It was an exciting, emotional day in all respects with Anderson's introduction before a crowd estimated at well over 5,000 at Bud Walton Arena on a cold, rainy Saturday morning.
Anderson exhibited class and a humble nature, but also got out the message that "the Hogs are back." There is a difference. He didn't say he was back, he said the Hogs were back.
Asked about the timing, he said he never imagined it because he always lived in the moment. When he was at Alabama-Birmingham, he was "all in there." That goes for the last five years at Missiouri.
"But I always knew in the back of my mind ... well, you know," Anderson said. "You knew maybe one day."
In talking with Marcheita Anderson, Mike's wife, it was clear that the family knew it to be the right fit in all areas. She recalled that Dexter Howard's church, now thriving, had its first meeting in their living room. She cooked pork loin and Dexter said it was one of the best meals he's ever eaten. Marcheita said their son, Michael, Jr., reminded her almost immediately this week when the Arkansas job appeared a reality, "Mom, and we have a church already."
Chancellor David Gearhart said, "We thank Nolan Richardson." As he said it, he turned to Mike, Mike nodded and the crowd roared.
Anderson said he didn't worry about "going home again," a reference to his 17-year stay as Richardson's lead man. He said he'd already done that when he went back to his hometown to coach Alabama-Birmigham, where he got to coach in front of his mother.
"You can go home again," he said. "I've done it twice now."
Richardson was there without being there. Mike said he'd probably see Nolan in about one week. He said, "Remember, he has a job, too."
Several said they expected Nolan to attend games, but probably not in a public way. Marcheita has always liked playing host to a suite or sky box at Missouri games so friends and family can be together and socialize.
She said it would be very comfortable for Nolan to attend games in that setting. So I expect the family to host a box in Bud Walton and that to be where Nolan would sit.
Some have asked about several other candidates. It was clear from talking to key sources at the top that Ben Howland of UCLA did inquire.
It was also clear that the buyout for Marquette's Buzz Williams, perhaps another candidate, is $1.9 million.
Mike Anderson has a "mirror" buyout at Arkansas. He would have to pay $1 million to get out of his contract and the school would owe him $1 million if they terminated him. His buyout at Missouri was $550,000. His Arkansas contract contains clauses that prevent him from going anywhere in the SEC.
Mike Anderson said his entire Missouri staff would follow him. "If it's not broke, don't try to fix it," he said. Scotty Thurman would be retained at Arkansas, but his role was not defined. Apparently, Missouri assistants have to wait until April 1, just one week away, before they could leave or they would forfeit an annual retirement contribution. So expect Mike and Scotty to do the major work for the next week.
Mike said he would visit with all of the current players later this weekend when they return from spring break. He has visited with Marshawn Powell and both are excited. Asked about Rotnei Clarke, Mike said he hadn't visited with him yet, but he expects Rotnei to be on board and doesn't think there will be any problems there.
Anderson said all of his visits with the five signed players from the early period have gone exceptionally well. He said he expected all would stick with their letters of intent. He was asked specifically about B. J. Young, a Missouri product. He said there were talks when he was at Missouri, but he didn't go hard after Young because he didn't believe in stockpiling players at the same spot. He had several point guards.
But he expects Young to join him at Arkansas. He said the system was perfect for Young and that the St. Louis product understood that and expressed excitement. He said all five have been extremely positive about joining Anderson at Arkansas in the meetings in the last 48 hours. He said he and his staff had seen them all and were very talented. He said what stood out about each is that "they are winners. I really like winners."
There was a large crowd of former players attending. If it had been a couple of days earlier, Joe Johnson would have attended. He made plans to charter a private jet and come had it been on Thursday (a day off for the Hawks), but couldn't come Saturday. He is all in, according to several former players. Some suggested that to mean financially.
Mike was clear that he knows the expectations and that he carries them. He said it's about winning and getting back to the top. He said he puts more pressure on himself than anyone else could and that "no one outworks him or his staff." In short, he talked the right talk and the right language. He encouraged fans to get their tickets because there won't be any shortly.
