Now entering his fourth season as UAB's head men's basketball coach, Mike Anderson has done nothing less in his tenure with the Blazers than prove his is one of the nation's top basketball coaches. Anderson has guided UAB to three postseason appearances in as many years, including back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances in 2004 and 2005. His three UAB teams have each won 20 or more games, been to the NIT quarterfinals, two NCAA tournament second round games and made one Sweet 16 appearance.
Not bad for three seasons.
Anderson owns an overall record of 65-34 (.657) at UAB, and was 22-11 in 2004-05 season. He also is 30-18 (.625) in Conference USA play. The Blazers went 2-1 in the 2003 NIT, made a dramatic run to the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 in 2004 and advanced to the 2005 NCAA tournament second round.
The 2004 Ray Meyer Conference USA Coach of the Year, Anderson's teams are predicated on defense. Under his guidance, UAB has led the nation in steals per game in each of Anderson's three seasons - a feat accomplished by no other team in NCAA history. Anderson has engineered upsets of top-10 ranked foes on two occasions: an 83-76 win over No. 8 Marquette on March 13, 2003; and UAB's shocking upset of No. 1 Kentucky, 76-75, in the 2004 NCAA Tournament's second round.
The three straight 20-win seasons and postseason appearances for the Blazers mark the first time the program has accomplished those feats since a stretch from 1996-99.
The success Anderson has achieved at UAB has vaulted the Blazer program back into the national spotlight as one of the premier college basketball programs in the country. From the instant he took the helm, UAB basketball showed its return to national prominence.
Named the third head men's basketball coach at UAB on April 4, 2002, Anderson guided the Blazers to the best single-season improvement in school history in 2002-03. UAB finished that season with a 21-13 record overall and an 8-8 Conference USA record, which was good enough to finish second in the National Division. Anderson was one of only three Division I coaches in 2002-03 to win at least 20 games in his first year as a head coach.
Anderson not only won 21 games, but also accomplished some "firsts" in the program's history. UAB played in the C-USA championship game for the first time in school history, barely missing an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament losing to tournament host Louisville, 83-78. The Blazers entered the C-USA Tournament as a No. 9 seed. UAB defeated Charlotte in the first round, 85-61, No. 1-seeded and eighth-ranked Marquette, 83-76, and fourth-seeded Saint Louis, 63-62, to advance to the C-USA championship game.
Despite falling to the Cardinals, the Blazers did receive an NIT invitation, appearing in their first postseason since the 1998-99 campaign. Anderson directed the Blazers to a quarterfinal appearance where they fell to eventual 2003 NIT Champion St. John's.
Anderson garnered the 2004 Ray Meyer C-USA Coach-of-the-Year after guiding the Blazers to a 12-4 conference mark and a share of the league's regular season championship in his second season. The Blazers were 22-10 overall in 2003-04 and proved that they were one of the up-and-coming teams in the nation when they finished the season ranked No. 23 after posting a 22-10 record and a Sweet 16 appearance. Anderson guided the team to two victories in the NCAA tournament, including a 76-75 win over the tournament's overall No. 1 seed and traditional powerhouse, Kentucky.
The 2004-05 campaign was one many prognosticators though could be a drop off after the loss of four valuable seniors from the 2003-04 Sweet 16 club. Yet, Anderson worked his magic once again, guiding UAB to a 22-11 overall record, a second straight NCAA Tournament appearance, and another startling tournament upset. UAB spanked SEC West Champion LSU in the tournament's first round, 82-68, before falling to Arizona in the second round.
The LSU win gave UAB the distinction of being one of just two programs to pull off first round NCAA Tournament upsets of higher seeds in each of the last two postseasons. Nevada is the other.
Anderson's goals for the program have resulted in unprecedented success when you consider the accomplishments in the past three seasons:
The first time any UAB basketball team has won a regular season Conference USA crown.
The first time UAB reached the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 since 1981.
The first time since 1986 UAB won a game in the NCAA Tournament.
The first time UAB has recorded wins in the NCAA Tournament in consecutive years since 1985 and 1986.
The first time UAB finished the season ranked in the nation's top-25 (ranked 23 in the Final USA Today/Coaches poll).
The first time UAB reached the championship game of the Conference USA tournament.
The first time any team led the nation in steals per game in three consecutive years (2002-03, 2003-04 and 2004-05)
The best single-season improvement in school history, going from 13-17 in 2001-02 to 21-13 in 2002-03 for a +8-game improvement.
