Arkansas vs. Missouri

FAYETTEVILLE -- A fictional movie title eventually popped into Nolan Richardson's head.

Arkansas' former basketball coach paused for a moment and pondered the easiest way to describe the coaching style of Mike Anderson, his longtime pupil at Tulsa and Arkansas.

The former Razorback assistant brings his Missouri Tigers to Fayetteville tonight, returning to Bud Walton Arena for the first time since 2002. And Richardson resorted to a six-word phrase to portray what fans will see, a title that surely would draw moviegoers to the box offices in Northwest Arkansas.

"Forty Minutes of Hell, Part Two," Richardson said earlier this week from El Paso, Texas. "Everybody looks forward to the sequel. I'm hoping part two turns out to be better than part one. So far, in five years, I'd say he's on track.

"His teams will fight you to the end."

Arkansas' past meets Arkansas' present tonight in a contest that should evoke strong feelings out of Anderson and Razorback followers alike. For most of his 17 seasons at Arkansas with Richardson, Anderson hoped he'd roam the home sideline one day in Bud Walton Arena.

Richardson groomed Anderson, who played under him at Tulsa, to be his replacement.

"He knows everything I know; some things he knows better," Richardson said.

But Anderson never got his chance. Richardson was fired. He sued the university. And the Arkansas administration wanted to cut ties with every connection to its former coach, despite Anderson's contributions.

Anderson's not bitter. "I've moved on," he said. "It actually gave me the chance to go home and let my mom see me coach (at Alabama-Birmingham) before she passed in 2004. One window of opportunity closed and another one opened."

Still, he admitted to feeling emotional about his return. After all, he raised his family in Arkansas. He grew to love the area, which embraced Richardson's style and the national championship that resulted from it.

His voice even perked as he recalled meals at AQ Chicken House and Herman's.

"When it actually takes place (tonight), there's going to be a lot of fond memories that sink in," Anderson said. "I made a lot of friends and kept some friends from there. And it was a great place to be for 17 years."

Same Style

"Forty Minutes of Hell, Part Two" is a perfect name for Anderson's system. Just ask last year's Razorbacks. On a snowy, late-November night in Columbia, Mo., the Hogs looked and must've felt like all those teams Richardson and Anderson pounded into submission in the late 1980s and 90s.

Missouri, then in its first month of learning Anderson's style of play, forced 24 turnovers.

The entire game, the Hogs were panicked, unable to keep up with Missouri's relentless intensity. Arkansas coach John Pelphrey watched tape of that defeat this week and was reminded of the two times his South Alabama squads were obliterated by Anderson's Alabama-Birmingham teams.

"His teams are as close to playing Coach Richardson as you can get," Pelphrey said. "It's all predicated on pressuring the ball. You have to handle it, pass it and dribble it. You have to be strong with the ball. If you dribble more than three times, somebody will get a hand on it."

Anderson's players -- current and former -- describe him as just as fiery a character as Richardson on the court.

Missouri forward DeMarre Carroll, Anderson's nephew, transferred from Vanderbilt after the 2005 season and saw a side of his uncle even he hadn't noticed before. A guard messed up a drill, and Anderson exploded. He then jumped into practice and started playing briefly.

"He gets real intense," Carroll said. "But we know it's because he wants to win so bad. That's what he's all about."

Scotty Thurman saw other similarities between Richardson and Anderson. The former Arkansas star said the two had similar basketball minds. Anderson said that was the natural result of him spending so many years as a tuned-in apprentice.

"A lot of people don't know this," Thurman said. "But Coach Anderson was the one in the huddle drawing a lot of the plays up. He was the one showing us a lot of the offensive sets in practice. They were like the same coach."

More Than Hoops

The similarities end at some point. Richardson said Anderson is "his own man." Both men have always cared for their players, but Anderson has always connected uniquely, Richardson said.

Thurman knows this more than anyone. Anderson found Thurman in Ruston, La., a lightly recruited, raw talent who he felt fit Arkansas' system perfectly. And Thurman said Anderson showed a fatherly interest in him since the moment he committed.

That relationship was tested 13 years ago. Thurman was 19 years old. He was frightened. He had just learned he was a soon-to-be father. It was his worst nightmare, and he was 350 miles from home.

"When I first found out that I had my girlfriend pregnant, I didn't know what to do," Thurman said. "I was so scared about it. I didn't know how to tell my parents. And he was there for me, every step of the way. I've never forgotten that."

These days, Scotty Thurman, Jr., is 13 years old, and Mike Anderson is still exhibiting those traits. That personality is Anderson's strongest asset, Richardson said, but his recruiting eye is not far behind. Richardson and Anderson both admit that recruiting is far more difficult with 40 Minutes of Hell -- the original or the sequel.

The number of stars next to a player's recruiting profile means nothing. His ability to fit in means everything.

"He's a very, very good and wise recruiter," Richardson said. "He sees players that are not the blue-chippers, the ones being recruited by Duke and North Carolina. But he finds players that will be good in the system, or even be good down the line in the system."

By sticking to that method, Anderson has put together an athletic Missouri team that could give Arkansas fits tonight. Win or lose, Anderson said Razorbacks fans would see an attitude from the black- and gold-clad players that is quite familiar.

It worked before at Arkansas. And even though Anderson won't have the opportunity to get it to work here again, he'll enjoy showing it off again.

"I love seeing kids going out and having fun," Anderson said. "That's how we're successful. Our teams play unselfish. They trust each other. And they're just a blue-collar team."

Just like the old days.

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