Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and a voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year three times.
Musselman: Hogs' program has good momentum
Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman reacts to fans following a first round game against Colgate at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament, Friday, March 19, 2021, in Indianapolis. Arkansas defeated Colgate 85-68. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
FAYETTEVILLE — North Carolina became the latest marquee college basketball job to open up with Roy Williams announcing his retirement on Thursday, but Eric Musselman doesn’t sound like he’s going anywhere.
Musselman, who led the University of Arkansas to its first NCAA Tournament Elite Eight appearance since 1995, has been speculated as a candidate as Indiana, Texas, Oklahoma and Minnesota previously opened.
Arkansas Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek said last week he has been in constant contact with Musselman and his agent, Jordan Bazant, about putting together a contract extension and raise for the coach who has a 45-19 record in two seasons leading the Razorbacks.
“I don’t think there’s been any hesitation at all from my end or from Hunter’s end,” Musselman said Thursday when asked about working out a new contract. “I have two bosses — Hunter and [Musselman’s wife] Danyelle.
“I think both of my bosses feel strongly about the same things I do, which is we have something really cool going right now.
“We’ve established a culture. Not only have we established a culture, but nationally right now, when we pick up the phone, recruits understand that we were just in an Elite Eight. That’s elite company.
“We finished the regular season, we were a top-10 team in the country. There’s a lot of really good momentum, so we want to just continue to build on what has been created thus far over the last 24 months.”
Indiana filled its vacancy by hiring Mike Woodson, Texas hired Chris Beard from Texas Tech and Minnesota hired Ben Johnson, an assistant coach at Xavier.
That leaves North Carolina and Oklahoma, along with the new vacancy at Texas Tech, as jobs open at Power 5 conference schools.
“Eric doesn’t need the leverage of [an opening at another major program] to get the agreement that he needs here at the University of Arkansas,” Yurachek said last week. “He’s got plenty of leverage by winning basketball games.”
Musselman figures to be in line for a sizable raise. His original five-year contract at Arkansas has an annual compensation of $2.5 million, which this season ranked 49th nationally and last among the SEC’s 13 coaches at public universities according to a database of college basketball coaches’ salaries compiled by USA Today. The salary of Vanderbilt Coach Jerry Stackhouse wasn’t included in the USA Today data because he works at a private university which is exempt from open records requests.
“I anticipate that Eric will have a brand new contract and that we won’t be relying on his current contract moving forward whenever we have an opportunity to sit down and talk about it,” Yurachek said last week. “And I anticipate that Eric won’t be the 13th highest-paid coach in the SEC under his new agreement.”
Yurachek hired Musselman from Nevada, where he had a 110-34 record and led the Wolf Pack to three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances from 2017-19.
“He gave me an opportunity to coach here,” Musselman said. “Everything’s good right now, and I think it’s going to continue to be good.”
Musselman said he spoke with Yurachek on Thursday morning.
“Hunter and I, we talk all the time,” Musselman said. “I think he believes in the direction that we’re going, and we certainly believe in his leadership.”
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