Anderson Still Undefeated
Mike Anderson parked in Nolan Richardson's old parking spot, pulling into the first slot in the lot, marked "head coach." But, he didn't sit in Richardson's seat on the bench. Instead, someone placed Richardson's trademark red and black towel ... the one that matches the set in Yvonne Richardson's bath room ... on one of the seats in a symbolic jesture that Nolan was still there.
It didn't really matter because Anderson rarely needed a seat anyway. He was up throughout the game, almost getting a technical foul when he stepped almost to midcourt out on the floor.
"It's funny because I was always the one that held Coach back from getting a T, and I nearly got one today," Anderson said. "The towel was put on coaches' chair as a tribute to him. It was like he was here.
"This was bitter sweet for me. Yes, I want a chance to be a head coach, and I'm not politicing for a job here. But, if opportunity knocks, maybe I can step forward. I think I'm ready. This is the perfect place to do it."
The players voted unanimously to support Anderson, but all he would say is that "are an amazing bunch."
As far as the team's prospects at Atlanta next week in the SEC tournament, Anderson said, "We are into winning. That's what we are about. That's always what we've been about for 17 years. We have a sign in our locker room that says those who play, play to win.
"The one thing I'll say about today is that it was good to see the smiles. I looked down the bench and saw smiles and hugs from the players to their teammates.
"I was proud of our performance. It was senior day, and the seniors played great. It was a time to reflect on a lot of things. These guys came here four years ago, and you just look back and think about that. We always tell the parents that if you send us your boy, we'll send you back a man. I think that is what it looks like to me. The seniors played very well.
"They were obviously focused and ready to play. They were emotional and sky high. And, we hit some shots early. We've said all year that when the shots go in, this team plays well. Those seniors got us started early. But, you could see it coming from the Mississippi State game. We did some good things there and could have won the game if a couple of rebounds, or a couple of shots would have gone the other way. And, we had two excellent days of practice, especially for what all has happened. I'll say this, our coaching staff did a great job. Everyone pulled together and worked hard the last couple of days ... the coaches and the players. That's tough because most of the time, no one knew what was happening.
"It has not dawned on me exactly what has happened. I think I'm just doing what I'm supposed to do, but I do know that I have been prepared for this day by being with coach for 22 years as a player and a coach. I will visit with coach tonight. We are only a stone's throw apart from our homes. I went over there last night and ended up eating dinner. I'm always hungry when I get there, and Rose fixed some spaghetti, about like always."
Anderson laughed about Brandon Dean's comment after the game that their new coach "is still undefeated. I guess he's right, but it really doesn't matter.
Players Felt Comfortable with Anderson
From Teddy Gipson, the Hogs' leading scorer with 19: "We were more relaxed today. There was more pop to our passes, more bounce in our step and less turnovers. If there was a difference out there, it was that we were relaxed."
It was obvious that Gipson was looser against Vanderbilt. He had four assists, no turnovers and hit 8 of 14 shots from the field in what had to be his best game.
He said Mike Anderson gave some of the control back to the team, in that he and Brandon Dean set the defense. He said that had been the plan this year, but it hadn't happened so much lately, that Nolan had called the defenses.
"Coach Anderson pretty much let us do a lot of things, but he did do the subbing and it seemed to go well," he said. "If anything, there was less yelling today and the subbing was smooth. When we subbed, our team always went up, and nothing ever went away because of subbing."
Several players ... perhaps as many as five ... went to Nolan Richardson's ranch last night to visit with their coach.
"He is still our coach for now," Teddy said. "I didn't go, but only because I didn't know the guys were going out there. They said it was good to see Coach.
"There are a lot of emotions right now, a lot of emotions. Some of them we can't even express. We are in disbelief and shock. We were hurt, too, because we didn't think it was right to do it at this time.
"But, one thing it did was to bring us together as a family. We are focused and tight as a team right now. I know I'm ready to go to Atlanta. I'm ready to have some fun. I do think we will have fun down there. We are relaxed and ready to play four games."
SI Interested in Eddins' Thoughts
My assigned seat today was beside the reporter from Sports Illustrated. And, he picked my brain from start to finish. It was almost hard to watch the game. He's a good guy, and had asked to visit with me. I think he knows my older brother well, and lives in Tuscaloosa.
At any rate, the SI reporter spent a lot of time with Blake Eddins after the game. I listened into some of it, and was interested in what Blake would say.
"I lot of the people that write about Coach Richardson don't really know him or get it," Eddins said. "He says things for them in those (interview) sessions, and isn't like that around us.
"I would do everything the same about picking a school. To come here and learn about life from him is a dream for me. He taught me so much.
"One of the things you know here from the day you set foot is that he will help you and be there for you if something goes wrong in your life. For instance, if something happened and I needed him at 4 a.m., I wouldn't hesitate to call. He'd be there in a few minutes. I know that.
"We travel around the country playing games, and you meet a lot of people that seem fascinated by Coach Richardson. And, they always ask one question, 'Is he a racist?' I guess I'm as good as anyone to ask, since I'm white. Well, I've got the answer for all of them, and that is he is not a rascist. Obviously, if he was a racist, then I wouldn't be here, would I? Those folks that use the race card, I just don't see it. He is hard on me, and yet I know that he loves me the same as any player he's ever had and any that he'll ever had in the future. I don't get it, why people say those things about him. I guess it is just that they don't get to spend the time with him that we do, and they don't know him. And, that's ashame."
Chancellor White: Mike Anderson "Serious" Candidate
Chancellor John White spent considerable time with the media in the work room during the halftime of the basketball game. Actually, he stayed with about 10 members of the media well into the second half before he realized that the game was in progress. He tried to make it back to his seat, but I don't know if he ever did.
White was asked if Nolan's record this season (the Hogs were 5-10 in the SEC when he was fired) had anything to do with his decision.
"No, I was comfortable with where we were and what was happening, but I don't think he was," White said. "This wasn't about numbers. It wasn't about victories, or attendance or about foundation contributions or sponsorships. It was about leadership. Now, do I think that Nolan was emotional about what was going on as far as victories, yes, I think that may have been the case. But, wedidn't react because of that.
"I think Nolan