Like It Is:

Yurachek set own timeline on coach search

By: Wally Hall
Published: Sunday, April 21, 2019
Arkansas basketball coach Eric Musselman (left) and Arkansas athletics director Hunter Yurachek hold up a jersey prior to a news conference Monday, April 8, 2019, at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Photo by David Gottschalk
Arkansas basketball coach Eric Musselman (left) and Arkansas athletics director Hunter Yurachek hold up a jersey prior to a news conference Monday, April 8, 2019, at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

It appears Hunter Yurachek not only made a home run hire, he hit a grand slam.

Yurachek, the University of Arkansas athletic director, obviously had a plan from the moment the head basketball coaching job opened until he announced Eric Musselman was the new Razorbacks’ basketball coach.

Musselman can have only limited contact with his team right now, but with each report, each scholarship offer and each tweet it becomes more obvious Yurachek found a high-energy, highly competitive coach who has been a student of the game since the day he was born.

The search apparently started with the determination by Yurachek that UA would not be used anymore. No more bridesmaids while the bride negotiated behind the scenes.

It appears Yurachek made an overture to his former coach at Houston, Kelvin Sampson, but with a tight deadline. Before the deadline was reached, Yurachek was on the phone lining up other interviews.

The candidates were told it was a process, and that a certain number of coaches would be vetted and interviewed before a decision was made.

Musselman was at the top of a list that most likely included Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall, Minnesota’s Richard Pitino, Northern Kentucky’s John Brannen and perhaps others.

Yurachek was naturally slowed by the Final Four and the coaches convention, but he was always moving forward.

Musselman led Nevada to three consecutive NCAA Tournaments, including a Sweet 16 showing, in four seasons.

It seems the smartest thing Yurachek did was get a budget from his boss, Chancellor Joe Steinmetz. The last thing he needed was to have to run to the board of trustees with every name.

If he had a good candidate and was within the budget, he could go full speed ahead. That’s what he did.

Some on the board and many fans wanted Texas Tech Coach Chris Beard at the top of the list, but Beard already was making $3 million a year. That would mean sweetening the pot to at least $3.5 million, maybe $4 million, and then there was a $6 million buyout.

No one wants to talk about it, but Razorbacks basketball has not been generating close to the revenue it once did. And there is still the matter of the Razorback Foundation paying off Bret Bielema, who apparently is having trouble finding another full-time job to his liking.

So money was an issue.

After interviewing everyone on his list, Yurachek went back to where he started: Musselman.

It was critical to Yurachek to find someone who would value Razorback history.

Razorback history had not been respected for 10 years before Yurachek was hired. In tours around the state with Steinmetz, Yurachek learned about the state pride in the Hogs. He discovered before Stephens, Murphy, Dillard’s, Tyson’s, J.B. Hunt and, of course, Wal-Mart became Fortune 500 companies, the Razorbacks were what people bragged about.

But much of the fan base has become apathetic because of noncompetitive football and average basketball.

Yurachek, Musselman and Chad Morris get it. Musselman and Morris are going to need some time, but like Yurachek, they want to make the Razorbacks relevant again.

All three have extended a welcoming hand to former Razorbacks, regardless of who coached them.

In the past two weeks it has become more obvious Yurachek knew what he was doing, who he wanted and what it would take to get Musselman, who like Morris is embracing Arkansas wholeheartedly.

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