From an overall standpoint, Mike Anderson has an incredibly impressive coaching resume. Between three different programs over the course of 14 seasons, he has taken teams to six NCAA Tournaments, with one of those being a trip to the Elite Eight.
That’s the good. The bad is the current Arkansas Razorbacks coach is on the hot seat. Save for an outstanding 2014-15 season, his time with the university has been mostly ho-hum-to-mediocre at best. A fine measure of success if he were coaching some mid-major. Alas, he’s not, as he’s coaching a program that is battling in the quickly-improving SEC.
Entering his sixth season with Arkansas, Anderson is in an unforgiving position. Not only is he in a league improving rather dramatically around him, he’s coming off a 16-15 season. When you couple last season’s failures with the fact he’s only taken the Razorbacks to one NCAA Tournament so far, it does help explain as to why many feel as though the coach needs to start winning before he’s sent packing.
There’s good news, here, though. Despite having some on-court failures, he has been lighting it up — relative to Arkansas — on the recruiting trail as of late.
The latest example being his landing of his second 2018 class talent, Reggie Perry, who is a four-star recruit. The forward joins three-star guard Isaiah Joe as early good gets a few years away.
There’s even more to this recruiting success. Arkansas has three in-state commitments for the Class of 2017. It is a group of heralded talent headlined by a top-40 big man in Daniel Gafford. Four-star prospect Khalil Garland and three-star Darious Hall join Gafford in that 2017 class that is (as of this writing) ranked as the eighth best recruiting class in the entire country by 247Sports.
While we don’t know what that means in reality for the future of Arkansas’ potential success, as recruiting is not nearly as cut and dry as we think, it does help paint a picture for a better tomorrow. The sort that allows for a tiny glimmer of hope to be shed from the program onto its fans, which in turn can make an iffy 2016-17 slightly more tolerable.
That’s mostly the point here. At least in terms relative to Anderson. While he might be on the hot seat, and a woeful 2016-17 campaign can still certainly result in his firing, the wild success he has had on the recruiting trail will make it far more difficult for the school to fire him if those things happen.
After all, firing a coach who is bringing in the sort of talent that projects for a turnaround before that turnaround is actually able to take place will likely result in all those gifted players going elsewhere. Then, obviously, that projected turnaround is not even an idea any more. It is gone, baby, gone… like Amanda and Mirabelle.
It puts Arkansas in a weird position, especially if the team looks incompetent during the upcoming season. Sure, it can hold its hat on the idea of a better tomorrow, but is that something the fan base would allow to happen? How patient can a fan base be before it rightfully turns on the program it roots for?
In a perfect world, Anderson will have Arkansas playing more than competently this season. It would take the pressure off his employers in massive ways. The burden of making a decision between the reality of a “failed” coach, but one who is seemingly promising a better tomorrow by way of his recruiting success, can be made for them.
Only time will tell how this will all play out. Considering the ramifications of this season can heard throughout the college basketball community if the Razorbacks are put in a position to fire the coach, as the flock of incoming high school talent can head elsewhere, this is a story worth following for the 2016-17 season.
Even if you’re an Arkansas fan who isn’t the greatest believer in Mike Anderson, you have to realize that you should be rooting for a good enough season so the coach gets his to keep his job — because that better tomorrow those hyped recruits can offer, at least in theory, probably won’t be there if the coach gets canned.