Nate Allen is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Allen is a voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has authored three books about the Razorbacks.
Watkins no stranger to Texas A&M
Arkansas assistant coach Melvin Watkins spent seven seasons as head coach at Texas A&M.
FAYETTEVILLE Johnny Football already trounced the Razorbacks once.
Melvin Watkins doesn’t want to let him beat Arkansas again.
The top assistant on Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson’s basketball staff knows Texas A&M football can inspire A&M basketball fans.
Watkins was A&M’s basketball coach in 1999-2004.
Between the Aggies and their Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel routing Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl last Friday about as easily as they routed Arkansas last September and A&M playing its first-ever SEC men’s basketball game since moving from the Big 12 Conference, Watkins expects a revved-up Reed Arena tonight when Arkansas visits College Station.
“I think they will come in more pumped, because usually if football is doing good, that carries over to Reed Arena when fans do come in there,” Watkins said. “I know down there Johnny Football is off the charts and they are really putting a blitz on because it’s the first SEC game. From what I have been told, they are trying to push to have a sellout.”
Watkins still gets told plenty about A&M.
“We still have some friends there,” he said. “My son [Marcus] lives there. It will be good to see some old, familiar faces.”
After going 23-9 and 20-11 and advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament twice while coaching North Carolina-Charlotte, where Watkins was the point guard/captain of its 1977 Final Four team, Watkins was hired to coach big-name Texas A&M. The Aggies had the name but not game with just one winning season in the previous eight.
They didn’t win enough for Watkins either, but the Aggies may think more fondly of their former coach now. Watkins recruited Acie Law and Antoine Wright, eventual NBA first-round draft picks and the linchpins for successor Billy Gillispie’s success at the school.
“We finally had gotten it where we were getting the talent, it’s just the clock had ticked for so long,” Watkins said.
Watkins holds no grudges. That’s why he fit so well at Missouri, where he was an assistant to Quin Snyder before taking over as the interim head coach after Snyder’s departure and then remained on the staff when Anderson and young assistants Matt Zimmerman and T.J. Cleveland came to Columbia in 2006.
“We visited and realized when it came to personnel and the way you wanted to have a program and the way you want that program to represent the university, we have a lot in common,” Watkins said. “Over time that bond has grown.”
The coaches, director of operations Jeff Daniels and strength coach David Deets functioned as one at Mizzou, just as they do at Arkansas.
“You can hear horror stories about staff when people get selfish,” Watkins said. “We enjoy working with each other and sharing information. Coach Anderson creates an environment that makes you feel good about coming to work every morning.”
LOYD’S OUTLAND AT LAST
It’s 47 years belated, but former Arkansas All-America defensive lineman Loyd Phillips will receive the Outland Trophy he won in 1966.
The Outland committee didn’t present an actual trophy back then.
They will right that wrong by presenting Phillips his trophy at Thursday’s Outland dinner in Omaha, Neb.
Sports, Pages 14 on 01/09/2013