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Andy Hodges

Yurachek gets Musselman, who may have been target all along

Some worry about Eric Musselman’s success with transfer players, but it may be more important in college basketball to manage what you got regardless of how they get there.

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Arkansas athletics director Hunter Yurachek was conspicuous by has absence at Saturday’s Red-White football game.

With many fans exhausted by his search for a coach to replace Mike Anderson, Chad Morris’ second spring game was a welcome diversion.

But Yurachek wasn”t there. Turns out he was in Reno, Nevada, getting a signature from Nevada coach Eric Musselman to be the new coach.

First, there was the assumption Yurachek would be going after Houston coach Kelvin Sampson. That didn’t work out, which caused some fans to start worrying another coach had used them to get a raise, which may or may not have happened.

Then Musselman’s name surfaced Monday. A couple of sources told me it was a done deal. Maybe it was.

More names surfaced in a “flavor of the day” routine with message board rumor mills circulating just about every name, but most wanting a call made to Chris Beard, the Texas Tech (and former Arkansas-Little Rock) coach.

Coaching searches these days don’t work that way.

Besides, Beard wasn’t leaving a team he’s taking to the national championship game in three years. No clue he has any thoughts about Arkansas one way or the other.

Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall and former UCLA coach Steve Alford may have been convenient smokescreens.

All of which makes you wonder if Musselman was Yurachek’s first choice all along.

There’s no saying Yurachek had all this planned before firing Mike Anderson. But, once it happened, he could read a calendar and probably wasn’t in a big rush to get it done. Don’t take that as guessing he dragged it out at all.

It’s been less than two weeks.

Debating whether it was the best move for Yurachek to make is a waste of time now. You’re either on the bandwagon, standing by watching or about to jump under it. That’s an individual call.

Now it’s about watching what he does.

Musselman should know he’s got to win games. Quick.

Nobody knows how long the window is for comfort. There will be some that will expect big-time success immediately. No idea if that will happen or not.

People that know basketball say he’s flexible in style. At Nevada he played a positionless style, with the rebounder bringing the ball up the floor in a quick fashion and blending transfers with some junior college talent.

Keep in mind, too, that Eddie Sutton and Nolan Richardson were mid-major coaches when they were hired by Frank Broyles. Sutton came from Creighton and Richardson from Tulsa.

Neither took their teams as far in the NCAA as Musselman has taken Nevada to a Sweet 16 appearance. His winning percentage of 76.4% is slightly above Nolan’s Tulsa mark of 76.3% and Eddie’s mark at Creighton of 62.1%.

In case you’re wondering, Stan Heath only had a year of being a head coach and John Pelphrey’s an alarming 54.4% winning percentage. It was alarming how he got hired with that track record despite the mess things were after Dana Altman’s quick departure.

A lot of the internet “experts” think Musselman got to recruit and develop high school players to be successful at Arkansas. “They” keep saying that’s essential.

My question is in this world of the best players staying, at the most, two years exactly what is the difference between them and juco or transfers?

It matters how you manage what you got.

Musselman has done a pretty good job of that at Nevada. It’s a trait pro coaches have dealt with for years. Rare is the case of a player staying somewhere for five years, much less a decade (don’t throw exceptions out there because there are a few, but very few).

At one point a couple of weeks ago it was pointed out in a national media story there were over 500 players in the transfer portal for men’s basketball alone. Yes, that’s what the world of college sports has become.

Look at the aforementioned Beard, who has brought Tech to the title game in three years … with the help of transfers. Two of them have been the best players on the team this year.

As I said it’s not where you get the players or how long you have them in the world of college basketball these days.

It appears more depends on what a coach does with what he has.

Musselman’s track record there is pretty good.

Which is why he may have been Yurachek’s first choice all along.

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