Centrosomes of animal cells and spindle pole bodies of fungi are the major microtubule nucleating centers. Recent studies indicate that their capacity to organize microtubule arrays rests on elaborate control of the anchoring and release of the nucleated microtubules. Although common molecular mechanisms are likely to be involved in both cases, the centrosome from animal cells shows considerable complexity and flexibility, which contrasts with the simple laminar organization of spindle pole bodies in fungi. The role of the centriole pair in controlling both the structural stability and the activity of the centrosome in animal cells is now becoming clearer. The potential use of the generational asymmetry of centrosomes or spindle pole bodies for controlling cell polarity is also a growing theme.