Arkansas basketball fans are quick to point out when opposing coaches have failed in their responsibilities as men. Count me among the party, as I’ve written columns calling out the antics of Auburn coach Bruce Pearl and more recently Alabama coach Nate Oats and athletic director Greg Byrne.
Clearly, Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman has been frustrated this season and has let people know about it. Many Hog fans are tired of hearing the excuses about injuries and the constant reminders from Musselman saying that such and such — whether it’s four players fouling out at Missouri, or missing 18 of 20 layups against Kentucky — is the first time he’s seen it happen in his 30 years of coaching.
Another first for Musselman may be what staff member Riley Hall did in the aftermath of squandering another big lead, resulting in yet another Hog loss that should have been a win. The Hogs were up by 13 at halftime against Texas A&M and lost by 6 in the SEC Tournament quarterfinal.
Postgame Incident at SEC Tournament
According to ESPN, “After the game, a student journalist tweeted that his phone was grabbed and thrown to the ground by an Arkansas staffer who was walking behind Musselman as he left the court.”
The phone in question belonged to Jack Weaver, a student journalist who works for the student newspaper the Kentucky Kernal. Not surprisingly, the Kernal Tweeted its disgust — as it should have:
“The Kentucky Kernal is appalled by the actions of the Arkansas men’s basketball program. @jack_weaver always embodies professionalism on the job and no journalist, especially a student journalist, should be subjected to violence for simply doing their job.”
A statement released by Hunter Yurachek offers an apology for the incident, which Hog fans should expect given his well-deserved sterling reputation as Arkansas’ athletic director. However, in this case, the official apology does not do justice to the situation. The engagement was characterized as something done “inadvertently.”
With all due respect, the video that Weaver shared clearly confirms that what the Kentucky Kernal claims is the absolute truth. The footage below also makes it clear that Weaver was not encroaching on the space of the coaching staff.
Indeed, Musselman himself did not even notice Weaver until after Hall had made a conscious decision to walk toward Weaver in order to get close enough to grab the phone, knock it down, or whatever happened for the phone to land on the ground.
In all likelihood, Hall was unaware that Weaver was a student journalist and if he had been using something that resembled a camera instead of his phone, this most likely would not have happened.
That excuses nothing. If Hall thought Weaver was just an average fan, one could view the situation as even less favorable for the Hogs.
What Arkansas Basketball Should Do
For the most part, as much as anyone outside the Arkansas basketball program knows, Eric Musselman generally does the right thing when it comes to dispensing discipline to his players.
This would be a good opportunity for Musselman to extend that discipline to his coaching staff.
No one is claiming any kind of criminal activity occurred and it appears pretty clear from the video that at no time was the student journalist in any physical danger. However, if the phone had been broken, there would have certainly been reason to demand reimbursement.
This is by no means an offense worthy of firing. However, for Musselman to let this go without consequence sends a signal that our program isn’t much better than others that Hog fans criticize.
Of course, all of this would have been avoided had the Hogs not snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, as they’ve been prone to do all year, by allowing Texas A&M to come back from a giant deficit to win. After all, who gets angry when someone videos them smiling after a great win?
Coaches can’t shoot free throws or make rebounds for their players, but the staff still bears some of the responsibility for this highly talented group of players underachieving as a team this year.
They know that, and I’m sure that’s why tempers flared after a loss that should have been a win. However, there is no excuse whatsoever for this incident, which is purely of Arkansas’ own making. Doing the right thing in response should be anything but inadvertent.
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