COLUMBIA — Mike Anderson got a call on Thursday. It was from Arlyn Bowers, a former player who also happens to be the uncle of Missouri senior forward Laurence Bowers.
By TEREZ A. PAYLOR
The Kansas City Star
They talked about Anderson’s Arkansas Razorbacks and their 3 p.m. game Saturday against his former team at Walton Arena in Fayetteville — where Arlyn plans to be in attendance.
For Anderson, who recruited both Laurence Bowers and junior point guard Phil Pressey to Columbia, the matchup against Missouri, which he coached from 2006-11, can’t be dismissed as just another game. There are too many relationships that run too deep.
“I think it’s kind of neat, it’s kind of like a full circle,” Anderson said in a news conference Thursday. “When you think about Arlyn being a player here, you think about Paul Pressey … I went to school with those guys. That was my roommate. So now you’re talking about a circle of guys … and now, we’re all going to be in the same building. It’s pretty interesting, let’s put it that way.”
Arlyn played for Anderson and Nolan Richardson at Arkansas in the late 1980s, while Paul Pressey, Phil’s father, played with Anderson at Tulsa in the early 1980s. Those relationships played in a role in Laurence Bowers and Phil Pressey committing to play for Anderson at Missouri.
While some Missouri fans were angered by the way Anderson left — with no news conference or explanation — neither Bowers nor Pressey seem to harbor any resentment.
“It goes beyond basketball,” said Bowers, who added he keeps in touch with Anderson.
“He’s family,” Pressey said.
Even Missouri coach Frank Haith has a history with Anderson. Haith said he and his family spent time with Anderson and his family at the 2011 Final Four, shortly before Haith was hired to replace Anderson at Missouri.
“Mike’s a good friend of mine, and our families are really close,” Haith said. “He was very complimentary of the type of job it was and the support he had here. He was encouraging to me, which I was very grateful for. And he was very honest on what he thought about the potential of the job.”
Haith, of course, stepped in and led Missouri to a 30-5 record and a Big 12 tournament championship last season, with Kim English and Marcus Denmon as his senior leaders. Those two players, along with Steve Moore and Bowers, formed the core of a 2008 recruiting class that helped Missouri move on from the disappointing Quin Snyder era and finished their careers with the most victories in school history.
Bowers, who had to sit out last season because of a knee injury, insists that Anderson — who had a 111-57 record at Missouri — deserves some credit.
“I felt as if Mizzou basketball was kind of on a downward side and coach Anderson brought in that ’08 class and I think we kind of turned it around a little bit,” Bowers said. “He did a great job with that class, and I mean, he had a winning record here. So he did some great things.”
Haith agreed, adding that the collective character of that group had a huge effect on the success of last year’s team.
“As a coach, you want guys that can play but also guys that are good citizens, and they all were,” Haith said. “When you take over a program … that’s not always the case. But you had that at Missouri.”
Anderson, who returned to see those seniors graduate last spring, took pride in the season his former players had last season.
“It was a team that was kind of like the perfect storm,” Anderson said. “Seven seniors … the Pressey brothers had been seasoned for a year, Ricardo (Ratliffe) had been there for a year. I think Coach Haith did a great job with them … when they lost that (Norfolk State) game I was hurting for them.”
Now, Anderson will try to beat them. Arkansas is 15-9 overall and 6-5 in the Southeastern Conference, but has lost only one game at home this season. Meanwhile, Missouri, 18-6 and 7-4 in the SEC, is coming off its first road win, 78-36 over Mississippi State.
Anderson said he won’t seek out Pressey and Bowers before the game but suspects he’ll get a chance to talk to them at some point on a day that figures to be memorable for people on both sides.
“It will be kind of emotional because they’re like sons,” Anderson said. “They are my sons … they’re family for life, whether they like it or not.”
To reach Terez A. Paylor, send email to email@example.com or call 816-234-4489. Follow him at twitter.com/TerezPaylor.