To me it’s fitting that the one year anniversary of the hiring of Eric Musselman at Arkansas comes just days after we all learned that Eddie Sutton will now go into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. More than any other basketball coach I’ve covered, Musselman reminds me of Sutton, who was in his second year at Arkansas when I arrived.
Like Sutton coach Muss is a practice guy. To him games are won or lost on the practice floor before they are played. There is a different approach for every opponent and you must know your opponent backward and forward, upside down and right side up.
Musselman mirrors Sutton’s desire to keep fans in the loop. Sutton would encourage the media to cover his practices and report what they saw. He wanted fans to sit in the stands or watch on TV and know what was going on right or wrong and why. “Educate the fan base,” Sutton always said, “Educated fans are better fans.”
Musselman does it a little differently. He uses university cameras to show what he’s doing in practice and posts it on Facebook and Twitter. But the idea is the same. So are the press conferences. Sometimes when I listen to Musselman before or after a game an image of Eddie Sutton pops into my head. Sutton talked X’s & O’s, sometimes in great detail. I’d find myself going back to the video a day or two later just to make sure I understood some of the points he was making. Eric Musselman did the same thing this past season.
There are differences. Musselman is much more animated, more tuned into the crowd. Social Media did not exist in the Sutton era at Arkansas. Musselman is the most creative coach I’ve seen when it comes to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Sutton took Arkansas to a Final Four and won four SWC titles with 20 or more victories nine times along with nine NCAA Tournament appearances. The SEC is much tougher than the old SWC. So is the SEC tournament. So we’ll have to see if Musselman can equal what Sutton accomplished. Hog fans would love it if some day Coach Muss could join Sutton and Nolan Richardson in the Hall of Fame. Am I getting ahead of things? Sure. But what’s wrong with thinking big? Eric Musselman was born to think big.