There’s a certain tension building for both Razorback and Hoosier fan bases as Eric Musselman keeps succeeding and the search for a new Indiana basketball coach drags on.
On one hand, Musselman’s success in leading the Arkansas basketball team into the Sweet 16 has essentially guaranteed he’s going to get a massive bump in pay once the season finishes. (His current salary of $2.5 million a year ranks No. 13 in the SEC.)
Arkansas fans hope that increase comes in the form of a contract extension and raise to stay in Fayetteville.
“With the success of our team, he for sure has done what he needs to do for me and him to sit down and talk about what a contract looks like for him moving forward,” Arkansas athletic director Hunter Yurachek said in a press conference this week.
“Eric and I talk every single day. I talk to Eric’s agent [Jordan Bazant] at least once a week. We’re all on the same page, and I feel very comfortable with what that page is.”
Musselman has already earned a bonus of $250,000 for making the Sweet 16. Going to Final Four is worth a $350,000 bonus. Win it all and it’s $500,000.
But the Indiana basketball coach search is now more than 12 days old, and with every day that goes by it becomes increasingly likely that Indiana’s top candidate(s) is still coaching in the NCAA Tournament.
While fans and columnists like USA Today’s Paul Myerberg actively petition for Musselman to coach the Hoosiers, other insiders are trying to do more digging into their sources.
Rick Bozich, a sports reporter for WDRB who reported last week that Eric Musselman was among Indiana’s top six candidates, says the grapevine has gone silent.
In a recent column, Bozich writes that Hoosiers athletic director Scott Dolson is keeping a tight circle of confidents and attempting to find a new Indiana basketball coach without the assistance of a search firm.
“It’s a challenging process that can only be complicated by leaks. Coaches and their agents can use the IU job (or the Marquette and Utah jobs) to leverage money or facility upgrades at their current spots.”
To that last point, it would be nice if reporters could simply ask the currently active college coaches whether they have spoken to their agents about the Indiana basketball coach job. Or the Texas basketball coach job which just opened.
But that line of questioning is verboten for media members in the NCAA Tournament.
The focus, of course, is usually on the next game — as it should be. Any reporter who would dare publicly ask Musselman about this stuff could end up worse than Todd Fuhrman.
With information so hard to come by, it was interesting to hear Danyelle Musselman answer a question alluding to the rumors and reports that other programs are after her husband.
In a recent interview on the Buzz 103.7 FM, “Out of Bounds” co-hosts John Nabors and Joe Franklin asked her how she and Eric handled the talk of fans and columnists pushing for Musselman to become the next coach of NBA teams and college teams.
While they don’t specify the Indiana job, that’s obviously the one most people are thinking about now that Minnesota has found its man in Ben Johnson.
“You know what, honestly, with what’s going on right now with the Arkansas team, it takes up every second of space in both of our brains,” Danyelle Musselman said.
“So, it’s not even something [we think about]. We don’t read about that stuff. That’s just another thing to worry about that you don’t need to worry about.”
“So that’s pretty much how we try to handle that stuff. Don’t even give it any noise or any attention.”
This is the right answer, but at the same time it’s hard not to think that Musselman’s agent is at least fielding calls of inquiry.
Based on what the Musselmans have said and done to date, it seems like Arkansas is a great fit. On the surface, there’s no reason to move if Eric Musselman truly prioritizes his family.
Uprooting their youngest child, Mariah, from her school and friends after two years of getting comfortable may not be something that the family would love — unless they are very good at disguising an unhappiness living in Arkansas.
“Nobody loves their family more than my husband,” said Danyelle in a 2015 interview with Nevada Sports Net. “Everything that he does, the decisions he makes in life, it’s with his family in mind.”
“He’s egoless,” Danyelle Musselman added.
“Few people can really understand this, but the only thing that really matters to him is basketball. It’s not money. It’s not fame. It’s just basketball. All he wanted was the basketball.”
“He wanted to learn, so if he had to be an [college] assistant, that’s what he was going to do.”
This is all good news for Arkansas fans, but still, facts are facts — Musselman has moved around an awful lot in his coaching career. 21 stops, to be exact. Given his consistent track record of going on to the next thing, it wouldn’t a shock if one day he left Arkansas.
The shocking part would be if it happened after only two years.
Eric Musselman staying with Arkansas basketball?
Wally Hall, columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is confident Arkansas athletic director Hunter Yurachek will do everything he can to keep Musselman in Fayetteville.
Hall thinks Arkansas will put together the funds to make whatever is negotiated with Yurachek after the tournament extremely competitive.
“It might seem like a bad time to try to find some serious money for a raise, but word is CBS is working on paying the SEC what it owes,” Hall wrote.
“The debt was deferred several months ago, but it is about to be due again and each SEC school stands to receive north of $20 million. This is the first financial break Yurachek has received since he became AD of the debt-heavy Razorbacks program.”
