KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Anthony Peeler won’t lie. He sees Fred Hoiberg, back home at Iowa State, winning Big 12 tournaments, steering the Cyclones to the Sweet 16. He sees Kevin Ollie, back home at UConn, hoisting the national championship trophy, basking in the bright lights of the NCAA’s biggest stage.
And he gets a little misty for Columbia.
A lot misty.
"Yeah, I would love it," the former Missouri basketball star tells FOXSportsKansasCity.com. "It would be great (to be back there), because we learned so much.
"People don’t really know how much basketball is your life, especially when you make it to the pros — it’s your life. You learn so much about basketball, from John Wooden to Jim Boeheim. And you’re just a sponge, soaking it all in.
"Or going to guys like Magic (Johnson) who you played with. (Fans) see Anthony Peeler, running around, shooting jump shots. But it’s more about (what you do) mentally — if you’re a hard worker, that’s what lasts the longest."
Peeler is 44 now, a life and career at a crossroads. The Kansas City native and former Paseo High great says he’s cutting ties with Virginia Union University, where he’d been an assistant basketball coach for the last six years and change, and planning a move back to his roots, back to Missouri.
"I’m going to move without a gig," says Peeler, the Tigers’ No. 3 all-time scorer and a 13-year NBA pro.
Then he laughs.
"It’s Mom’s cooking. Yeah, I can finally eat it now, because I was always worried about gaining weight, things of that nature. Now I can finally sit back and finally eat some. So that’s a good sign."
He’s hoping it’s the first of many. Whether it be mentoring or teaching, all Peeler’s asking for is the same thing he’s always asked for: A shot.
"I would work with anyone," he says. "I just want to teach.
"That’s the main thing. Once you can’t run around anymore, if you want to tell your secrets, (then) you coach. That’s what I’m into: To help young people succeed."
Like a lot of Mizzou alums, he was thrilled to see longtime Norm Stewart confidant Kim Anderson, one of his old mentors, handed the keys to the kingdom. Peeler says he made a point to reach out to the new Tigers coach and offer his help — camps, fundraisers, alumni functions, coaching, anything.
But especially the coaching part.
"He said he’d let me know something," Peeler says.
The Tigers alum had thrown his hat in the ring for the head coaching job at Virginia Union when Luqman Jaaber was let go in March; the gig ultimately went to Tony Sheals, formerly of Saint Augustine’s University. That was the impetus for Peeler to move on, ending a relationship that dated to his final season in the NBA, as a member of the Washington Wizards, in the winter of 2004-05.
"I had a home (in Virginia) and was going to go to VCU at first," Peeler recalls. "And then I said, ‘Let me go to a smaller school, to try and help a guy personally to show that he can still make it, no matter how hard it is.’ That’s why I went to a smaller school, to help the guys who didn’t necessarily have all the McDonald’s All-American accolades with them.
"It’s challenging (at Virginia Union), because it’s Division II … and that’s what I talked to coach Anderson about, when they won a Division II (national championship at Central Missouri), everybody wants to be them.
"I’m looking forward to more of a challenge. I’m done with Virginia Union, so I’m ready for another chapter."
All it needs now is a title.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter at @seankeeler or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.