FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Former Missouri Tigers basketball coach Mike Anderson couldn’t contain his emotions as he was introduced as Arkansas’ coach in front of about 5,000 Arkansas fans in Bud Walton Arena on Saturday.
With “Welcome Home” signs all around, a smiling Anderson did what came naturally: He started calling the Hogs, much to the delight of the crowd.
Anderson was appearing in public for the first time since leaving Missouri on Wednesday to become the Razorbacks’ coach. The hiring ended an 11-day search following the firing of former coach John Pelphrey and marked a homecoming for Anderson, who was an assistant coach for 17 seasons at Arkansas under Nolan Richardson.
“I’m happy to be back,” Anderson said. “This is home, this is home for Mike Anderson.”
Anderson’s new contract is for seven years and $2.2 million annually. He turned down a $2 million offer from Missouri, where he coached for five years, as well as overtures from Georgia and Oregon in recent years.
As recently as last week, following the Tigers’ NCAA tournament exit in the first round, Anderson said he planned “on being at Missouri.” However, several former Arkansas players contacted Anderson about the Razorbacks’ opening and that led to a meeting with Razorbacks’ athletic director Jeff Long in Tulsa on Wednesday.
“That was a tough, tough, tough decision,” Anderson said. “When I made that statement, that was coming from the heart.
“It was a tough decision. And I chose to come and lead the Razorbacks back to the promised land.”
Anderson declined to speculate on whether any of his Tigers’ players might be considering following him to Arkansas.
“Those guys are at the University of Missouri at this point in time,” he said. “I’m sure right now they’re focused in on trying to get prepared for, and looking forward to seeing, who’s going to be their coach.”
Long put together a committee of eight current and former players when he began the coaching search. He said the people offered up plenty of potential candidates during the search, but the search always came back to Anderson.
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