Prior to the holidays, I was able to get some time with former South Alabama Jaguars head coach Ronnie Arrow. Arrow stepped away from the bench and into retirement, a move that many considered a surprise for a team that had their struggles, but wasn't really an embarrassment.
Associate head coach Jeff Price, who just joined Arrow's staff a year ago after time in Division II and as a scout for the Los Angeles Clippers, takes over for the remainder of this season and possibly going forward. Initially, Coach Arrow was reluctant to talk about the job, for obvious reasons.
"I'm under a contractual obligation, so the only thing I can say (directly towards the job at USA) is that I decided to retire," Arrow said. "I really appreciate (athletic director) Joel (Erdmann) hiring me, both times, and he was very good to my family and myself. When I took the job here, we were two scholarships in the hole, and we now have all our scholarships - and the team's APR is the highest it's ever been."
When asked about the timing of the departure, Arrow was equally tight-lipped.
"I just felt that it was time now," Arrow said. "I hope our guys don't feel that I walked out on them. I went in and told them that I didn't want to elaborate; I told them I wouldn't be coaching the rest of the year but that I've got the utmost faith in them to continue succeeding this year. They didn't really understand but told me that if this is what I wanted then good, they would support it."
Arrow said that he will just enjoy life for a little while, then see what awaits him in the future.
"I'll probably just take some time," Arrow said. "It's been 34 years, where this time of year is just going to games and getting them ready. I've had lots of coaching friends invite me to games, to watch them for a few days, so I may take some of them up on that. I also get to spend plenty of time with my grandbabies."
The conversation turned to the Jaguars' season up until Arrow's departure, and the conversation flowed more freely down that avenue.
" I really felt like we were coming on, we had a number of young people in key areas," Arrow said. "Barrington Stevens coming in to run the team, trying to fit in certain guys. Other than UAB, who beat us by 11, I think we showed that we made strides."
Arrow pointed to the early season win against the Seminoles as getting the team off on the wrong foot, a means of giving them a "false impression of their abilities" as a team, so to speak.
Arrow still feels very strongly about the play of Augie Rubit, the team's repeat leading scorer.
"I really think Augustine Rubit, everyone talks about Tony Mitchell but I think (Rubit)'s the most consistent player in the conference," Arrow said. "All of our good shooters have been really up and down, and we lost a couple games because of coming down and just firing up threes instead of going to Aug."
"The team is learning now we have a jewel down there and we need to work with him. We definitely were starting to see the results of the summer camp. He missed a month with a dislocated toe and that really set him back, but now he's back and everyone's hitting on all cylinders. You can tell he learned some things; he's more aggressive, quicker off the dribble. As fresh as he felt about all that, after taking a month off he reverted back (to his old habits) because he didn't have every day of putting it back on the floor."
As strongly as Coach Arrow feels about South Alabama's future, he provided me a little glimmer of insight at the end that might be very telling about his recent past.
"I'll say this, if you can fit this in somewhere - I have retired, but there's a lot of people who retire and then something else comes along. I'm going to relax and enjoy and see what's going on and go from there. If something comes along we'll see, but for now, i'm retired."