Pittman proving to be calming influence for Arkansas during interesting times

Photo by Razorback Sports Communications

Whether it’s actually an ancient proverb or just credited back a few hundred years to avoid criticism we are obviously getting every bit of  the old “may you live in interesting times.”

No, not getting into politics or opinion of everything going on in the world today. Others can do what they wish with the plethora of topics outside of sports.

But it has been interesting watching new Arkansas coach Sam Pittman navigating the various crossroads and forks he’s had to endure over the last six months or so.

It’s even more interesting when you realize he didn’t have to be here.

He was the associate head coach and offensive line coach of a team that had played for (and probably should have won) a national championship a couple of years before and things don’t appear to be changing anytime soon at Georgia.

Yet, Pittman did one of his best sales jobs ever selling himself into the Razorbacks’ football job after a decade-long slide into the absolute bottom of the sport.

Since he hasn’t even gotten to coach a practice yet we’ll see how the wins and losses work out. No way I’m going out on that limb with this team because it’s impossible to begin projecting anything.

Pittman’s calmness through a wild six months that’s seen some fairly unprecedented things in terms of a global pandemic, heated politics and civil unrest has been the most interesting thing.

“He was probably one of the best coaches that handled it well,” Rakeem Boyd said last week after seeing how Pittman and assistant coaches were at a Fayetteville demonstration. “During that time, I was very proud of Pittman. He reached out to a couple of players. That’s big.”

There were no photo opportunities other than some candid shots folks took during that time. If there’s been any complaints from players it hasn’t been public.

Straight up is the recurring phrase you hear from players that stayed through the coaching change from the previous coaches. If there was a recurring phrase about that staff was what they said to the players seemed to have a floating theme. We got that in the media, too.

That’s a polite way of saying some here before would climb a tree to tell a lie before standing on the ground to tell the truth. Players just want coaches to be consistent and straight up.

In case you’re wondering, the sports world is brutally honest at times.

“Most coaches aren’t going to give it to you straight on a plate,” Boyd said. “They are going to sugarcoat everything. With Pittman, he’s going to set you straight. He’s going to tell you you’re going to get it done, and if you don’t there will be consequences.

“You know what I mean? He’s kind of an old school type of coach. I really like it.”

The guess is how he’s handled everything is pretty much summed up by the fact there haven’t been any big headlines like we’ve seen around some other places of coaches grabbing headlines.

How the team is doing with the health pandemic is probably an indication of Pittman’s calmness. He can’t control it, so he doesn’t worry about it.

Plus, he’s trusting his team to be men and treating them that way.

“If they want to have a football season, it’s realistic to ask them to stay away from people,” Pittman said last week. “We choose to trust and believe in our team and that they’re grown men.”

For fans, this should be a hopeful clue into what could translate to players on the field. This team has not played anywhere near its talent level the last two years.

Pittman will have them prepared but the players have to perform.

And if they don’t, as Boyd said, there will be consequences.