Eric Musselman has been around basketball, played, and coached basketball his entire life. The last three years, Musselman, as coach, has led his Nevada Wolf Pack to Mountain West Conference regular-season titles and the NCAA tournament each time. Suffice to say, Arkansas Razorback basketball fans hope their new head men’s basketball coach brings that success to Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Musselman was named last month to replace now-St. John’s University coach Mike Anderson.
This past week, Musselman was introduced to Razorback boosters at the annual spring function held this year at Avon Acres in Memphis.
It was not Musselman’s first visit to the Mid-South, however. He coached under Mike Fratello with the Memphis Grizzlies during the 2004-05 NBA season before taking the job as Sacramento Kings’ head coach.
He is well aware of the talent for basketball in this region and said he will recruit “anywhere we can drive to, really.”
“You always want to recruit your natural surrounding area, anywhere you can drive to from the state of Arkansas, to Dallas, to Memphis,” Musselman said. “Those areas are going to be really important for us, not only right now but, three, four, five years down the road as well.”
Success with his style of basketball may be a work in progress, given his new hiring with a roster he didn’t recruit for Musselman’s style of play.
“I don’t how know how quickly we can get into the exact way we want to play,” he noted. “I think you’ve got to take small steps and your personnel has to fit what you want to do. Obviously, you have to play into a system and style that fits your roster.”
But, the new Razorback coach is confident fans will see his brand of basketball on the Bud Walton Arena floor before too long.
“I’m assuming we’re going to be a little different from year three and four than we are this year, but you’ve got to play your brand of basketball and win as many games as you can,” Musselman said.
A stronger challenge will come in playing against the ever-improving SEC teams, compared to those he faced in fashioning a 110-34 mark, a College Basketball Invitational tournament championship, a Mountain West tournament title and three straight regular season crowns.
“There are a lot of athletes, a lot of talent on the rosters, and then you look the coaches right now,” Musselman said. “There’s probably as good a conference here from the coaching standpoint as any in the country. I think it’s got the best coaches from top to bottom as any conference in college basketball.”
Musselman’s coaching career includes international experience coaching in China, the USA, Dominican Republic and in Venezuela. He has coached at Golden State and in Sacramento in the NBA, with teams that were the predecessors to the NBA G League in Rapid City, S.D., Florida, Reno, Nevada and in Los Angeles.
And his father Bill Musselman was also an NBA head coach and collegiate head coach. They also became the first father-son head coaching combination in NBA history.
Now, Eric Musselman looks to bring that experience to Fayetteville and the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Bob Bakken is Sports Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.