- The Washington Times - Friday, March 26, 2004

ST. LOUIS — Alabama-Birmingham coach Mike Anderson played for Nolan Richardson at Tulsa for four years. Anderson was Richardson’s assistant at Tulsa for three years after that and for 17 years after Richardson went to Arkansas.

Their 24-year association is worth a lot more than the green, UAB warm-up suit Richardson wore Thursday as he accompanied his protege and the Blazers to the regional semifinals at Edward Jones Dome. The two are extremely close. Anderson even named his daughter after Richardson’s daughter, Yvonne, who died of leukemia in 1987.

“I’m part of his family and he’s part of these kids’ family, and that’s what makes it special,” said Anderson, who is in his second year at UAB. “He’s the teacher, and I’m the pupil.”

Said Richardson, an outspoken, somewhat controversial figure as a coach who won the national championship at Arkansas in 1991 but was fired two years ago amid much acrimony: “Mike is like a son to me.” Richardson currently broadcasts Southwest Athletic Conference and Mideastern Athletic Conference games.

Richardson said it “took longer than what I thought it would take” for Anderson to become a head coach, but he credited former UAB athletic director Herman Frazier for the hiring. Frazier left shortly thereafter and is now AD at Hawaii.

Richardson was known for his uptempo philosophy that puts extreme defensive pressure on opponents and pushes the ball upcourt whenever possible. Anderson is doing the same thing at UAB.

Helping hand

ST. LOUIS — Another blast from the past showed up at the Dome wearing a warm-up. Former Kansas and NBA star Danny Manning is in his first year with the Jayhawks’ program. His title is “Director of Student-Athlete Development/Manager.”

Manning, who led Kansas to the national championship in 1988, might be the only millionaire who is a basketball manager. Basically, he is trying to decide if he wants to coach.

“That’s the reason I’m in this position I’m in right now,” he said.

And?

“It’s going all right,” he said. “Different. That’s the best way I can describe it. It takes a little time to get used to. I think it’ll be OK in the long run.”

The big difference “is not being able to go out on the court and do it yourself,” he said. “Sometimes it’s hard to express yourself in words, instead of going out there and doing it.”

We knew it

ST. LOUIS — Kansas guard Keith Langford, who has been to two Final Fours, pretty much confirmed what most reporters believed about the news conferences that accompany the NCAA tournament.

“To tell you the truth, I kind of say the same thing over and over,” Langford said. ” ‘Yeah, they’re a good team.’ ‘Yeah, we respect them.’ ‘Yeah, we’re going to play hard.’ ”

Jameer’s happy return

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Jameer Nelson flirted with the idea of leaving early for the NBA after last season. The then-junior was named All-Atlantic 10 for a second season and led Saint Joseph’s to a 23-7 record and an NCAA tournament berth. In the team’s one NCAA game, backcourt mate Delonte West was injured and the 5-foot-11 Nelson scored 32 points in that first-round loss to Auburn.

Shortly after that, he decided to stay in school. This season he was selected Naismith Player of the Year and a unanimous first-team All-American. The Hawks had a perfect regular season and brought a 29-1 record into last night’s regional semifinal against Wake Forest.

“I definitely can’t complain,” said Nelson, who was averaging 20.6. “I came back to have fun with these guys.”

Saint Joe’s coach Phil Martelli is thrilled that the little man with the big game is back on campus. Otherwise, the coach would be a spectator for March Madness.

“We would all be sitting at home saying, ‘Gee, isn’t it great Xavier made it [to the Sweet 16] from the Atlantic 10, ” Martelli said. “I hope Jim Thome gets healthy and hits more home runs this season [for the Philadelphia Phillies].’ He is the best player in college basketball because he is the best leader in college basketball.”

Wake up again

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Wake Forest was back in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1996, when Dave Odom was on the sideline and Tim Duncan was the national player of the year before becoming the first player selected in the NBA Draft. Getting back to a regional semifinal for the first time in eight seasons isn’t lost on coach Skip Prosser.

“It is obviously significant that Wake Forest is back in the Sweet 16,” said Prosser, who has a 67-28 record in three seasons. “I’m very gratified for our players that they have been able to achieve that.”

The Deacons reached the regional semifinals in three of Duncan’s four seasons but made only one final. That was in 1996, when Kentucky downed the Demon Deacons 83-63 in the Midwest regional final.

Wake Forest’s only Final Four was in 1962, when point guard and current television analyst Billy Packer led it to wins over Saint Joe’s and Villanova in the East regional at Cole Field House. UCLA ended the Demon Deacons’ title hopes with an 82-80 win in a national semifinal.

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