Polos suit Hogs: Musselman, staff subscribe to comfort coaching

By: Bob Holt
Published: Saturday, May 30, 2020
Arkansas basketball coach Eric Musselman is shown during a game against Tulsa on Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas basketball coach Eric Musselman is shown during a game against Tulsa on Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Shortly after Eric Musselman was hired as the University of Arkansas men's basketball coach, he bought three tailor-made suits.

"They're the nicest suits he's ever had in his life," said Danyelle Musselman, Eric's wife. "And he's never worn any of them even once.

"The suits and new shirts that have his initials on the cuffs, they're still just hanging in the closet."

Musselman figured he'd need some nice new suits to wear while coaching the Razorbacks. After all, every other SEC staff wears the traditional coaches' wardrobe of coats and ties.

"Coming here, I think Eric started off thinking he was going to wear suits," Danyelle Musselman said. "He felt he probably should wear suits since it's the SEC. But he thought about it some more and talked to his bosses and said, 'I really want to be true to myself.'"

Eric Musselman said he checked with Arkansas Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek to see whether he had a problem with all of the coaches and staff members wearing polo shirts for games as they did while he was at Nevada.

"We had a long conversation just to make sure he was cool with it," Musselman said.

Musselman and his assistants began going with polo shirts for many games beginning with his first of four seasons at Nevada, then wore them for every game during the 2018-19 season before he came to Arkansas.

"When Eric asked what my thoughts were if he and his staff wore polo shirts, my answer was, 'If you're winning games, I don't care what you wear,' " Yurachek said with a laugh. "Everybody has their own style. The polos are Eric's style.

"I think having a Razorback-branded polo shirt with pants and his coaching staff-looking uniform is a really good look."

Musselman led the Razorbacks to a 20-12 record last season, including a victory over Vanderbilt in the SEC Tournament before the rest of it was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

A check of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette photo files from each game last season shows that Musselman and his staff wore at least 17 different varieties of polo shirts with colors including red, white, black, silver, pink and charcoal. Some shirts were solid colors, others had varying degrees of stripes and other patterns.

"The real truth of the matter is, it's great for branding, it's great for recruiting," Musselman said. "Parents like it, the players like it. It differentiates us from staffs at other schools.

"Nobody's trying to outdress another guy on the staff. I think it's a lot less ego when everybody wears a polo, because it's like your staff uniform. Everyone wears the same thing from the head coach to the grad assistants. Everybody looks the same, just like your players do."

Danyelle Musselman said wearing polos and slacks is actually dressing up for her husband.

"Eric wears T-shirts and shorts during the summer, and he wears T-shirts and sweat pants during the winter," she said. "That's it. He's not a guy that likes to dress up. He wants to look nice in his clothes, but he doesn't like to dress up."

Eric Musselman said the last time he wore a suit during a game was in Nevada's Sweet 16 matchup against Loyola-Chicago in the 2018 NCAA Tournament, when the Ramblers beat the Wolf Pack 69-68 in Atlanta.

The last time Musselman wore a suit period, he said, was for his introductory news conference as Arkansas' coach on April 8, 2019, at Walton Arena.

"Whenever Eric would wear a suit for a game, I swear he was changed out of it in 45 seconds after the final buzzer," Danyelle Musselman said. "He would get out of his suit faster than anyone's ever seen.

"He just doesn't like to wear suits. So after he wore the polos a couple times at Nevada, he was like, 'You know what? I think I'm going to get the whole staff to wear polos.'

"Everyone was really on board with the idea. We think it looks good with everybody matching, and then everybody on the staff isn't making millions of dollars. So it saves money not having to buy suits and not having expensive dry-cleaning bills."

Arkansas assistant coach Clay Moser, who in accordance with the NBA's dress code wore a suit at games while a member of the Los Angeles Lakers' staff the previous eight years, said he doesn't have strong feelings either way about wearing a polo shirt and pants or a coat and tie for games.

"I guess as long as I'm not in a straitjacket, I can figure it out," Moser said. "But I do have a real strong philosophy that, 'If it's free, it's for me.'

"So it's great that the university gives us polo shirts we're supposed to wear. It's also nice I can just throw my stuff into the washer at home. Then I'm just waiting to find out what we're wearing for the next time around."

Eric Musselman said his favorite of the polo shirts is a solid red one with the running Razorback logo. He said the coaches' wives prefer pink shirts, which promote cancer awareness, while the best response from recruits and their parents is for a charcoal with black stripes combination.

"I'd always been a coat and tie guy," said Razorbacks assistant coach Corey Williams, who joined Musselman's staff after being Stetson's head coach the previous six seasons. "But wearing polos is awesome. You'd be amazed how many other guys would love to do what we're doing wearing these polo shirts. We have so many coaches from different teams tell us, 'I wish we could do that, too.'

"It was new to me, but when we started doing it, I loved it. The polos are so fashionable, but also so comfortable. They're also a lot easier to pack for a road trip than a suit."

The first time Musselman and his staff wore polo shirts was during his first season at Nevada in 2015-16 when the Wolf Pack played in the Rainbow Classic at Honolulu.

"Eric started out at Nevada wearing suits just like everybody else," Danyelle Musselman said. "But in Hawaii he really liked the look and feel of the polos for games.

"He said, 'We need to start doing this for more games.' Then it eventually became the case for all the games."

Musselman said the polos are a good fit for the coaches when they're working with players before games.

"It's easier during the pregame for someone from our staff to pass the ball to our guys or stretch a guy out rather than having a suit on," he said. "Plus, it's a thousand percent more comfortable."

Yurachek said it makes perfect sense for Musselman to coach in a polo shirt rather than a suit.

"You've seen how active Eric is when he's coaching," Yurachek said. "I'd rather he be comfortable as active as he is than trying to coach the way he does and have to wear a coat and tie.

"I see plenty of coaches who have these high-dollar suits on, and they're sweating through them throughout the course of the game, and they don't look very comfortable."

The shirts were popular with fans, Yurachek said, but they weren't available for purchase at Arkansas' team stores.

"We had several requests after every game for the shirt that Eric and his staff wore in that game, but we didn't know about Eric's desire to wear the polos until it was too late last year to order enough shirts to put into our Hog Heaven store," Yurachek said. "We're getting ahead of that this year, and we will have those polos in Hog Heaven to purchase there at the venue or online."

Danyelle Musselman said the large variety of polos meant her husband has some decisions to make before games about what to wear.

"Eric loves them all," she said. "He thinks he's a high-fashion model with his polos. At home, he'll go through a whole routine of bringing out the polos and trying the different ones on and asking me which ones look better and which pants should he wear?

"I mean, it's a big production."

Sports on 05/30/2020


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