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Ted Anderson: husband, dad, friend, coach, basketball junkie

By Joanna Chadwick

Jordan Anderson sat in his dad’s office on Saturday morning, looking around in amazement at the amount of paper dealing with basketball. There were scribbled plays, notes, practice schedules, new and old scouting reports. 

One of the practice schedules Jordan Anderson found on Friday included Anderson’s customary finish to every agenda: “play together, play hard, play smart, have fun and rebound.” 

Anderson, a Star Wars fanatic, included his most-used parting line: “may the force be with you always.”

Ted Anderson suffered an apparent heart attack on Jan. 27, 2022, after his Andale girls basketball team beat Haven 37-32 to advance to the semifinals of the Haven tournament. 

“He was such a unique and educated guy that had a quote for everything,” Kaleb Konda said. “‘Don’t be in a hurry to go nowhere.’ ‘May the force be with you.’ ‘The strength of the wolf is in the pack, and the strength of the pack is in the wolf.’

“I could go on and on. He had a quote for everything and a way to motivate no matter the circumstance. He was a legend in Andale, leave no doubt about it. There was Andale football and then there was Coach Anderson. He was on that level.”

Star Wars was a perfect fit for Anderson particularly because of Yoda, truly a philosopher.

“He probably took a few lessons out of Yoda’s playbook,” Jordan Anderson said. “When he said ‘may the force be with you,’ it was his way of telling you he loves you and he’ll give you everything he’s got and we’ll walk off into the sunset.”

Anderson is survived by his parents, Chris and Marilyn Anderson of Basehor, Kansas; his brother, Bret Anderson, of Platte City, Missouri; his wife, Tracy Anderson; and children Jordan, Jacy and Jillian Anderson of Andale. 

Anderson, who coached football and basketball, was a middle school English teacher at Valley Center and later at Andale. 

“All four of my kids had Papa A, as the middle schoolers called him, as a teacher, and my girls were both coached by him,” Terra Eck said. “… He was a great coach and impacted many lives but I also think he had even more impact as a teacher. He was a perfect fit for middle schoolers because he was patient and saw potential in all of them.

“He connected well with ornery ones especially well, and each of his kids had a bit of that, too, which I’m confident they inherited from him.

“My last interaction with him was at breakfast on a Sunday morning. He was with Tracy and Jillian and had brought his game prep notes in with him. But in typical Ted fashion, he spent most of the time talking and telling stories and asking how the kids were doing and he proudly shared what Jordan and Jacy were accomplishing.

“A unique man that knew no stranger and wanted to make the community a better place.”

Anderson built connections – and maintained them.

Last summer, Anderson sent Lainee Eck a picture of a note he had found that she had written to him sometime during middle school.

The note read:

Why I appreciate Mr. Anderson. 

  1. He is a good reading teacher.
  2. He is a good sports coach.
  3. He is funny.
  4. He’s nice.
  5. He pushes you to make your goal.

“I feel like there is nothing more to say,” Eck said on Saturday. “He always made me feel like I was somebody, and I will always remember him saying, ‘don’t be in a hurry to go nowhere.’ As a future teacher, I will use that quote in my classroom every year.”

Former Cheney basketball star Kylee Scheer has her own memory of playing against Anderson’s Andale team.

When we played them last year in the Haven tournament, before the game even started, he came over to me and said, ‘I’ll pay you to have less than 20 (points),’” Scheer recalled. “Then during the game, I had the ball and was about 3-4 feet behind the three-point line, and he yelled at his girls to ‘get out on her. She will shoot it from there,’ and I did. And made it. And he said, ‘dang it, I told you guys she’s good.’

“After we beat them, he hunted me down and found me in the training room and said to me, ‘I didn’t think a player like you had any improvement left in you, but you have improved so much from last year, and I cannot wait to see you play in the future. Proud of you, kiddo.’

“Always a memory I’ll remember. What a guy.”

Anderson made an impact in the classroom in Valley Center, too.

“I went over to his classroom on my plan one day … and I just sat for a while and watched,” said Mike McCormick, who coached with Anderson in Valley Center. “Many people think coaches coach and teaching just comes with the job. 