Frank Broyles, the man who didn't hire Mike nine years ago, attended and was one of the first to reach out to Mike when he came down off the stage afterwards. Frank stuck out his hand and congratulated Mike. And then Mike reached out and they hugged. Mike said later, "I would have expected nothing less from him. He's a good man and loves our school."
Former players were beaming. It was like a reunion for them. Among them, Todd Day was waving to the crowd and hugging everyone around. So was Corey Beck, Charles Balentine and Lee Mayberry and others from several eras of Arkansas basketball.
Former track star Mike Conley, who moved back to Fayetteville two years ago, was there to celebrate the return of one of his best friends. He said he talked to Mike at least every week and had encouraged him that the time was right. He said he only wished it had been a few years earlier so that "my son (NBA player Mike) and Greg Oden could have played here. That would have happened. I brought them here for Stan Heath to meet them and thought he would recruit them, but he didn't. If Mike had been here, it would have happened. He was just getting started at UAB and it just wasn't a big enough place for them then. But they would have played for him here."
Conley had a white Oxford button down shirt with a Razorback on it.
"I went into my closet to get this and be here for this day," Conley said. "I wanted to be wearing a Hog when Mike walked in. Wow. I'm excited.
"I have to admit that when I brought in Mike and Greg for a game during Heath's time, I was disapppointed. It was just not the same. Depressing. I haven't been back to a game since. I'll be here now. I'm energized.
"This place will be packed now. We haven't won much in awhile and this is going to give the fans a big boost. This is the spark. There will be an adjustment period for the players to learn Mike's system, but he'll get it done.
"I think you will see the former players get more involved in the program. I know Joe Johnson has already reached out. You'll see everyone coming back."
As far as the contract negotiations, there wasn't much to it. Missouri offered $2 million in their extension. The Arkansas offer was $2.2 and never changed. Anderson's agent asked for $2.3 and then quickly agreed that $2.2 million was the deal. One interesting aspect of the Missouri contract, the window for Arkansas to talk to Mike was only 24 hours. Jeff Long said the face to face meeting was the deal closer.
"You hear about someone but until you sit down across from them, you don't have a deal," he said. "You have to know if you are going to mesh with him and he's going to mesh with you. You want to talk about some things as far as how he does things and commitment to academics. I want to hear how he treats people and see it in his face. When we did that, it was really easy at that point."
Jonathan "Pookie" Modica, soon to be Dr. Modica, was beaming. He was recruited primarily by Anderson, but that staff was gone by the time he got to school.
"I committed to Mike," Modica said. "I'm not the emotional type, but this got to me today. It's very special and a remarkable day for our school. It was a wonderful moment to see Mike walk in from the player's ramp just awhile ago. I almost lost it.
"I guess stuff doesn't really get to me, but I think this is a story that some day I will tell my kids about. It's a fairy tale. It's what you would read to your child, a good story. To come back like this is really wonderful for Mike and our basketball program.
"He's absolutely the right man and coach to lead our program. Good things are going to happen. A lot of people have wanted this for a lot of years. It's special and unique to see it."
Todd Day said it was an easy fit.
"He'll need some time to get things going, but he'll get it done," Day said. "He's a very good coach and he knows how to get players. And it's players that make the coach.
"What I would say is that he's a smaller version of Nolan. I think he understands players. I think he's a blended version of old school and new school. Nolan was strictly old school. He has all the right values, too. He's exactly what you want if you have a son.
"This is a day that makes my heart feel a lot better. It is great to be here to watch it."
Day knows that the style of play will suit fans. He said it also suits players and makes it easier to be successful.
"What I always said is that this style of play helps players shine," Day said. "You do need a great player or two, but you don't have to have five McDonald All-Americans to play this way. You can maybe get by with one and a good cast around them.
"What I know about Mike is that he's going to take this bunch that is left for him and he'll make them better. He'll make them fit to what he wants to do. He will demand what he needs and get it done. There's an adjustment time, but it shouldn't take a long, long time. This is a style that they will like playing and they will change to fit it."
Mike Anderson (center) with his wife Marcheita and Jeff Long, athletic director.
The words in Bud Walton Arena said it best.
Frank Broyles (left) congratulated Anderson.
Mike Anderson enters Bud Walton Arena.
Photos by Marc F. Henning