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Tipsheet: Musselman stays at Arkansas, creates tougher road for Mizzou

Tipsheet: Musselman stays at Arkansas, creates tougher road for Mizzou

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Arkansas signs Musselman to new, 5-year deal at $4M per year

Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman watches from the sideline during the second half of an Elite 8 game against Baylor in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium, Monday, March 29, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

It appears the ever-frenetic Eric Musselman will be at Arkansas for a while, which is good news for the competitive quality and depth of Southeastern Conference basketball.

But this is bad news for programs like Missouri, which remains stuck back in the SEC pack.

With Musselman winning with his annual transfer reloads and Nate Oats doing special things at Alabama, getting into the top half of this conference has never been harder.

Look at how deep the league was this season despite Kentucky suffering a rare down season and Auburn stepping back for a year amid its NCAA woes. It will only be tougher next season, especially with Mississippi State looking ready to make a run.

The SEC benefited from the 2021 trend of schools seeking internal solutions or hiring high-profile assistant coaches to fill opening – rather than spending big to woo another head coach.

Arizona just hired Gonzaga assistant coach Tommy Lloyd to replace Sean Miller, whose ongoing battle with the NCAA precluded him from getting a contract extension in Tucson.

North Carolina promoted assistant coach Hubert Davis to replace the retiring Roy Williams, opting to keep the job in the family.

The economic damage wrought by the pandemic might have something to do with that. Also, the contracts for established coaches have become so outrageous that fewer schools can poach them even in good times.

A single booster was willing to pay the $10 million to buy out Indiana coach Archie Miller, but then the school hired New York Knicks assistant coach Mike Woodson rather than aim higher for, say, Oats.

In another time, Arizona might have backed up a Brinks truck for Musselman. In another time, Minnesota might have tried to woo him back to the Twin Cities to test himself in the Big Ten.

“I trusted him when he told me this was the place he wanted to be,” Arkansas athletic director Hunter Yurachek said, according to Rivals.com. “I wasn’t necessarily worried about many of those jobs to be honest with you, because I think what we have here is really special and I think coach Musselman realizes that as well.”

So Musselman is staying in Fayetteville with a contract paying him $4 million per season plus incentives.

Once Arkansas started racking up victories this season, Yurachek began approaching boosters about bankrolling a new deal for Musselman. The athletic department took a $35 million pandemic hit, so money was tight.

“We started formulating that plan - myself and the Razorback Foundation,” Yurachek said. “It continued to grow a little bit as each time we won in the NCAA Tournament, and that's the cost of success, and I'll take that any time."

Here is what folks have been writing about the coaching climate:

Jeff Borzello, ESPN.com: “With the NCAA investigation still shadowing one of college basketball's most tradition-rich programs, the school will attempt to turn the page . . . An extremely vocal Arizona fan base, one that has been largely defiant about the charges against Miller and the program, has at times seemed most bothered by the program's inability to reach the Final Four since Miller took over as head coach in 2009 . . . Something had to happen this spring with Arizona and Miller. He had just one year left on his contract, and due to the ongoing NCAA issues, the board of regents would not approve a contract extension for Miller. So neither side wanted to go into next season with Miller as a lame-duck coach. For Miller, the constant questions and drama all season would have been a massive distraction, while the recruiting and continuity struggles would make the Arizona job far less attractive than it is right now. The timing doesn't hurt them much. I don't think they would have been a viable option for Chris Beard, and I doubt they would have pursued Shaka Smart or any other recently hired high-major replacement.”

Sam Cooper, Yahoo! Sports: “The Wildcats lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament in 2016, lost in the Sweet 16 in 2017 and had another first-round exit in 2018. Miller’s team did not earn a bid in 2019 and the NCAA tournament was not played in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This most recent season, Arizona self-imposed a postseason ban. Because of that, the team’s season ended March 1. Still, it took more than a month for the Arizona administration to decide to move on from Miller, who had just one year remaining on his contract. Overall, Miller won five Pac-12 regular season titles and three Pac-12 tournaments while accumulating a 302-109 overall record during his time in Tucson.”

Gary Parrish, CBSSports.com: “Lloyd is taking over a program charged with five Level I violations because he's replacing a staff (led by Sean Miller) that allegedly provided impermissible benefits to student-athletes, accepted bribes, and committed academic fraud. The NCAA has accused Arizona of cheating just about every way you can cheat in collegiate athletics. Punishment is unavoidable. Another postseason ban is possible. And that reality should make the rebuilding process more difficult than it otherwise would be. Beyond that, some famous Arizona alums really wanted the school to hire a former player -- either Damon Stoudamire, Josh Pastner, Miles Simon or Jason Terry. Gilbert Arenas was the most outspoken. He actually spent some time earlier this week publicly trashing the idea of Lloyd being the leading candidate.”

MEGAPHONE

"An assistant coach doesn't have credentials. I don't even want to say his name because he doesn't deserve it. You are an assistant coach, OK. You assist."

Arena, on Instagram, campaigning against the Lloyd hiring.

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Jeff Gordon is an online sports columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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