“Ted had as much love and passion and life in that classroom as any field or court. He might as well have been carrying a clipboard and whistle in that classroom because those middle school kids were working hard, eating up that energy he was giving them as fast as they could.”

Ah, energy. It was impossible to miss Anderson’s energy. 

Once you were in his sphere, he was likely walking your way with a smile on his face, ready with a comment or even a useless bit of trivia. Or he might just pick your brain on whatever topic you knew best.

“I saw a lot of comments (on Friday) that were talking about how they were drawn toward him,” Jacy Anderson said. “He radiates this positive attitude, and he has so much knowledge that people want to learn. And he just knows a lot. He’s just overall a good role model and a good guy.”

So many stories have already been told in the days following Anderson’s death. And likely there are so many still out there because Ted Anderson seemingly knew everyone – and they remembered him.

Jeffrey Kennard was part of a tight-knit group of friends who graduated with Anderson at Basehor in 1987.

There’s the, possibly inappropriate, story of when Anderson was in high school taking a call from his mom, Marilyn, one day in the coaches’ office … buck naked.

“Ted acts completely normal and grabs the phone … proceeds to hold a normal conversation in full view of the coaches and players,” Kennard said. “We were all rolling, but Ted thought nothing of it – at least not until Coach Cooper smacked him on the behind and said, ‘put on some damn clothes, Ted!’”

Weston Meier met Anderson while they both attended Pittsburg State. They were at a party when Anderson found out that he had played against Meier’s brother when Topeka Hayden and Basehor met in the sub-state championship.

“He was a history book of remembering things,” Meier said. “He enjoyed talking anything sports.”

Jake Bruna agreed.

“Ted was a walking book. So knowledgeable and touched so many people,” Bruna said. “He was a mentor for so many coaches and players.”

Jordan Anderson recalled a game in middle school that they called ‘Stump The Swami,’ which was when a student would pore through a trivia book and try to find something that Ted Anderson didn’t know. If you succeeded in stumping Anderson, you earned a Jolly Rancher. 

“Nobody really got a lot of Jolly Ranchers,” Jordan Anderson said.

A few months ago, the Anderson family went to the Auschwitz Exhibit in Kansas City. Anderson was a huge history buff, and museums were a common stop for the family.

Afterward they went to eat with one of Jordan Anderson’s friends. 

“He didn’t believe that my dad knew everything about the Super Bowls – who won the Super Bowl, the score, who was the MVP, how many yards they got,” Jordan Anderson said. “My buddy says, ‘we’ve got to pull this up and check this guy.’

“The score is right, MVP is right, guy had 200 yards rushing. Who knows that?

“My mom always says he was a guy full of useless facts.”

That memory served him well as a coach. 

“I remember when he was an assistant for Jeff Buchanan,” McPherson coach Kurt Kinnamon said. “We had the ball at the end of the quarter and always had a play that we ran. Ted was up yelling what we were going to do. We had put in an opposite counter to the play, and I think we got a dunk out of it.

“After the game, Ted said, ‘you changed your play. Send it to me, please.’ He was always wanting to learn and see if it was something he could use.”

Derby coach Brett Flory met Anderson upon being hired as Valley Center’s boys coach at age 25.

“He was texting me about how he could help, how we were going to play … before I had even met the guy,” Flory said. “… Even after he left Valley Center, we consistently texted or called to talk ball or sometimes just to joke around –  nobody knows more funny movie references than him.

“If there was a new offense or innovation at any level of basketball, you could count on Ted to know about it. He was just an awesome guy and incredibly intelligent.”

And also highly persuasive.

Anderson convinced Meier to spend a summer at Emporia State to become certified to teach Driver’s Ed. While Anderson taught it for one summer after that, Meier is going on his 28th summer teaching it.

Lonnie Thiessen, who taught with Anderson at Valley Center Middle School and was the freshman girls coach, knows all about his persuasive friend.

“Our classrooms were next to each other for a number of years,” Thiessen said. “One day when talking before school, he says, ‘Lonnie, we are going to get our Master’s.’ We had never discussed this previously, but Ted was a convincing man. 

