By Otis Kirk
Arkansas athletic director Hunter Yurachek went into detail about how he came to hire Eric Musselman away from the University of Nevada to replace Mike Anderson.
On Monday, Yurachek and Musselman met with the media to discuss the new Razorback coach. He also provided some background on what the national perception is of the Arkansas job.
“Every coach I talked to whether they were interested in his position or they were talking to someone that had an interest in this position they identified this quickly as one of the top programs, or what should be one of the top programs, in the SEC and which should be a Top 20 program year in and year out,” Yurachek said. “I was excited the first time I had the opportunity to talk to Coach Musselman on the phone and could sense his energy and his passion for the game of basketball and his energy and his passion for developing young men on and off the court.
“And his passion to be here at the University of Arkansas and his passion to lead our basketball program. He embraced the history that is Razorback basketball and he wanted to be a part of that history and that tradition as a head coach. This is a job he wanted and that is important to me, for someone who really wanted to be here and to take this program to the next level as we move forward.”
Yurachek was asked when was the first time he talked to Musselman about the Arkansas job?
“Jon Fagg and I talked to Coach’s agent and then reached out to him a week ago today by way of a phone call,” Yurkchek said. “And then we traveled to Reno to visit with Coach and his family last Tuesday. I officially offered him this position on Friday and then we completed the contract over the course of the day on Saturday and of course then the announcement on Sunday.”
Musselman has several different coaching positions including being the head coach of the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings. He was head coach of the Warriors from 2002-04 and then with the Kings from 2006-07. He was also head coach in the NBA Developmental League with Reno (2010-11) and then the Los Angeles D-Fenders (2011-12). Did his being a head coach at the highest level in the NBA play a big role in your hiring him?
“I don’t know if it was necessarily his NBA experience, but his experience at all levels and that he was successful at all levels,” Yurachek said. “You may look at Golden State and say he had a losing record, but he was up for NBA coach of the year in his first season at Golden State, where he really flipped that program around.
“He’s been successful at all levels, but here at the University of Arkansas and the Southeastern Conference, you want to recruit players that want to play at that next level and what he can prepare them for is that next level. And he talked about what that next level is – Europe, the G League or whatever they call that league now, and the NBA. He can tell them, ‘Here’s the path, and here’s how you get there.'”
With names such as Kelvin Sampson, Gregg Marshall and Chris Beard being tossed around, how many coaches did you consider before you hired Musselman?
“We really shrunk the pool down from, I would say, about a dozen to 4-5 we really zeroed in on,” Yurachek said.
What went into considering that many coaches?
“I think when you’re doing a search you have to compare coaches,” Yurachek said. “I don’t know how you say who’s the best coach if you just zero in on one and don’t compare coaches to other coaches in the industry and talk to them about their philosophies and make sure they’re a great fit. That was important to vet a number of candidates before we made the final selection.”
Yurachek explained however how he knew he had made the right decision when he hired Musselman.
“It was the moment I offered it to him on the phone on Friday and he … my ear was shaking he was yelling so loud he was so excited,” Yurachek said. “That’s what you want when you offer somebody a job. He was about ready to jump through the phone if he could have. He was so excited he had been offered the opportunity to be our head basketball coach.
“And I knew right then and there – obviously I’d made the decision that I thought was the right decision – but when you call the coach and you offer him the position and Danyelle is in the background and she’s yelling and screaming too, you know it’s the right decision.”
Musselman was 110-34 in four years at Nevada.