I once met a very attractive, recently divorced woman through some friends at a party. They had subtlety let me know that her husband had left her for another woman after just one year of marriage and suggested I not ask her about it because it was still fairly recent. Naturally my instincts began to wonder what was wrong with this woman and why her husband would leave her, because something just didn’t seem to add up. She was attractive and charming, in good shape from her weekly yoga classes and she also had a good job.
So why was she still single?
As it turns out, her husband left her for a former exotic dancer he had met while on a business trip to Las Vegas. From her friends account, the Vegas woman wasn’t even all that good looking either. Apparently, she was a complete knock out 25 years ago, but she has seen better days of late. The real zinger to the story is that he broke up with the exotic dancer after only two weeks in Vegas and fled to Texas with another woman he had just met. C’est La Vie.
It all seems eerily similar to the Arkansas-Little Rock basketball team and their recently departed head coach Chris Beard. He led the Trojans to their best season in school history, finishing with a 30-5 record, the Sun Belt conference title and a berth in the NCAA Tournament where they knocked off the No. 5 seed Purdue Boilermakers 85-83 in a double over-time thriller, before succumbing to Iowa State in the second round 78-61.
Little Rock’s win over Purdue was the school’s first tournament win since 1986 when they upset the No. 3 seed Notre Dame Fighting Irish. However, after the most promising season in three decades of Arkansas-Little Rock basketball, their head coach Chris Beard bolted after just one season to be the head of coach of the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels. Then, in one of the more bizarre occurrences in college basketball, Beard resigned at UNLV after only two weeks to take the same job at Texas Tech to replace Tubby Smith (who had left Lubbock after three seasons to take the Memphis head coaching position).
Sometimes after a rough break up, we seek more stability in our next relationship and maybe sacrifice looks for somebody who is more reliable and will make you feel more secure in your relationship.
In steps new Arkansas-Little Rock head coach Wes Flanigan.
This will be Flanigan’s first head coaching position after spending last year as an assistant on the Trojans staff under Beard and a previous stint as an assistant at Little Rock from 2004-2008 (as well as holding similar posts at Nebraska, Mississippi State and UAB). Flanigan is a local born and raised legend in Little Rock, playing high school ball under his father before becoming an All-SEC star at Auburn from 1993-97.
Hiring Wes Flanigan was the smart and safe decision to make for the Little Rock program and should allow for an easy transition for the veteran dominated roster of the Trojans (the team returns 8 seniors for the 2016-17 season). Arkansas-Little Rock was just one of six schools in NCAA Division 1 to win 30 games last season, putting the Trojans in rarefied air alongside national champions Villanova (35-5), Kansas (33-5), North Carolina (33-7), Oregon (31-7) and Valparaiso (30-7).
The team will lose leading scorer Josh Hagins to graduation, but they still return the nucleus of the Sun Belt champion 30 win team, including 6-11 forward Lis Soshi, who seemed to get better and better as the season progressed, finishing six of his last 10 games in double figures in scoring and could develop into a dominant force for the Trojans this season.
With Flanigan at the helm, the team seems prepared to brush themselves off and take another run at an NCAA Tournament berth. Frank Sinatra once said that "the best revenge is massive success." I have a feeling that Arkansas-Little Rock will find that success come March of 2017.