“Even though I was in my low 40s and had no intention of going back to school and he was 15 years younger than me, he made it happen. He rounded up a group of five other teachers and coaches from Valley Center, and on Monday nights for the next year and a half, we attended Friends University and got our Master’s in Teaching Arts together.”

Anderson craved learning. He went to countless coaching clinics. While other coaches might attend a few sessions and then just hang out with friends, Anderson had his whole day of sessions mapped out from 8 a.m.-3 p.m.

“He was a clinic guru,” Meier said. “… Then he’d go home and rewrite the notes. If he wanted to see a particular inbounds play, ‘remember this from the clinic in 1996?’”

And he seemingly had scouting reports on everyone. 

Meier, an assistant Topeka Hayden football coach and former basketball coach, remembered an expected second-round opponent getting upset at state. Well, the staff had no scouting report on El Dorado, so Meier called Anderson.

And Anderson, of course, had a scouting report on El Dorado.

Anderson was most known for coaching basketball, but he also had a brilliant football mind. He was a former quarterback, basketball captain and played baseball. He went to Pitt State on a golf scholarship.

“Anybody that was around him – family, friends, players, coaches – understood that the game of basketball made him tick through and through. He had such a passion for the game of basketball. That’s a second home right there,” said Jeff Buchanan, Andale’s boys basketball coach.

“… If you showed an interest in the game, if you showed a desire to learn something about the game, he’d talk to you until there was nothing else to talk about.”

Meier recounted how some national clinic Anderson was planning on attending was canceled. So Anderson created his own on the fly, and got then-Hutchinson coach Phil Anderson and then-Hayden coach Ben Meseke to fill in. It was all free, and Anderson provided a meal for the coaches in attendance.

During the Covid-19 pandemic’s shutdown in 2020, Anderson created a Zoom basketball clinic that met weekly.

“I think it was called ‘Too Much Time on My Hands,’” Buchanan said. “It was college coaches, small college coaches, high school coaches, people with a pure interest in basketball. He’d find people with an expertise in a certain area, and if you’re available, you could jump on and ask questions. And then he’d gather notes, gather plays from the presentations, and he’d send it out to you, as well.

“It wasn’t just him making connections, it was that he wanted everyone to have as much passion as him.”

The passion for basketball enveloped his players.

His early-morning freshman boys practices at Andale were usually memorable. 

Gerad Deaver, who was on Anderson’s first freshman boys team at Andale, was driving to practice and slid into the ditch one snowy morning. 

“A few minutes later, Anderson pulled up with Jordan – and maybe Jacy, can’t remember exactly – seeing me standing on the side of the road and offered me a ride to practice,” Deaver said. “Later during that practice, we were working on an inbound play that I ran incorrectly. Coach stopped it and said, ‘forget about your truck!’ Probably a nicer way of saying, ‘pull your head out of your ass!’”

***

The Andale girls basketball team has suffered so much pain this season. 

Assistant coach Don Brugman died Oct. 7, 2021, a month before practices started, and then the loss of Anderson – it’s devastating.

But the Andale girls decided to play Friday – less than 24 hours after Anderson’s death – in the semifinal of the Haven basketball tournament against Garden Plain, which is also in the Renwick school district. 

“The girls want to play and they said that’s what dad would have wanted,” Jacy Anderson said Friday. “The girls know what they’re capable of, and he had them ready to go. That’s what dad would have wanted.”

Jordan Anderson added: “They were so courageous. Two coaches in four months – their resiliency is crazy.”

The Andale girls won their game 46-36 and advanced to Saturday’s championship game. 

“Oh, last night,” Jordan Anderson said. “It was a great atmosphere. Obviously tough. Dad used to say, ‘there’s no crying in basketball.’ As a family, before we walked into the gym, we said, ‘let’s keep it together. Once the final buzzer sounds, we’ll have our tears.’”

The pictures and videos from the game were heartwarming – and heart-wrenching.

“All it would take is one look inside that gym, and you will understand how important Ted was to the Andale family,” Buchanan said. “You would also see how important it was for the Andale community to rally behind the Anderson family and our girls team as they fought with every ounce of emotion that was left in their bodies. 

