Eric Musselman is finalizing a deal to become the next head coach at Arkansas, sources tell Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports.
Sources: Nevada's Eric Musselman is finalizing a deal to become the next head coach at Arkansas. Official announcement expected soon.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) April 7, 2019
Nothing is official, but with an announcement expected soon, all signs point to Musselman leaving Nevada after orchestrating a remarkable rebuild of the Wolf Pack program.
It felt inevitable, but for mid-major fans everywhere, it’s sad nonetheless. Musselman took over a Nevada team that went 9-22 in 2014-15, the year before he arrived, and led them to 24 wins in year one. He had them in the NCAA Tournament the next year, the Sweet 16 the year after that, and in the top 10 for much of this season. He will finish his Nevada tenure at 110-34, with three straight seasons atop the Mountain West standings.
While the move to Fayetteville may not seem like the jump that a coach of Muss’s stature could have made, he will face a similar task at Arkansas to what he just did at Nevada. Like the Wolf Pack, the Razorbacks are a once-proud program with a loyal fanbase that has fallen on hard times. Arkansas won the 1994 national championship and was the national runner-up in 1995, but has not reached the Sweet 16 since 1996. In fact, the Razorbacks only been to five NCAA Tournaments since 1997.
Nevertheless, the support is there in Fayetteville for a top-flight basketball product, even if it hasn’t realized its potential in decades. Arkansas ranked ninth in Division I men’s basketball in per-game attendance at 16,181 in 2017-18, ahead of more recently successful schools like Indiana and Maryland. The SEC as a whole has prioritized elevating men’s basketball since former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese began serving as an advisor to the conference. SEC schools have since hired big-name coaches, including Ben Howland, Rick Barnes, Kermit Davis, and Will Wade. The past two years, it has rated as the fourth-best conference in the country, per KenPom — its best finishes since 2007.
Musselman’s first task will be re-recruiting a young team from 2018-19 — a group that showed promise, but was derailed by a six-game skid in the heart of conference play. Musselman is known best as a player’s coach, so it shouldn’t be a tough task. And even if a couple players leave, Musselman has always been able to pull in big-name transfers.