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Report: Little Rock goes unorthodox, hires former NBA head coach Darrell Walker

NCAA Basketball: Arkansas-Little Rock at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Clark University Atlanta’s Darrell Walker will be the next head coach at Little Rock, according to ESPN’s Jeff Borzello.

The move is particularly interesting on multiple fronts. For one, Walker has spent the past two seasons leading Clark University, a Div. II program. He’s had success, going 45-17 and making two Div. II NCAA Tournament appearances at a program that had won just 15 games combined the two seasons prior to his arrival.

Walker also joins rare company as a Div. I head coach that has held the same position in the NBA. He led the Toronto Raptors (1996-98) and Washington Wizards (2000) amid a long NBA coaching career that including stints as an assistant with the New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons and New Orleans Pelicans.

Upon leaving the Knicks in 2014, he talked about wanting to get into the college game and the hurdles he ran into.

“I had a lot of athletic directors tell me, ‘You’ve got a great resume, but you’ve never coached in college,” Walker said. “I had coached at the highest level in the NBA, but that didn’t seem to mean anything to anybody.”

”A lot of times I heard, ‘Well, you’ve got to learn the [NCAA] rules. What I said to myself was, ‘You’ve got guys that have been coaching for 20 years and they’re still breaking the rules.’”

After two seasons at Clark University, Walker now gets his shot at the Div. I level at Little Rock. And there is a loose connection. Walker started his collegiate playing career at Arkansas-Fort Smith, before spending three seasons at Arkansas under Eddie Sutton.

He inherits a program that is just two years removed from a 30-5 season that included a Sun Belt regular season and tournament title, as well as first round upset of Purdue in the NCAA Tournament. But the team sunk to 7-25 (4-14) last year, and Wes Flanigan was let go after two seasons.

Walker represents a very different candidate than Flanigan, who had spent his entire coaching career in the college ranks, and had been a Trojans’ assistant under Chris Beard.