Arkansas basketball:

Musselman eyeing productive, hands-on summer

By: Scottie Bordelon
Published: Thursday, May 16, 2019
Eric Musselman speaks at a press conference after his introduction as the new head coach of men's basketball at the University of Arkansas by Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek Monday, April 8, 2019 in Bud Walton Arena on the campus in Fayetteville. During the previous four seasons, Musselman coached the University of Nevada in Reno to a 110-34 record.
Photo by David Gottschalk
Eric Musselman speaks at a press conference after his introduction as the new head coach of men's basketball at the University of Arkansas by Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek Monday, April 8, 2019 in Bud Walton Arena on the campus in Fayetteville. During the previous four seasons, Musselman coached the University of Nevada in Reno to a 110-34 record.

FAYETTEVILLE — Toward the end of his tenure at Nevada, Eric Musselman said he could have kicked back in a lawn chair with a lemonade in hand on the sideline at his team's practices.

Daily practices were essentially run by his players, guys who in maturing within the program knew exactly what was expected of them and how to operate in that setting with little assistance.

Beginning this summer, his first at Arkansas, he envisions being hands on in the team's day-to-day out of necessity.

"We were on autopilot," Musselman said Thursday in an interview in the program's Basketball Performance Center of his workouts with the Wolf Pack in his final seasons. "I'm going to have to be way more involved than I have maybe the last 24 months at Nevada.

"We're going to have to bring a lot of energy and try to create the environment from an enthusiasm standpoint because, again, once we get to Years 2-4, we hope the guys are player-driven instead of coach-driven."

The Razorbacks' summer sessions, which Musselman has previously said will be broken into two five-week segments, will begin with learning and gaining a greater understanding of basic concepts in his Pace and Space system.

From a scheme standpoint - and a cosmetic standpoint, he said - Musselman wants to, in a way, play similarly to the Golden State Warriors, who have virtually revolutionized the sport offensively and won three of the last four NBA titles.

To illustrate his free-flowing offense, he used a hypothetical entry feed to forward Draymond Green near the rim and each cutting and screening action away from the ball. Green is obviously looking to score, but is also a willing passer in those instances, which is where the other four players on the floor moving with purpose becomes paramount.

Everything out of the gate will be schooling players on how to play without the ball, a selfless nature and how to utilize the goal of reaching 200 passes in a game.

"Then when you do add the ball, you have a rule of 0.5 seconds where you've got to pass, shoot or dribble," Musselman said. "You've got to make a decision instead of holding the ball and having glue on your hands. ... We want our guys to feel like they're not handcuffed. We want them to play free and to not overthink."

Musselman said the late-summer months and into September is when "a lot of philosophical stuff" will be introduced and come into play. Specific play calls, of which he has many from time spent in professional leagues as well as Nevada, will be implemented then, too.

Entering his fifth season as a college head coach, Musselman will have a plan for each player this offseason. Team members are currently on break following finals, but he has already met with several players to lay out an individual strategy moving forward.

The "motivation through numbers" aspect of Musselman's coaching philosophy, which he picked up in the NBA, will begin once the team begins play in November.

Rising sophomore guard Isaiah Joe, who averaged 13.9 points per game in 2018-19, set the program's single-season record for 3-pointers made with 113 and shot 41.4 percent from distance, was the first player Musselman met with to devise a plan for improvement.

"We put together a little book for him and showed him some of the areas we think he can get better at and some things he's excelled at," Musselman said. "We'll talk about having a career year and trying to better yourself in all your statistical categories from the year before."

Adrio Bailey, for example, entering his senior season at Arkansas, has three years of play under his belt - a good body of work, Musselman said, to break down and evaluate areas in which he's trending upward or plateauing.

He added that each player he's spoken with has been very accepting of his line of thinking.

"Guys love it because a lot of times in college athletics people don't talk about individual goals," he said. "They want to talk about the team and what we can do to win.

"I believe you win if players have good individual years."

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