ESPN analyst now UA coach

By: Bob Holt
Published: Monday, March 31, 2014
Jimmy Dykes speaks after being introduced as the eighth women's head basketball coach Sunday, March 30, 2014, 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.
Photo by Samantha Baker
Jimmy Dykes speaks after being introduced as the eighth women's head basketball coach Sunday, March 30, 2014, 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.

FAYETTEVILLE - Jimmy Dykes said that the last 15 years while working as a college basketball analyst for ESPN, he annually had offers to get back into coaching at the college or pro level, but he never considered taking any of them because he didn’t want to move from Northwest Arkansas.

Now Dykes, who played at Fayetteville High School and was a walk-on at Arkansas, has a new coaching job without having to move.

Dykes, 52, was introduced as Arkansas’ new women’s basketball coach Sunday night during a news conference at Walton Arena.

“The timing was never right and the job was never right,” Dykes said of taking another coaching job. “This timing was perfect and this job was perfect.”

It is Dykes’ first head coaching job, the first time he has coached women and the first time he’s coached since the 1990-1991 season, when he was an assistant for Eddie Sutton at Oklahoma State.

“For me to uproot and leave Northwest Arkansas, just didn’t make sense,” Dykes said. “This is the one job in the country that I would have left for.

“I’m a big believer in women’s basketball. I want to be not only a voice for University of Arkansas women’s basketball, I want to be a voice for the country. I think our game needs that right now.”

Dykes was in the second of a four-year contract extension at ESPN. He said he took a slight pay cut to accept a four-year agreement with Arkansas.

Salary terms for Dykes are expected to be released today. Tom Collen, who was fired as Arkansas’ coach on March 7 after taking the program to one NCAA Tournament in seven seasons, had a salary package totaling $507,405.

“People will say I’ve never been a head coach on the college level or in the women’s game,” Dykes said. “Nothing I can do about that, but I tell them, if you play me, the pressure is on you.”

Dykes talked boldly about stopping the flow of Arkansas highschool players to out-of-state programs.

“It’s gone on too long,” Dykes said. “It’s coming to a screeching halt. We’ll put up a fence around this state. The best players from the state of Arkansas will be Arkansas Razorbacks.

“I’ve seen too many go to Oklahoma State and go to Rutgers and go to Oklahoma and go to Tennessee. That can’t happen. … We have to get them here. No longer can we allow a school to come into our state and take our best.”

Dykes said he accepted the job Friday after being offered it by Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long, ending a three-week search.

Long and Dykes first talked about the job at the SEC Tournament in Atlanta, where Dykes was calling games for ESPN. Dykes approached Long to express his interest.

Long said he talked with seven candidates in person about the job and several other coaches on the phone and made Dykes the last interview.

“Some people might’ve just latched onto Jimmy when he brought it up to us in Atlanta and say, ‘Hey, you’re our coach,’ ” Long said. “We didn’t do that. We went through a process.

“We talked to some of the best coaches across the country, and then we compared Jimmy to that and he won out. Heads above everybody else.”

Long said he was impressed by Dykes’ knowledge of the game and passion for Arkansas.

“I don’t think there’s a part of the game of basketball that he doesn’t understand and doesn’t get,” Long said. “So talking with him, as I close my eyes, I wouldn’t know he hadn’t been a head coach. But leadership is very important to me and Jimmy can lead this group of young women.”

Several Arkansas players attended Sunday night’s news conference and expressed excitement about Dykes’ hiring.

“I think it just kind of puts us at peace that someone is going to be a coach that’s going to fight for us just like Coach Collen did,” Arkansas point guard Calli Berna said. “I can’t say enough good things about Coach Collen, but we’re all so excited for the future.”

Berna said she ran into Dykes at a restaurant a couple of weeks ago and that they talked about the coaching search and she talked about all the names she’d heard -even Dykes.

“Somebody had said it, but I thought they were joking,” Berna said. “So when I talked to him today I was like, ‘Well, the joke is on me.’ “

Forward Jessica Jackson said she has a good first impression of Dykes after he met with the team Sunday.

“He told us what he was going to come in and do,” Jackson said. “I think it’s going to be pretty good for us.”

Texas A&M Coach Gary Blair, whose team plays Connecticut tonight in an NCAA Tournament game in Omaha, Neb., praised Dyke’s hiring.

“I think that people will relate to him,” Blair, who coached Arkansas from 1994-2003, told The Associated Press. “They will take care of him because he’s one of their own. He’s an Arkansas guy.”

Long said there is a risk to hiring Dykes, just as there is to any hire.

“Anybody who tells you they know the sure bet, they’re not being honest with you,” Long said. “There’s a level of risk in any hire. But do I think it’s low in this one? Yes, I think it’s low.”

Dykes said he will retain assistant coaches Tari Cummings and Amber Shirey. He can hire at least one more assistant, and possibly two, depending on how he shuffles his staff.

The Razorbacks will begin offseason condition workouts today, Dykes said.

“Our team right now is known as not in shape, and they don’t play hard,” he said. “That’s going to change starting tomorrow.”

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette staff writer Tom Murphy contributed to this report.

Jimmy Dykes glance WHAT Arkansas women’s basketball coach BIRTHDATE May 3, 1961 (52) FAMILY Wife Tiffany, daughter Kennedy COLLEGE Arkansas, speech education HIGH SCHOOL Estes Park (Colo.) and Fayetteville High COLLEGE 3-year letterman at Arkansas COACHING RECORD 0-0 NOTEWORTHY ESPN basketball analyst 1999-2014; Arkansas graduate assistant (1984-1985), assistant for Sacramento State (1985-1986), Appalachian State (1986-1987), Kentucky (1987-1989), UALR (1989-1990), Oklahoma State (1990-1991); scout for the Seattle Super-Sonics (1991-1993); athletic director at Shiloh Christian (1994-1998, 2003-2004)

Sports, Pages 13 on 03/31/2014

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