An­der­son, Hogs qui­et­ing the crit­ics

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS - NATE ALLEN

FAYET­TEVILLE — A few weeks ago, when things weren’t go­ing so good, the chat­ter sur­round­ing this Arkansas Ra­zor­backs bas­ket­ball team was start­ing to sound a lot like it did dur­ing the early days of Nolan Richard­son.

From 1985-87, you could swear that most every­body in Arkansas knew more about bas­ket­ball than Richard­son, Arkansas’s new bas­ket­ball coach.

Self-pro­claimed ex­perts pro­claimed that Richard­son didn’t coach fun­da­men­tals and didn’t have an or­ga­nized strat­egy.

It got old fast. And silly. And ul­ti­mately proved just plain wrong.

Turns out, not even the great Ed­die Sut­ton who built what Richard­son called the “mon­ster” to feed at Arkansas, could feed it like Richard­son.

Folks quit fret­ting about Richard­son when he went 200-43 dur­ing his 1989-95 Arkansas peak, in­clud­ing the pro­gram’s lone bas­ket­ball na­tional cham­pi­onship and na­tional run­ner-up.

As an Arkansas as­sis­tant who had played for Richard­son at Tulsa, Mike An­der­son was part of a glo­ri­ous past and re­turned as Arkansas’ head coach to a hero’s wel­come in 2011.

Wel­comes wear out quickly dur­ing these im­pa­tient days of so­cial me­dia.

Two sea­sons re­moved from a 27-9 sea­son that was Arkansas’ best since the 32-7 1995 na­tional run­ner-up, sto­ries sim­i­lar to those told dur­ing Richard­son’s early years at Arkansas, plus one that Nolan as­suredly never heard, abounded as An­der­son’s Hogs strug­gled ear­lier this sea­son.

An­der­son and his staff aren’t tough enough, loud enough and just too nice, was over­heard re­peat­edly.

It’s es­sen­tially the same An­der­son staff that went 111-57 with a trip to the Elite Eight in five sea­sons at Mis­souri.

But tough­ness comes in many forms and at many vol­umes.

An­der­son’s quiet re­solve of fo­cus­ing on the next prac­tice and next game stead­ied the list­ing ship af­ter losses that many spec­u­lated would keep Arkansas out of the NCAA Tour­na­ment.

That same fo­cus seems to be keep­ing these now surg­ing 22-7 Hogs from go­ing over­board about them­selves even as “brack­e­tol­o­gists” etch them into the Big Dance with two SEC games and the SEC Tour­na­ment left to play.

“The big pic­ture will take care of it­self if we do the things we are sup­posed to do with the lit­tle things,” An­der­son said af­ter Satur­day night’s 79-68 vic­tory at Auburn. “The lit­tle things add up to big things. One of the lit­tle things is get bet­ter in prac­tice each and ev­ery day and tak­ing it one game at a time. Just stay­ing di­aled in and not get­ting too high or get­ting too low but just hav­ing that even keel.”

It might sound trite, but with An­der­son it’s true. And con­ta­gious.

“Coach makes sure ev­ery day and ev­ery prac­tice that we are just stay­ing fo­cused on the task at hand,” Arkansas ju­nior for­ward Trey Thomp­son said. “We’re not wor­ried about the tour­na­ment. The big­gest game on our sched­ule is Florida com­ing up next. That’s all we’re think­ing about. Next game, next prac­tice.”

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/ANDY SHUPE

Univer­sity of Arkansas at Fayet­teville Coach Mike An­der­son said a lot of lit­tle things add up to a big one.

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