Today we are 17 years removed from the University of Arkansas’ National Basketball Championship. National Championships are special things and evoke impassioned memories, but there is something about Arkansas’ Championship which makes it seem close in time. After doing a little digging, the answers to a couple of questions seem evident.
Only twelve coaches have won the NCAA Basketball Championship since Arkansas. Of those Lute Olsen retired in 2008, and Jim Harrick has been in coaching scandals at Rhode Island and Georgia since UCLA, making him someone who has squandered his second chances out of college basketball.
For all practical purposes, only 10 active, NCAA National Championship coaches since Nolan Richardson exist and a few of them were around during Arkansas’ incredible run. In some ways, it is like the same game is still being played. Let’s get grab our basketball and shoes and get out there.
|1||Duke||2010, 2001||Mike Kryzyzewski|
|2||North Carolina||2009, 2005||Roy Williams|
|4||Florida||2007, 2006||Billy Donovan|
|5||Conneticut||2004, 1999||Jim Calhoun|
|8||Michigan St.||2000||Tom Izzo|
|9||Kentucky||1998, 1996||Tubby Smith, Rick Petino|
Tubby Smith’s 1998 Kentucky team has the potential knock against him in that Petino took Kentucky to the Championship in 1996 and the Championship Game in 1997. Tubby has not won the Championship since.
If you say that you want the “Best Basketball Coach Available,” be ready to define “Best” as something other than “an established coach who has the experience and knowledge to take Arkansas to the National Championship” because the list of coaches above is the Complete Set of head basketball coaches who fit that description.
Be prepared to use social, personal, practical, or any other reasons, just not basketball reasons, to justify why someone on the list above is not one of the persons who should be the Coach at the University of Arkansas.
Absent Tubby Smith, none of those coaches are looking to move, and with the exception of Tubby Smith who has never made it to the Championship with his own players, there is only one available coach who has the experience and knowledge to take Arkansas to the National Championship —
Here are some of the advantages to considering him as the Head Coach at Arkansas:
–He has the credentials of the ideal coach we are looking for.
–He lives in Fayetteville and chose to make Arkansas his home here when he could have gone anywhere.
–In all likelihood he continues to follow basketball in Arkansas at the college and high school level.
–He has seen some of the players, both current and incoming play.
–His style of basketball is exciting. It could be said that Bobby Petrino’s football offense is as exciting as watching Nolan Richardson’s style of basketball, but now we would probably say that Coach Richardson’s style of basketball is as exciting as Bobby Petrino’s offensive football.
–Exciting basketball will put people back in the seats.
–While Nolan standing just off court will not produce instant wins, Arkansas will be instantly back in the national conversation as the story of his return unfolds. Potentially (maybe “most likely”) the story will have the Hogs playing more television games which begins the efforts to recruit. Richardson v. Calapari, Richardson v. Donovan, etc.
–Riding this wave, Arkansas would have the golden opportunity at the outset to have or find a coach-in-waiting within a short time, or alternatively, coaching circumstances change which may give Arkansas the opportunity to persuade Mike Anderson from Missouri or other big name coaches.
This is a crossroads for Jeff Long. He had a stunning hire with Bobby Petrino, but the reality is that he hired Petrino despite himself after making offers to also-rans Terry Bowden and Jim Grobe. In fact, Grobe accepted the position and then backed out overnight. Even with Long’s excellent administrative instincts such as beginning to lock down Bobby Petrino BEFORE the Florida job came open, a “run of the mill” choice for Head Basketball Coach will solidify the perception of him that Arkansas will have a nice, solid “B” to “B+” program with little expectation of more. Even more pointedly, of those who know the sequence of events for Bobby Petrino’s battle for Arkansas, there is a huge unknown as to whether Jeff Long has the qualities to make a hire other than one which any average AD at a BCS School could manage. Otherwise, the University of Arkansas and its Fans will be in the position of extending contracts and paying more money to keep up appearances up for coaches who are teetering on the brink of having fans stay away in mass numbers.
Whatever it takes and whoever is the next coach, the time is now to move Arkansas Basketball forward without excuses. Whoever is hired needs to coach well on the court and lead off the court. He needs to Coach the right way, and the University of Arkansas will be fine.