Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a member and past president of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year 10 times and has been inducted into the Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.
Like It Is:
Hunter Yurachek needs to make a home run hire
First, congratulations to Nolan Richardson, who the University of Arkansas System board of trustees voted to name the basketball court in Bud Walton Arena. There will be detractors as this is a first — a former coach being honored after suing the school.
It is done, should be accepted and time to move on. It was impressive the way Richardson handled the firing of Mike Anderson, saying he was sad, but he understood the monster had to be fed. The monster Richardson created with three trips to the Final Four, a national championship and a 26-12 record in NCAA play.
Anderson handled the firing with as much class and dignity as any person who has ever been fired, and while we may never know all the details, this was not a decision that was made just on the basis of this season.
One of the common things heard before his firing, was give him one more year. Well, the truth be known, the clock started ticking last year after the 79-62 first-round loss to Butler.
Was the final straw that he refused to fire any of his assistants? Apparently.
Anderson and Arkansas were not going to be a part of the FBI probe into college basketball because he didn’t cheat. That was obvious.
His three best players this season were sophomore Daniel Gafford and freshmen Isaiah Joe and Desi Sills, all from Arkansas, yet, in the last few years Anderson let several players like KeVaughn Allen (Florida) and Malik Monk (Kentucky) get away.
This year, Arkansas’ best player Issac McBride signed with Kansas.
Plus, there have been too many defections, and most of them became starters as soon as they were eligible at other schools.
Recruiting is the lifeline of all college athletics, and if the assistants are producing the players, then Hunter Yurachek was right to evaluate them. It would seem critical to keep Scotty Thurman to hold the team together.
This would be the perfect time for Joe, Sills and the rest of the team to step up and say out of respect for the program and for their coach, “We are going to see who the next coach is,” because this group of kids has a chance to become the “Unforgettables” for the Razorbacks.
The challenge for those young men will be to make Arkansas relevant again, and it won’t be easy in a league that has improved leaps and bounds in the last five years. Six of the seven SEC teams in the NCAA Tournament were led by coaches who were hired in the last five years.
Now, the attention will focus on who will be the next head coach at Arkansas, and fans need to understand that currently this is not the job it was when Richardson left.
When he left, Bill Self, who was at Illinois, accepted the job, but Frank Broyles was told no, and Stan Heath was hired.
It was the beginning of the end for Razorbacks basketball. Heath was a great guy, but he had one year of head coaching experiencing at Kent State where he had inherited a great team. He made it five years at Arkansas.
Dana Altman (see Oregon) took the job for a day, leaving within 24 hours after an encounter with then-Chancellor John White, and that led the school to pay the princely sum of $75,000 to find another good guy, John Pelphrey who was winning at South Alabama with transfers. He lasted four years.
Then Mike was hired, and he got eight years.
Now Yurachek is responsible for finding someone who can fix it fast. He worked with Kelvin Sampson at Houston, but the word is that Sampson wants his son named the coach-in-waiting. If true, that should be a deal-breaker.
Yurachek knows he is on the clock, and he knows the importance of this hire.
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