The first consecutive 20-win seasons since 1997-99 and the first back-to-back-to-back 20-win campaigns since 1984-87.
The first time a first-year coach at UAB won 20 games.
The first time a first-year head coach in school history had a winning percentage over .600 (.618).
The first time UAB won 22 games in a season since the 1993-94 campaign.
The first time UAB won a game in the NIT since it defeated Missouri (93-86) in 1998.
The first time the Blazers reached the quarterfinals of the NIT tournament since the 1993 season.
THE EARLY YEARS
Anderson was born on December 12, 1959, in Birmingham, Ala. He was an all-state and all-city guard at Jackson Olin High School. As a junior, he averaged 19 points per game and led his team to the state semifinals. A year later as a senior, Anderson again averaged 19 points per contest.
He graduated from Jackson Olin High in 1978 and enrolled at Jefferson State Junior College. As a sophomore at Jefferson JC, he faced a Western Texas team, which was coached by a young coach in the business named Nolan Richardson, in the 1980 Junior College Tournament championship game. Soon after the game, Richardson was offered the head coach position at the University of Tulsa and one of his first calls was to Anderson. After watching Anderson play, Richardson knew he needed Anderson on his team and offered him a scholarship to play basketball at Tulsa in 1981.
Anderson was a two-year starter with the Golden Hurricanes. He averaged 12 points per game and was well-known for his hard-nosed style of play. Tulsa won the NIT Championship in his first season as Anderson was selected to the all-tournament team. A year later, Anderson was an NCAA Tournament participant in his second.
THE COACHING CAREER BEGINS
After graduating from the University of Tulsa in 1982, Anderson tried his hand in the teaching profession as a substitute teacher while keeping his hand on his true desire -- coaching basketball. He knew that he wanted to get back into the college basketball scene and that is when he called Richardson to inquire about a vacancy as the volunteer assistant coach at Tulsa. Richardson agreed and it was the beginning of a long tenure between the two coaches.
Anderson spent two years as the volunteer assistant coach. During his stint with the Golden Hurricane, UT had a combined record of 50-12 and made two NCAA tournament appearances.
THE ARKANSAS YEARS
When Richardson left Tulsa to become head coach at Arkansas, he quickly made the decision to keep Anderson on his staff.
It turned out to be a worthy decision for the both of them. For the next 14 years, Anderson was an assistant coach at Arkansas, and the final five as an assistant head coach.
Anderson quickly moved up the ranks within the Arkansas staff after initially joining the program as a volunteer assistant in 1985-86. After a year as a part-time assistant (1987), Anderson became a full-time assistant the following season.
Anderson had a major impact in the Razorbacks reaching their lofty stature among college basketball's elite programs. During the decade of the 1990s, Arkansas won more games than all but four schools in the country. The Razorbacks won 270 games in the decade, averaging an amazing 27 wins per year. Only Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina and Duke won more.
His ability to recruit the exact type of player to fit into Richardson's program at Arkansas, directly led to outstanding success. Its brand of up-tempo basketball became a program trademark and became an unwelcome challenge for Razorback opponents.
During Anderson's 13 years as a full-time assistant coach, the Razorbacks posted an overall record of 338-129 (.724), won a national championship (1994), earned a national runner-up finish (1995) and advanced to the Final Four three times (1990, `94, `95).
When the Razorbacks joined the Southeastern Conference in 1991, they immediately became one of the league's premier teams. While Anderson was at Arkansas, the Razorbacks also captured a pair of Southeastern Conference championships, one SEC Tournament title and four SEC Western Division titles.
Combine those accomplishments with the three Southwest Conference titles Arkansas won prior to joining the SEC, and it's easy to see that Anderson knows nothing but success.
Anderson has always had an eye for talent. Richardson credits Anderson with many of the recruiting successes the Razorbacks enjoyed. Taking notice of the prep and junior college standouts is one thing, but Anderson has always had an incredible knack of developing players who may not have been as highly-rated as others.
Among the former Arkansas players who have gone to careers in the NBA are Todd Day, Lee Mayberry, Oliver Miller, Corliss Williamson, Isaiah Morris and Joe Johnson.
RETURNING HOME TO BIRMINGHAM
Anderson feels his time was coming to become a head coach, but he wanted to wait for the right fit. When the call came from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, he knew the fit and the situation would be perfect for him.
The 46-year-old Anderson and his wife Marcheita have three children; Darcheita, Michael Jr., Yvonne, a niece, Suney, and a grandchild, Aiyanna.