By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Mike Anderson is a Christian, a husband, a father, a teacher and even a comedian.
But all of that could be summarized in one word — Coach.
Since the summer of 2002, Munford High School was blessed to have Anderson as one of its coaches. The veteran basketball leader, was in charge of the Lady Cougar Basketball program for 10 seasons. During that run, he took a stab at coaching cross country and volleyball.
After championships, players signing Division I scholarships, producing productive citizens and even a trip to State in volleyball, Anderson is preparing to depart from the school he has known for more than a decade.
“In my 21 years in the coaching field, this is the longest I’ve been at any school,” Anderson said.
Now he and his wife Eileen are heading to Montgomery, Ala. Anderson will take over the girls’ basketball team and the director of activity support at Alabama Christian Academy.
“This is a good opportunity, challenge that I’m ready to tackle,” Anderson said.
Anderson was ready more than 10 years ago when he arrived to Tipton County. He was prepared to shape young student athletes, build a respectable basketball program and teach math.
As time would prove, he accomplished those goals. Players like Ashley “Beefy” Lewis see him as a father figure and call him for advice on important life decisions.
“I might get a call from some of them on Christmas to wish me a Merry Christmas,” Anderson said with a smile. “I will even get some to call me on Father’s Day to wish me Happy Father’s Day.”
Eileen is known as Mama by most players. And whenever a former Lady Cougar would show up to a game, they would have a hug for both.
The players bonded with Anderson because of his genuine style to coaching. He knew when to use humor to reach his girls and when to toughen up things to push them to a higher level. He checked up on their classwork and made sure they represented Munford High and the Lady Cougars with dignity off the court.
Those methods allowed Anderson to have plenty success on the court. From 2004-07, the Lady Cougars were one of the best teams in the Shelby-Metro area. The 2005 team went 19-10. The next season the Lady Cougars went unbeaten in District 13-3A led by Jasmine Brown.
Brown, force in the paint, signed with The University of Memphis. The next season Whitney Malone would be the next to sign a Division I scholarship to UT-Martin. The combination forward/guard was the key player in helping Munford win the regular-season 2007 district title.
The 2009-10 season would be Anderson’s last as head coach of the Lady Cougars. And his last game might have been his best coaching job ever for the maroon and black. Facing the one of the top teams in the state Millington Lady Trojans led by Jasmine Newsome, Anderson’s underdog Lady Cougars pushed Millington to the limit.
The Lady Trojans needed four bank-shot three-pointers throughout the game to win and advance. That night Anderson left on the short end of the score but with the respect of many including his colleague Stan Gatlin.
“What a heck of plan he had tonight,” he said after that game.
Don’t let the smile, sense of humor and nonchalant style fool you. Mike Anderson knows how to beat you in many ways. And he knows talent when he sees it.
In 2007, Munford seniors Cali Overbeck and Paige Stoebner asked Anderson to be their head coach for volleyball after the departure of their coach. Reluctantly he accepted the job for the pair of seniors.
During that preseason Anderson built his team up as two seniors, a Hawaiian freshman and a basketball coach. To me, that marquee spelled trouble for that season.
But at the end of his interview about the upcoming season, Anderson said, ‘Call me crazy, but we have something special here. We’re going to surprise some people.”
Oh boy did the Lady Cougars surprise the Tennessee volleyball scene. Anderson guided the first girls’ team in Munford history to a State tournament. The Flying Hawaiian Scarlet Gable dominated, the seniors led and the defense of Lizzie McLean shut down opponents. Surprises like Brandi Hale, Crystal Williams and Quanesha Richardson contributed in that run to the State Tournament.
When Hale hit an overhead volley to beat powerhouse Collierville to clinch a spot at State, Anderson made sure everyone who contributed to that team reaching that goal was a part of the celebration.
“The relationships I’ve developed over the years allowed me to have success,” Anderson said. “It’s the relationships with the kids I coached that stands out.”
Anderson said no one moment stands out to him. From the sidelines to driving the bus, Anderson gained the love and respect of his student/athletes.
Over his tenure at Munford, he also had the admiration of his colleagues and administrators. That was evident when Anderson and his wife faced the challenge of breast cancer. Munford and surrounding communities rallied around the Anderson family.
“When Eileen went through her ordeal, we had people form Brighton, Millington and Covington along with Munford that were there,” he recalled. “It wasn’t just Munford. They all were there for us.”
Anderson remembered touching gestures from teams, coaches and the leadership of MHS that helped them get through the battle against cancer. Eileen is in remission and is ready for her new job in Alabama.
It was Eileen’s battle against breast cancer that proved Anderson is a coach of life. He created a game plan for his wife to beat that opponent. They won.
He would come up with strategies for former players to advance in their careers, education and family life. They’re all ahead in the standings of life.
Good luck Coach on your next stop in the coaching world. I know the Montgomery area will be blessed to have you in their community. It’s with love I say thank you.
And the final way I would describe Mike Anderson is, he’s a good man.