Now, we can exhale.
Today, Arkansas Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek announced Eric Musselman as the next Razorback basketball coach charged with returning Hogs basketball to the national prominence it enjoyed during the golden years of Eddie Sutton and Nolan Richardson.
He is the fourth such coach charged with this task, following Stan Heath, John Pelphrey and Mike Anderson. Musselman has a more impressive overall resume than any of them.
He is the son of the deceased Bill Musselman, who coached at the college and pro levels (ABA, NBA and CBA) for 45 years and patrolled the sidelines with Nolan Richardsonian intensity. Bill Musselman was known for the saying “Defeat is worse than death because you have to live with defeat.”
Eric Musselman inherited some of that feistiness, to say the least.
At the G-League level, he once physically confronted an opposing coach with the fire of a thousand suns burning in his eyes:
Razorback fans will relish having this kind of Nolan-esque combativeness back on the bench.
Their new coach coached 13 years in the NBA and is a former runner-up in the NBA Coach of the Year award. Eric Musselman has won coach of the year awards in the NBA’s G-League (2012) and in the Mountain West Conference (2018).
He also enters the Razorback job after coaching national teams for China, the USA, Dominican Republic and Venezuela. Here ishis resume so far:
|Eric Musselman Background|
|1989–1990||Rapid City Thrillers|
|1991–1997||Rapid City Thrillers/Florida Beach Dogs|
|1998–2000||Orlando Magic (assistant)|
|2000–2002||Atlanta Hawks (assistant)|
|2002–2004||Golden State Warriors|
|2004–2006||Memphis Grizzlies (assistant)|
|2011–2012||Los Angeles D-Fenders|
|2012–2013||Arizona State (assistant)|
|2013–2014||Arizona State (assoc. HC)|
|2014–2015||LSU (assoc. HC)|
A professional background, of course, is no guarantee of success at the major college level. Just look at Avery Johnson at Alabama. However, professional success and sustained mid-major success is a better indicator of future success. Eric Musselman transformed Nevada into a mid-major power through four seasons, while Johnson had never coached college players before taking the Crimson Tide job in 2015.
There are plenty of question marks about Musselman, from how his fiery, showy personality will translate among other coaches and fan bases in the South (Bret Bielema’s didn’t exactly go over well) to his extreme reliance on transfers while at Nevada.
Even if he doesn’t ultimately succeed at Arkansas, the Razorbacks won’t be breaking the bank for him, as they would have had to for Kelvin Sampson or Chris Beard. Musselman’s new contract is worth at least $12.5 million over five years.
If you’re hungry for more, make sure to read this breakdown on what went down the first time Musselman met his Razorback players:
And check out more of my insight on what hiring Eric Musselman could do for Hogs basketball here: