Rick Fires is a reporter and columnist for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Area Coaches Support Dykes' Hiring At Arkansas
STAFF PHOTO SAMANTHA BAKER • @NWASAMANTHA Jimmy Dykes speaks after being introduced Sunday as the eighth Arkansas women's head basketball coach at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville. Dykes left his job as an analyst for ESPN for the position. Dykes coached at Arkansas, Sacramento State, Appalachian State, Kentucky and Arkansas-Little Rock, and Oklahoma State.
SPRINGDALE Jimmy Dykes hasn't coached a game yet at Arkansas, but he's already won the support of a group that will be imperative to his success -- the high school basketball coaches.
Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long pulled a Sunday morning surprise when he announced Dykes as the new women's basketball coach for the Razorbacks. Hiring a former ESPN analyst with no head coaching experience seems like a reach, but it's one that's mostly been met with approval by area high school girls coaches.
College: Arkansas, speech education
Playing Career: Arkansas, three-year letterman
Head Coaching Record: 0-0
Notable: Spent last 15 years as college basketball analyst for ESPN. … Graduate assistant at Arkansas and assistant coach at Sacramento State, Appalachian State, Kentucky, UALR, and Oklahoma State. … Athletic director at Shiloh Christian from 1994-1998 and 2003-2004. … Attended Fayetteville High School.
"I actually love the hire," Rogers High coach Preston Early said. "I know it's out of the box, but I think it's a home run. I really am a believer in Jimmy as a high quality person first. In my opinion, he also is as good as it gets with basketball knowledge and ability to communicate."
Dykes, 52, spent 15 years while working as a college basketball analyst for ESPN. He put his communication skills quickly to use when he invited area coaches to Bud Walton Arena on Sunday night for his introductory press conference.
Coaches who attended were impressed with the passion and enthusiasm Dykes displayed while laying out his plan to improve the women's program at Arkansas.
"What you heard at the press conference is truly who Jimmy is," said Fayetteville coach Vic Rimmer, who worked with Dykes when Dykes was athletic director at Shiloh Christian. "Not often does a program get to hire someone so rooted and committed to Razorback excellence. He will excel as a coach and leader of that program."
A couple of coaches who were contacted expressed skepticism that a person with no head coaching experience could land a major college job over candidates with a history of success in women's basketball. But most agree that Dykes, a former Razorback walk-on and graduate assistant under Eddie Sutton, has a passion and detailed knowledge of the game.
Area high school coaches are almost impressed that Dykes has made it a priority to keep top girls players from Arkansas from leaving the state.
"I feel strongly he will make every attempt to keep Arkansas talent at home, and that is much-needed," Springdale High coach Heather Hunsucker said. "There is something to be said about hard work and pouring your heart and soul into a program, which I feel he will do. That goes a long ways."
Lincoln athletic director and girls basketball coach Deon Birkes said choosing a candidate with ample experience is not always the way to go. Birkes faced a similar situation four years ago when he hired a boys basketball coach who had coached only one year in junior high at Lincoln.
That person is Tim Rich, who was recently named NWA Media's Boys Coach Of the Year for schools Class 5A and under after leading the Wolves to a 22-6 record and their first win ever in the state tournament.
"Sometimes, you have to go with what fits and not what the resume looks like," Birkes said. "Jimmy will do a great job at Arkansas and he will be relentless in the pursuit of perfection. Give him time and he will get the women's team up there."
Dykes jumped into his new job on Monday by leading the Razorbacks in their offseason workouts.
Sports on 04/02/2014