Listen to the whole interview with Danyelle Musselman starting at 55:05 below. (The line of questioning about other job openings is at 1:08:15)
In his press conference, Hunter Yurachek said he doesn’t expect Indiana’s opening to create additional leverage when it comes to how much Musselman will be offered in negotiations.
“A lot of times when other jobs open up, what you see in the media are agents planting things to get their coaches some leverage because they maybe haven’t been winning as much as they should have,” Yurachek said.
“As Eric’s agent and I talk, Eric’s got all the leverage he needs with me because we finished second in the SEC and we’re in the Sweet 16.
“Eric doesn’t need the leverage of an opening at Indiana to get the agreement that he needs here at the University of Arkansas. He’s got plenty of leverage by winning basketball games.”
Update on new Indiana basketball coach search
The insiders are all over the place with their projections and reports.
In terms of the most recent betting line, Musselman is closer to the top than bottom among candidates:
Ironically, the two coaches by him also have Arkansas connections. Porter Moser previously coached at University of Arkansas-Little Rock, while Dana Altman was the Arkansas basketball head coach for all of one day:
For more insight into Eric Musselman as an Indiana basketball coach candidate, check out this excerpt from The Daily Hoosier:
“Musselman’s level of energy is Tom Crean-like, and though his resumé is much longer than Crean’s was when he was hired and it has professional experience Crean didn’t have, its highlights aren’t all that much more impressive.”
“Crean had, after all, been to a Final Four at Marquette before he got to Bloomington and Musselman hasn’t reached those heights yet — though this season is his best chance so far. Bottom line, he might be viewed as an upgrade over Archie Miller, but not necessarily a home run hire.”
And it’s also worth watching the opening minutes of the below video from Indiana sports personality Kent Sterling.
According to his network of sources, Musselman is a middling possibility, while John Belein is not a serious candidate. He also claims Mike Woodson is a candidate that is “virtually dismissed,” which goes directly against Vegas.
He adds “Porter Moser is a guy that a lot of [Indiana] basketball people say you got to talk to,”
Sterling makes an interesting note that a possible negative against Thad Matta is that Matta, when he coached Ohio State, recruited Indianapolis blue-chippers Greg Oden and Mike Conley, Jr. away from Indiana.
“Taking those kids out of the state, there’s some within that Indiana basketball community that are still a little bit rankled over that. A sign of disloyalty, I guess.”
Both of those guys have Arkansas ties.
Greg Oden’s brother played for the Razorback football team, while Conley grew up in Fayetteville because of his father, a former Razorback track star.
Do take Sterling with a grain of salt, however.
He wasn’t exactly on point with his assessment of northwest Arkansas here:
Dan Dakich, the fiesty former coach turned Indiana sports analyst, thinks that Indiana needs to stop trying to hire college coaches who go deep into the NCAA Tournament once or twice.
“I’m tired of the hot guy.”
“Kelvin Sampson comes in for crying out loud, was on probation when Indiana hired him. Then you get a guy [Tom Crean] and say ‘Well, he went to the final four with Dwayne Wade.’ Great. And Tom did a really good job. Then you get a guy in [Archie Miller]: ‘Well, he went to the Elite Eight.’ Who cares?”
“I swear to God,” Dakich told Dan Patrick, gearing up for another rant.
“I called [former IU AD] Fred Glass when they hired Archie Miller. And I said, ‘You just made the worst hire you can possibly make.’ I said, “Well, you are making us like everybody else.’ And frankly Indiana is like everybody else.”
Later, he explained: “We have no identity. What’s Indiana basketball about? Is it shooting? No. Is it defense? No. Is it tough play?” No. It’s just another team”
To get return Indiana to the mountaintop, Dakich thinks the Hoosiers should go after not Musselman, but Musselman’s replacement at Nevada — Steve Alford.
Alford was a two-time All-American under Bobby Knight who helped the Hoosiers claim their fifth national championship in 1987. He finished his career as Indiana’s all-time leading scorer.
“I want to see an Indiana guy in there,” Dakich said. “I want somebody that can bring back Indiana basketball’s pride. I want to see somebody that can galvanize a fan base.”
“It’s time to get somebody in here that understands what this place is about, what the fan base is about.”
“It’s time for somebody to get some wins in here. Last I looked all of the statues at Indiana are from Bob Knight…”
“We’re living in the future. It’s time to live in the past.”
Indiana fans may want to ask Arkansas fans how the Mike Anderson hire worked out for Arkansas. Anderson, who well understood the Razorbacks’ past after serving as an assistant under Nolan Richardson, did partially restore the Arkansas basketball program’s luster.
But he wasn’t able to do for Arkansas what Dakich thinks Alford can do for Indiana basketball.
Check out his interview with Dan Patrick here:
More about Musselman and the Indiana basketball coach search:
and a detailed look at Beard and Musselman here:
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