If IU Athletics Director Rick Greenspan decides to turn to current UAB Coach Mike Anderson as Mike Davis' replacement on the IU sidelines, he can count on getting an exciting brand of basketball – along with a catchy slogan.
When Anderson was an assistant coach under Nolan Richardson at Arkansas, he helped orchestrate the Razorbacks' "40 Minutes of Hell," a phrase used to describe the team's in-your-face defensive approach and up-tempo style. That brand of basketball helped Arkansas to 270 wins during the 1990s, three trips to the Final Four (1990, 1994, 1995) and the 1994 NCAA Championship. The 270 wins during the decade ranked fifth nationally behind only Kansas, Kentucky, Duke and North Carolina.
That success – and Anderson's contributions – didn't go unnoticed. After 14 years at Arkansas, Anderson was named the head coach at UAB in 2002. He brought that same style to Conference USA, with a slightly modified name. Anderson's Blazer teams play the "Fastest 40 minutes of basketball," again a slogan used to describe their endline-to-endline, sideline-to-sideline approach that makes them one of the conference's most dreaded opponents.
That style worked at Arkansas, and it's been equally successful at UAB. Now in his fourth season, Anderson's teams have gone 87-39, winning at least 20 games each season. Two of his first three teams earned trips to the NCAA Tournament, including the 2004 squad that opened with a 105-103 overtime win over Washington in the first round followed by a 76-75 upset of top-seeded Kentucky in the second round to earn a trip to the Sweet 16.
This year's team figures to make it three trips to the Big Dance in four years. UAB is 22-5 and is the second-seed in this week's Conference USA Tournament behind Memphis, a team UAB beat last week, 80-74, in Birmingham.
As the team's slogan would suggest, the foundation for UAB's success is a style that wears on its opponents. The Blazers led the nation in steals/game in each of the last three years, and this year's squad ranks second nationally with 11.3 thefts/contest. Each of his first four teams have also averaged at least 75 points/game, including a 76.4 points/game average this season.
The 46-year-old Anderson is a native of Birmingham, Ala.
What Makes Him a Viable Candidate: His four-year run at UAB has him among the hottest commodities in the coaching ranks these days. He's been rumored to be a candidate for the vacant Missouri job as well, and it's a good bet that some major school will make a strong push to lure him away from the Conference USA school. He has strong recruiting connections in Alabama and in the south in general from his time with the Blazers as well as his time with Arkansas.
While the most oft-discussed names with the IU job have been the likes of Marquette's Tom Crean, Ohio State's Thad Matta and Iowa's Steve Alford – among many others – it's likely that Greenspan will also want to take a close look at the some minority candidates as well.
What Makes Him a Longshot: Those who know Anderson say that loyalty is one of his strongest traits, which would make it very difficult for him to leave UAB. Many think the UAB job is the perfect fit for the Birmingham native, whose family still lives close by.
Rightly or wrongly, there's probably also a perception that the Indiana job isn't the easiest one to tackle for an African-American coach. While most would concede that Mike Davis' 46-39 record during the past three seasons was the biggest reason the large majority of IU fans clamored for a change, there was a small segment of the Hoosier fan base that never welcomed Davis. IU also drew some negative national attention for the so-called "Black Out" that was rumored for last month's Iowa game. Such a protest never occurred, but damage was done to IU's perception. Whether intentional or not, the racial connotations of people even discussing that sort of protest was probably a red flag to a lot of minority coaching candidates.
HoosierNation.com's Take: Anderson could very well be someone that Greenspan would like to talk to, but Anderson likely won't view the IU job as a good fit. He has a great situation at UAB, he's paid well, and he's loved by the Blazer fan base. After UAB's trip to the Sweet 16 in 2004, he was rewarded with a five-year contract extension that pays him up to $775,000 annually, including a $600,000 base. While Indiana could offer more, UAB would likely be willing to up its deal as well in an effort to keep him.
Anderson also has a top-25 recruiting class coming in this fall, and UAB figures to be an annual championship contender in the watered-down Conference USA. To get Anderson away from his hometown university all of the stars are going to need to be aligned. There's no such situation for him in Bloomington, a place where fellow Alabama native Mike Davis was fighting an uphill battle ever since he took over for Bob Knight six years ago
COACHING SEARCH: Should IU Like Mike?
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