Humble Anderson has chance to reach 1,000 wins with sweep

As athletes and coaches near career or season milestones, many will resort to some variation of the âÄúI havenâÄôt really been thinking about itâÄù line. Of course, with the way they say it, any discerning person suspects thereâÄôs actually a countdown posted in their locker. But not with John Anderson. When he says âÄúHonestly, I donâÄôt know where itâÄôs at or how close it isâÄù in reference to nearing 1,000 career wins as a head coach, you believe him. ItâÄôs entirely possible that in his 28 years at the helm of the Minnesota baseball team, Anderson has never taken credit for anything. Not the GophersâÄô eight Big Ten tournament and regular season championships, not their 15 NCAA postseason appearances; probably not even his five Big Ten conference Coach of the Year (including an unprecedented three-straight from 2002-04) honors. So it comes as no surprise that Anderson is trying to downplay and eschew credit as he rests three wins away from joining just 10 other active coaches with 1,000 career victories. âÄúIf that happens, itâÄôs just a reflection of longevity, number one, and a lot of great players and coaches that IâÄôve been associated with,âÄù Anderson said, a statement his players counter with a collective âÄúYeah right.âÄù âÄúThatâÄôs typical 14,âÄù senior Matt Nohelty, referring to his Anderson by his jersey number, said. âÄúHe likes to stay in the background and push the credit to other people, but heâÄôs had a pretty amazing career and some of the things heâÄôs been able to do are pretty unheard of; 1,000 wins is something only a handful of people have ever done, so itâÄôs a pretty incredible thing.âÄù The Gophers could collect that 1,000th win for their leader as early as Sunday with a sweep this weekend of Michigan. If it doesnâÄôt come against the Wolverines, Penn State looms a week later. Both series are on the road, so itâÄôs safe to say the historic win will pass without much ceremony. ThatâÄôs probably just fine with Anderson, but Minnesota wonâÄôt let him off completely. âÄúWinning on the road, no oneâÄôs really too happy about it except for the 30 of us in the dugout, but itâÄôs a really big deal for everyone on the team,âÄù redshirt freshman Nick OâÄôShea said. ThereâÄôs an intriguing dynamic throughout the Minnesota baseball team. Ask a player about himself and he wonâÄôt have much to say. Ask him about a teammate and heâÄôll go forever. And itâÄôs not fake or forced; the Gophers would much rather pass the credit along. They do the same with Anderson. They jump at the chance to talk about him âÄì about his coaching ability, about his influence on and off the field, about getting him to 1,000. And it doesnâÄôt take long to figure out where the modesty originates. âÄú[Anderson is] a great, great example of that,âÄù sophomore Michael Kvasnicka said. âÄúHeâÄôs not arrogant, heâÄôs not self-centered; heâÄôs always looking out for the team. âÄúItâÄôs very evident that itâÄôs rubbed off on a lot of players âÄì not like all of us were conceited and arrogant before, but itâÄôs definitely a great model to look at and say, âÄòThis is the right way to do it.âÄôâÄù And thatâÄôs just the beginning of AndersonâÄôs impact on his players, which perhaps ought to be his legacy more-so than his remarkable success on the field. âÄúHe teaches you a lot about baseball, no doubt, but also how to handle your business off the field,âÄù Nohelty said. âÄúItâÄôs a cruel game and a constant thing you have to try and perfect âÄì but nobody ever does,âÄù Kvasnicka said. âÄúI would say thatâÄôs something IâÄôve learned most from [Anderson] âÄì to understand that youâÄôre going to fail and to take whatâÄôs happened and learn from it and keep pushing.âÄù Minnesota has certainly adhered to that lesson a year after its worst season in over 60 years and AndersonâÄôs first losing season as a head coach. The Gophers are 30-13 overall and 13-4 in the Big Ten, just a half game behind Illinois. To say theyâÄôve kept pushing might be understating the turnaround. âÄúIâÄôve told people this and people might think IâÄôm crazy but I actually enjoyed it because IâÄôve never had a season like that,âÄù Anderson said. âÄúSo I tried to pay attention to the little things, all the details and all the data to try and see if I could pick something out that was really going on that could help me down the road when it happens again.âÄù If the pattern repeats, it will be another 26 years and 900-some wins before it happens again, but for now, everyoneâÄôs focus âÄì apart from Anderson âÄì is on the next three. âÄúRegardless of how long you coach, you have to be a good coach to win 1,000 games,âÄù OâÄôShea said. âÄúIt will be an honor to be a part of the team that breaks the four-digit barrier.âÄù