“There was plenty of cheering, hugging and some tears … but in the end, the best thing that happened tonight was the healing process was able to begin by one big Andale family coming together to honor one of their own that was lost way too soon.”

As for the title game Saturday night, Jordan Anderson said that morning they were ready.

“They got the hay in the barn,” he said.

***

As the outpouring of support, memories and one-liners flooded social media and cell phones in the hours and days following Anderson’s death, there’s a gap of information that needs to be filled: Anderson’s relationship with his family.

See, it’s easy to get caught up in how Anderson made each of us feel. That smile and building laugh as we talked to him. 

Goodness knows, we felt our breath knocked out of us with the shocking news. Our own tears fell at our loss, the players’ loss and the families’ loss.

But for Tracy, Jordan, Jacy and Jillian, theirs was a life with Anderson we didn’t get to see up close.

Yes, there are the memories of 3-year-old Jacy running drills with the Valley Center girls basketball team or the realization that she’s not on the floor but in the corner of the gym, curled up under her blanket, sleeping.

“There is no doubt that basketball season was a full family affair,” Eck said. “Tracy was Ted’s biggest fan and was at every game. Jordan will definitely carry on his dad’s legacy and he would proudly fill in coaching Jacy’s rec ball team once he was old enough. 

“Jacy was part of his most successful Andale teams, and he made sure to not just be coach but also to be proud dad. And little Jillian was a fixture in the stands from the moment she was born. She would have her books and toys to keep her busy, and when she got to grade school, she often rode the bus with the team to away games and Tracy would meet her there.”

There’s the moments when Anderson would start singing and his kids would groan at the awfulness of it. Of course, it was basic encouragement for Anderson to continue. 

At the end of a phone call, Jordan Anderson could count on his dad saying, ‘All right, bud, I’m going to attack the day.’”

Anderson coached both Jordan and Jacy in high school, and, boy, it’s not easy to be the coach’s kid.

“It was tough some days. It felt like he was yelling at you and only you,” Jacy Anderson said. “But at the end of the day, you look back and smile because he was pushing you. He supported you more than anyone on the team.”

She competes in golf and track at Baker University, and Anderson went to as many of her competitions as he could. 

“When he was there, he was watching and analyzing,” she said. “Before (golf) tournaments, he’d have something to send to me. Before track meets, too. He was so supportive.”

For Jordan Anderson, an assistant coach for the DeSoto boys basketball team, he carries much of what his dad did and said.

Anderson taught his children that if they were going to play sports, they wouldn’t do it halfway.  Do it to the best of your ability, work hard, be coachable.

“He’s instilled a lot of values in me that I see when I coach my team,” Jordan Anderson said. “I say a lot of the same things that he says – ‘don’t be in a hurry to go nowhere.’… We’d hear it twice a practice. I hear myself saying it twice a practice. 

“Also, the way he could teach things – he found his way to get the point across, and you understood it. And he made it easy and fun.”

That Jillian, who is 12, won’t get the opportunity to play for their dad in high school hurts Jacy Anderson to the core. 

“She’s the only Anderson that won’t get to play for him,” Jacy Anderson said of Jillian. “… Jordan and I had very different experiences with my dad. We got a lot more of him than she did. … He worked with her a lot, but we both got to play for him in high school and some in middle school. And I really feel for her. I know she’s probably hurting.”

“When we got home from the game (on Friday night), … I gave her a hug,” Jordan Anderson said. “(I told her) ‘you’re strong, you have a lot of dad’s qualities, you put in the work.’ She’s an avid reader like my dad. She’s in a book 90% of the time.

“It really stinks. We both got coached by my dad. I think he was trying to finish off his career coaching her. It’s not going to happen now, but he’ll be living in her heart. I see her doing great things – sports, academics or whatever she’s doing. She has her drive.”

On Saturday morning, two days after their father’s death, Jillian Anderson played two basketball games. 

No one doubts that’s exactly what Ted Anderson would have wanted for her.

But she wasn’t alone. 

Along with the rest of the Andersons, the Andale girls basketball team came to watch. Every single one of them.

 

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