Anderson making good on long-awaited opportunity

"I enjoyed my time with him (at Auburn). He got me at the beginning of my career, during my lazy days, and he improved my work ethic. ... Murray State made a great choice.'' Charles Barkley on Murray State's Tevester Anderson

Tevester Anderson
Age: 65
Birthplace: Canton, Miss.
Position: Murray State head coach
Local ties: Assistant coach at Auburn for five years (1982-86) and at Georgia or nine years (1986-95). Head coach at West Fulton High in Atlanta from 1971-80, winning Class AA state titles in 1975 and 1976.Record: 86-39 in his fourth season at Murray State.

Tevester Anderson would have loved to have had the opportunity to test his skills as a head coach in the NCAA tournament for Georgia or Auburn. Instead, as Murray State's head coach, the former Auburn and Georgia assistant will try to beat the Bulldogs in Friday's East Regional first-round game in Chicago. The game, to be televised by CBS, is expected to tip off at approximately 10:15 p.m.

At Auburn for five years as a top assistant for head coach Sonny Smith and at Georgia for nine years with Hugh Durham, Anderson recruited some of the Southeastern Conference's top players of the 1980s and 1990s.

For Auburn, Anderson recruited Charles Barkley, Chuck Person and Chris Morris, among others. For Georgia, Anderson was the point man in the recruitment of Litterial Green, Elmore Spencer, Antonio Harvey and Carlos Strong.

For Anderson, there was a bitter price to be paid for those recruiting successes. He became known more as a recruiter than a coach.When Auburn was looking to replace Smith and Georgia had to find the successor to Durham, however, Anderson was not the choice.

"No one said I couldn't coach,'' Anderson said Tuesday in a telephone interview. "They just said I was a great recruiter.''

Anderson's break finally came when Alabama hired Mark Gottfried from Murray State to be the Crimson Tide's new head coach after the 1998 season. Anderson had been an assistant at Murray State for three years.

Now in his fourth year the Racers' head coach, the 65-year-old Anderson is making his second trip to the NCAA tournament.

"I'm just happy to have the opportunity to be a head coach at the Division I level,'' Anderson said. "I thought it would come earlier, but God has his plans for us. We have to take the opportunity and go with it.''

Added Anderson: "It was important for me to become a head coach before I got out of coaching. Sometimes you get branded a recruiter, but people forgot I had been the coach for the Virgin Islands national team for 15 years and had been a high school coach for 19 years and won more than 400 games and four state championships.

"That's a great resume, but sometimes you get branded as a recruiter.''

After living in Atlanta for 10 years as a high school coach and nine years in Athens, Anderson has maintained his Georgia ties.

"I still follow Georgia and I pull for Georgia when they're playing,'' he said. "That's still home for my family in a sense because that's 19 years of my life. I pull for Georgia in every game — except Friday.''

Because Gottfried was his assistant at UCLA, Georgia coach Jim Harrick became close with Anderson when visiting Gottfried at Murray State. Harrick already knew Anderson from crossing paths on untold numbers of recruiting trips. While the Rhode Island coach, Harrick beat Gottfried, Anderson and Murray State 97-74 in a 1998 NCAA first-round game.

Harrick predicts a closer game in his first test against Anderson as a head coach.

"It will be a very, very competitive game,'' Harrick said. "It will be quite interesting with two old friends going at it.''

Harrick says that Anderson's reputation as an ace recruiter is well-deserved.

"You never know where he might be hiding,'' Harrick said, adding "He might be behind that door.''

But this time, Anderson wants to break down a door and coach Murray State to its first NCAA tournament win since 1988.

"When I saw the pairing I thought Georgia was a good draw for us because of their size,'' said Anderson, noting Harrick has no player taller than 6-foot-8. "When you are a mid-level team, that's the thing you are really concerned about when you get to the NCAA tournament.''

Anderson admits Georgia has better depth, but he expects Harrick will have difficulty finding a Bulldog capable of guarding his top player, senior shooting guard Justine Burdine.

"He's the real deal,'' said Anderson of the 6-foot-1 Burdine, a first-team Ohio Valley Conference pick who is averaging 20.4 points per game.

"He can shoot the basketball. He's an outstanding shooter and he's an athlete, too.''
Burdine made nine 3-point shots while scoring 37 points in a win over Eastern Kentucky on Feb. 21, and he added seven 3-pointers in a 70-69 win over Tennessee Tech in the finals of the OVC tournament.

If Burdine is hot, then the 14th-seeded Racers could score a first-round upset for Anderson.

"I'm not saying we can beat Georgia by any means, but if we're going to win a game, this is the kind of draw we have to have,'' Anderson said.

Charles can be reached here:

Dawg Post Top Stories