FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Mike Anderson is returning to Arkansas to become the Razorbacks’ basketball coach.
The school confirmed the move on Wednesday night.
Anderson leaves Missouri after five seasons to return to the school where he was an assistant to Nolan Richardson for 17 seasons. He replaces John Pelphrey, who was fired on March 13.
“Under Mike’s leadership, I am confident the Razorbacks will be successful in the future on and off the court,” Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long said in a statement. “The decision to hire Mike Anderson as head coach is based on my firm belief that he is the right person to lead the Razorback program today and in the years to come.”
Anderson told ESPN’s Michael Kim that leaving for Arkansas was “a tough decision” in a text message Wednesday night.
Earlier Wednesday, a source at Missouri told ESPN.com’s Andy Katz that the school had expected Anderson to stay.
Anderson had wrestled with his decision the past few days, especially with the majority of the Tigers returning. Anderson had been negotiating a two-year extension that would raise his salary at Missouri to $2 million per season — a $500,000 raise.
But the hard feelings felt by Missouri fans over Anderson’s departure were nowhere to be found inside Mizzou Arena at a news conference on Wednesday night. Less than two hours after a team meeting with Anderson, athletic director Mike Alden repeatedly praised the coach for restoring the national success of a program that rose to prominence under longtime coach Norm Stewart but faltered under Anderson’s predecessor, Quin Snyder.
“We’ve been blessed that he has been with us for the past five years,” Alden said at a hastily arranged news conference. “We wish him nothing but the best.”
[+] EnlargeAP Photo/L.G. Patterson
Mike Anderson agreed Wednesday to leave Missouri to coach Arkansas, where he was an assistant from 1985 to 2002.Anderson did not attend the news conference, but rising Missouri seniors Marcus Denmon, Kim English and Laurence Bowers also spoke fondly of their former coach. Anderson told them that the call home was too strong to resist, they said.
“I don’t feel Coach Anderson would have left here for any place other than Arkansas,” Denmon said. Anderson was 111-57 in five seasons at Missouri, including an appearance in the Elite Eight in 2009. The Tigers were 23-11 this season, losing to Cincinnati in the second round of the NCAA tournament. He was 89-41 in four seasons at Alabama-Birmin