- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 23, 2011

FAYETTEVILLE, ARK. (AP) - Missouri coach Mike Anderson is close to returning to Arkansas to become the school’s next basketball coach, The Associated Press has learned.

Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long is “working hard” in hopes of bringing Anderson back to the school where he was an assistant for 17 years under Nolan Richardson, a person familiar with the situation said Wednesday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because negotiations are still ongoing.

The person said “it’s not a done deal yet, but it’s getting close.”

Anderson’s agent, Jimmy Sexton, told Memphis radio station WHBQ-AM on Tuesday that the coach is negotiating a new contract with Missouri. Anderson has a seven-year, $10.85 million deal.

Long and Sexton did not return messages left by the Associated Press on Wednesday.

Arkansas fired John Pelphrey after four seasons on March 13.

Anderson is 111-57 in five seasons at Missouri, including an appearance in the Elite Eight in 2009. The Tigers were 23-11 this season, losing to Cincinnati in the first round of the NCAA tournament. He was 89-41 in four season at Alabama-Birmingham before that.

Last year, he rejected a hefty raise and a job offer to coach Oregon, unsettling the Tigers faithful.

Before UAB, Anderson was Richardson’s right-hand man as an assistant at Arkansas. He was a part of three Final Four trips with the Razorbacks, including when they won the national championship over Duke in 1994 and finished as runners-up to UCLA a year later.

Following Richardson’s firing in 2002, Anderson served as Arkansas’ interim coach for two games. He then interviewed for the position before being passed over in favor of Stan Heath.

Heath lasted five years at Arkansas, finishing 82-71. He led Arkansas to back-to-back NCAA appearances in his final two seasons in 2006 and 2007, but failed to unite the fans in the wake of Richardson’s firing and a subsequent lawsuit he filed over his departure.

Pelphrey struggled to do the same in his four years with the Razorbacks, with attendance in the 19,200-seat Bud Walton Arena falling to its lowest levels since the building opened. The Razorbacks averaged 17,148 in his first season and steadily fell until averaging only 12,022 this season.

During its national championship season of 1993-94, Arkansas averaged 20,134 at home. This season, the school drew a season-high 14,174 for its game against Mississippi in February.

Pelphrey finished 69-59 with the Razorbacks, though he did sign one of the top recruiting classes in the country last fall.

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