Matt Jones has been the online sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette since 2010. He is also a feature writer for Hawgs Illustrated magazine and is currently pursuing a Master's degree in documentary film.
Dykes to coach UA women
ESPN commentator returns to coaching after 23-year absence
Jimmy Dykes, shown in this 2009 file photo, has been hired as Arkansas' women's basketball coach.
FAYETTEVILLE The University of Arkansas has hired Jimmy Dykes as its head women's basketball coach.
Dykes, 52, has spent the last two decades as a basketball color analyst for ESPN. He was officially introduced Sunday night at Bud Walton Arena.
"No one in the country can sell this program, the University of Arkansas and the state of Arkansas better than Jimmy Dykes," he said. "I know that with all my heart."
Dykes played for the Razorbacks in the 1980s and entered the coaching profession as an assistant coach for Eddie Sutton at Arkansas. He followed Sutton in coaching stops at Kentucky and Oklahoma State, and also has assistant coaching experience at Sacramento State, Appalachian State and UALR.
Arkansas will be the first head coaching job and first women's coaching job for Dykes, who has resided in the Fayetteville area while working in TV.
“After meeting with him and discussing our program, it was clear to me that Jimmy Dykes is not only the best leader for our women’s basketball program, but also the best coach for the student-athletes in our program,” Arkansas athletics director Jeff Long said in a statement.
“I have always respected his tremendous basketball knowledge and his understanding of the game, but as I got to know Jimmy better, l became aware of his strong coaching background including his tenures at some of the nation’s top college basketball programs."
Dykes replaces Tom Collen, who was fired earlier this month after seven seasons with the Razorbacks. Collen was 132-90 at Arkansas, reaching the NCAA postseason only once. The Razorbacks went 19-11 in Collen's last season, but were only 6-10 in conference play and eliminated in the first round of the SEC Tournament for the eighth time in nine years.
Collen recruited one of the nation's top classes prior to last season, including forward Jessica Jackson who was named second-team all-SEC as a freshman. Three-year starting point guard Calli Berna will also return for her senior season.
"I'm stepping into the most dominant conference in the women's game," Dykes said in an interview Sunday afternoon with ESPN. "I know that. The challenge is great but I couldn't be more thrilled.
"I've done over 950 games on TV and I prepared as a coach would for all those games. There was a scouting report…you're coaching on the air. I've coached at the highest level and scouted the NBA. I've seen it all. Now the transition is teaching the game hopefully with the same passion I brought as an analyst."
Dykes said it's too soon to tell what his style will be at Arkansas, noting he hasn't had enough time to assess the Razorbacks' personnel. He said he prefers motion offense and man-to-man defense.
Dykes also said he will retain current Arkansas assistant coaches Amber Shirey and Tari Cummings. He said he knows who another assistant coach will be, but the official announcement has yet to be made.
Arkansas will be Dykes' first college coaching job since 1991 when he left Oklahoma State to become a scout for the NBA's Seattle Supersonics. Dykes twice worked as athletics director at Shiloh Christian School in Springdale during his time as a TV analyst.
Dykes said he has had offers to return to coaching the last 15 years, but said a job at Arkansas was the only one that would lure him away from a lucrative contract with ESPN. The Fayetteville native pledged hard work and a relentless work ethic during his introductory press conference, which lasted more than 40 minutes.
"I will not accept no for this program," Dykes said. "We will have passion, we will fight, we will have non-negotiables.
"Relentless is hard to beat. We will be relentless in all we do."