Scottie Bordelon is a reporter for WholeHogSports.com. A graduate of the University of Arkansas, Bordelon previously covered high school sports for the Times Record in Fort Smith and the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Springdale. He is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and Football Writers Association of America and voter for the Biletnikoff Award.
'He was obsessed': Argenal driven in basketball from early age
Former Nevada assistant and current Arkansas assistant Gus Argenal works with players during a preseason practice in 2017.
FAYETTEVILLE — As brothers do, Justin and Gus Argenal fought every so often.
Justin, now the head basketball coach at his alma mater De La Salle High School in Concord, Calif., roughly 30 minutes northeast of Oakland, held different interests than his older brother growing up. Gus, though, was hyper-focused on basketball. He couldn’t get enough.
Even in the seventh and eighth grade, Arkansas basketball’s newest assistant coach was driven to improve as a player and meticulous with his workouts. Gus wanted his brother to rebound for him. It was a routine request.
But there was more, and a catch involved.
“He was obsessed,” Justin told WholeHogSports. “We’d have to film him shooting. We’d set up the recorder and I’d have to rebound for him. But I would make him play games with me before I did it. I said, ‘The only way I’m going to rebound for you is if you play a game of Monopoly or something with me.’
“He wanted me to film him and he wanted me to rebound for him. And if I threw him a bad pass he would get mad about it.”
Justin Argenal (left) and Gus Argenal (right) celebrate on Justin's senior night at Chico State in 2009. Gus was an assistant coach for the team.
Gus’ high-intensity and energetic personality served him well growing up and when he broke into coaching. It also brought about what is now his second stint on an Eric Musselman-led coaching staff, which numerous times he has described as a dream come true.
He was officially introduced May 3 as the replacement for former Razorbacks assistant coach Corey Williams, who last month accepted a similar position at Texas Tech under Mark Adams. It is fitting considering he pinned newspaper articles about Arkansas basketball around his room in middle school.
“I’ll go back to Coach Musselman and probably why I’m sitting in this office right now. He might have had the biggest influence on me in coaching of anybody,” Gus, 39, said. “I was a Division II head coach and he took a chance on me for a program that in some ways is a little bit like this on a lower level, I guess, that was in the spotlight, a top-25 team. He gave me a chance to be with him at Nevada.
“I consider him one of the best mentors, friends that I’ve had in my entire life.”
When Musselman announced the hire on Twitter, Justin remarked that no one was more deserving of the opportunity than his brother, who is four years older. Later came a shoutout from Brent Barry, a two-time NBA champion and the San Antonio Spurs’ vice president of basketball operations.
To have Barry, a De La Salle alum, reach out was a big deal to the Argenal brothers. One summer in the mid-to-late 1990s when Barry played for the Los Angeles Clippers, he worked out at the high school and Gus was a rebounding regular.
The Argenals are a basketball family.
Speaking to reporters last Wednesday, Gus said his mother, Noreen, has a college video room-like stack of game film in her garage, accumulated through taping each game her boys played as kids. Justin confirmed as much, joking, though, that none of the action on the countless DVDs and VHS tapes is noteworthy.
Justin added that a great deal of his brother’s inspiration stems from watching their father, Gus, a well-respected cardiologist in the Bay Area.
“When we walk around and you’re with my dad, he’s going to know people, and people are always going to talk about him as a doctor, how he treats his patients and how hard he works,” said Justin, who was a graduate assistant for one season under Andy Kennedy at Ole Miss. “He’s 72-73 now and is still trying to see the most patients and work really hard.
“We’ve seen that from our dad his whole life. That is a huge part of our work ethic and Gus’ drive to be successful.”
Gus was also influenced, like many who came through De La Salle, by Frank Allocco, who in 18 years at the school won 17 league championships and a pair of state titles. Now the executive senior associate athletics director for external relations at the University of San Francisco, Allocco is the only coach in California State history to win a state championship at two high schools, according to his website.
Largely because of Allocco, De La Salle alums are sprinkled throughout the coaching world at the high school, college and NBA levels, including with the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers, Saint Mary’s, Montana and now Arkansas.
“He’s who got me my start,” Gus said, “and really inspired me to want to lead men and be a servant leader.”
Arkansas assistant Gus Argenal (left) and Justin Argenal, head basketball coach at De La Salle High School in California.
In his coaching career, Gus has served as a Division I and Division II assistant, director of basketball operations and Division II head coach. He was even Justin's coach for a year at Chico State in California.
Every step of the way, Justin has admired his brother’s in-game demeanor and how he reaches players.
He also believes Gus will be a plus on the recruiting trail for the Razorbacks.
“I think he’s proven that all the places he’s been in terms of bringing in newcomers of the year and kids from all over the county when he was in Nevada to help reach that level,” Justin added. “I think he’s a high-intensity guy, he knows the game really well and he’s a great teacher of the game and recruiter.
“I think he’s extremely well-rounded and I think he’ll bring a ton. There’s a familiarity with Coach Musselman, and they work really good together. I think he’ll bring a lot to the table.”
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