Matt Jones is the online sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and Northwest Arkansas Newspapers.
Dykes strikes balance between work, life
Arkansas women's basketball coach Jimmy Dykes speaks during a news conference Monday, April 14, 2014 at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE It seems odd that with the rigors of modern-day coaching, someone would enter the profession in order to spend more time with their family.
While that wasn't the only reason Jimmy Dykes took the job as Arkansas' women's basketball coach earlier this year, it did play a significant role. Gone most nights during a six-month window as an analyst for ESPN, Dykes rarely saw his wife or daughter, and when he did it was sandwiched tightly between trips to and from college campuses across the country.
"I averaged being gone about 105 nights a year over the last 12 years," Dykes said. "That's a lot of time to be gone when you're involved with your family like I am and want to be involved with your family like I do."
At ESPN, Dykes' work week during the basketball season had him taking an average of three flights per week out of the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport. On average he would spend five nights each week in a hotel room. The exception was when he would call Arkansas home games and would get to spend a few extra nights at home.
Dykes called the schedule normal and understands the job is a dream one for any basketball lover, including himself. Leaving ESPN was a difficult choice, but the opportunity to stay home was too good to pass up.
"The new normal is now I don't have four months off and I'm trying to find four days off this summer, to be honest with you," Dykes said. "But I am at home at night. The number of nights I will be gone as a head coach is cut way down, more than half of what I used to do."
Dykes isn't the only broadcaster to turn in his microphone for a clipboard in recent years. Hubert Davis made a similar move two years ago when he left his analyst job at ESPN for an assistant coaching job at North Carolina.
Like Dykes, Davis' new job was at his alma mater and in the city where he and his family lived.
"To work with ESPN was awesome because after the season you had five and a half months off, so I had tremendous freedom to do whatever and spend time at home with my family," Davis said. "But during the year I was gone five nights a week.
"I felt like it was too much. Outside of my faith, the most important thing was my family and my kids. I was missing a lot of time with them....Now my family comes on the road with me and I take my oldest son with me on recruiting trips."
Dykes can relate to those sentiments. He missed his daughter's win in her age group at the state gymnastics meet earlier this year.
"I had to watch it on a two-minute delay when my wife sent it to me on my iPhone after she had recorded it," Dykes said. "It was so important for me to stay involved with them when I was traveling. I made sure I always called them, I face-timed with them twice a day - we had a great system and it was just our normal.
"I always told people when I worked with ESPN, and I'll say the same thing now, when I worked at ESPN it's not who I was, it's what I did. Who I am is a husband and a father."
Practicing what he preaches, Dykes operates his program with an open door policy for his staff's families. He even invited his assistant coaches to bring their kids to work with them this summer.
"I'm building this program with the atmosphere that we're all a family," Dykes said. "My wife and daughter are going to be involved as much as they can and I want my players to develop a relationship with them.
"I want them around. If I don't have that and I get out of balance, then I'm not going to be a very good coach."