going to return to Mizzou. But at some point, the man has earned the trust that he means what he says. Based on things I've heard, I expect Anderson to be the coach at Missouri next year.
But the best news is, we'll all know for sure in the next few weeks. If Pelphrey is indeed out-and there is no reason to believe he is not-the Hogs will get their short list together, make some calls and move on a coach. Some of the names speculated to be on that list (Anderson, Mark Turgeon from Texas A&M, Buzz Williams at Marquette) are going to be in the NCAA Tournament. It doesn't seem likely any will still be coaching when the Final Four rolls around, which is where much of the coaching movement takes place.
But finally, we'll have the answer to the question most Missouri fans have feared since Anderson was hired five years ago: What happens when Arkansas is looking for a coach? If the Hogs don't hire him now, that makes three times they've passed him by. They did it first when Nolan Richardson was let go and they hired Stan Heath in 2002. They did it again when they opted for South Alabama's Pelphrey in 2007. Thumb your nose at him again and it's over. For good.
One way or another, we will know by early April whether Mike Anderson will ever be the coach at Arkansas. And that, for two fanbases, is the best news of all.