October 21, 2014

‘Something’s Not Working’

I know that this will sound like I’m piling on John Pelphrey, but I can’t hold it in any longer:  The Razorback basketball program has major issues that need to be quickly sorted through.

I thought Andre Clark’s comment was pretty telling:

“When that many guys leave after one year, it tells you something’s not working,” Clark said of being among four players to leave the program.  “I don’t want to say anything bad about the coaches, I still love those guys and I still talk to them.”

John Pelphrey (AP Photo/Dave Martin)It seems to be thought of as a basketball certainty that the player who works hard and overachieves will make an excellent coach one day.  John Pelphrey fits that mold perfectly.  They tend to: 1) understand the game; 2) place a great value on hard work; and 3) understand players such that they can get the best from them.

My view on Pelphrey is that he currently has only one of those three attributes.  He has the next year to get players to love to play for him or he’s gone.  He doesn’t have the credibility to continue to have guys leave on him.

Jason Henry may have been a problem child, but sending him away after one year (if he truly was academically eligible) creates questions.  With Washington back and no changes in the coaching staff, the rumored locker room issues from last year are sure to resurface in the coming season.

As to understanding the game, you only have to look at the number of close losses last year and the overreliance on Courtney Fortson as proof points.  The failure to establish a power forward other than Monk early in the season, as well as a solid half court offense in the fall, cost dearly in the conference season.

To say Razorback basketball is down would be an understatement.  John Pelphrey has to get the program looking like it is going in the right direction or he will be history by this time next year.

  • jflr

    I want Pelphrey to succeed, but I agree – something is not happening.

    College basketball is about recruiting, scrapping and the last 2 minutes of a game.

    We are not a very attractive program to a top recruit right now. We just keep feeding anyone recruiting against us also.

    We need a “team” of overachievers. We have to get something/someone to build a team around. These guys aren’t going to fight for John if this current situation doesn’t change.

    Last 2 minutes of the game – boy, we started out strong, I thought he was really going to show a difference. Then in conference play we got punched in the nose and never could recover. We couldn’t recover because we are not a team.

    Maybe John thought he was on the fast road to Lexington – that he was an “up and coming, spirited coach” with a great mind for the game, here to prove himself in the SEC then get his dream job at UK. Sure he was dealt a bad hand when he first arrived, but he would overcome it.

    Now the UK job is probably occupied for a while. He wasn’t able to wave a magic wand and get these guys to step up and win. There are a lot of great basketball minds in the SEC (and UK just got a better one).

    Arkansas doesn’t pull a lot of great recruits from other places. We don’t produce a lot internally either. What we do well is fight. We enjoy the unrespected underdog role. Underestimate us – we will knock your teeth out because we aren’t scared of or intimidated by anything. But we need something to fight for. We need something to build that Arkansas pride around. John Pelphrey, you are welcome to our State. We WANT you to do well here. We WANT to love you and make you one of our own…. But you’ve got to step up and own this team. You have got to bleed Razorback Red. You have to love Arkansas. (heck Nolan stayed here after his fiasco – he had the money to go anywhere) I know it’s a small thing, but quit wearing blue ties. Wear the cowboy boots if you have to (we won that game, didn’t we?) We are a proud state – and a Razorback will fight to the end for you – if we believe you will do the same for us.

    I think John is the right guy for the job. I think he is a scrapper. I think he just needs to put on his hog hat – and commit – to this program, to this State.

    Go Hogs.

  • http://www.sethgunderson.com seth

    Something is broken. Yeah, that’s easy to see.

    But, this doesn’t worry me one bit. The crux of that initial recruiting class was Clarke and Fortson. Henry was a nice addition, but he was a work in progress — tons of talent, but obviously had to work hard in the classroom just to get on the floor.

    I think what happened is that we lost six seniors and Pelphrey needed players. He locked in two stars and supplemented the rest with serviceable role-players. Unfortunately, one quit the team in December, one started and ended the season suspended and the other two couldn’t carry their weight when Washington got in foul trouble (which, btw, he HAS to work on for this season).

    I chalk up at least two of the departures to character issues. McDonald and Henry weren’t ready to play in Pelphrey’s system. I think the other two were let go because Pel needs some bigger bodies to come in.

    That was Pel’s first real recruiting class. I think there was probably a little bit of miscommunication on both ends there. But still, this is Pel’s third year. His starting five are still here and we’ve shown glimpses of awesomeness. If this kind of recruiting stuff happens after this season, then you can start to really wonder. Otherwise, I attribute it to finding his way, which we owe it to him to do.

  • OwassoHog

    HogBlogger, which one of the 3 attributes do you think he has? I’m ok with giving him #1 and #2… not convinced that #3 is there yet.

  • Hawgfan100

    If Pel is fired after three years you can effectively put a fork in the b-ball program. I’d be very surprised if any self-respecting, decent coach will come within miles of the program after that.

    What any new coach needs in his early tenure is trust and support (and Pel will be actually starting his second season, not his third. Having to go through his ‘first’ season with Heath’s guys was just the crappy icing on Pel’s cake…he accepted it honestly and so should we). I see precious little of either right now and if you think others, including potential coaching hires, aren’t taking notice, think again (especially after our previous coaching ‘searches’).

    Pel promised to coach the team to the best of his ability (there was also some talk of taking the program back to the ‘glorious heights it had enjoyed in the past’ or some such…I always look upon comments like those with a jaundiced eye though). I believe he is holding up his end. We, on the other hand, promised to support Pel in his efforts. I don’t believe we are holding up our end on this and, if ‘something is not working’, that would be the ‘something’…as always: ymmv.

  • Walking on Sunshine

    I still think JP can do it. I know things are shaky now, but I’m for giving him more than just next year. The Arkansas class of 2011 is ripe with talent…four players in Rivals top 75 nationally. I’d like to see him get a chance with that bunch…see what he can do with some players.

    I think Powell is a player. Rot, Fortson, and Powell will give him three to build off of after Washington graduates.

  • RazorChick

    I don’t think JP has a handle on understanding the current game or understand how to use his players. One ball hog can’t be allowed to try to win the game for us. We want a team-we need a team! We need to be wooed to the games with excitement. Last year was too much of an up and down season. So disappointing. Fans don’t want a repeat!

  • BACON BITS

    I don’t mean to play couch coach but it was sooo frustrating watching the team b/c we had no true scorer to go to. I personally would love our office to revolve around Clark. Double and Triple screens to get him his shot off. Maybe after Washington leaves will Clark be the focus of the offense.

  • another gone
  • welsh gone now

    and the hits just keep on coming

  • Walking on Sunshine
  • Robert E Glenn

    OK, Pelfrey has standards. We shoud crucify him. The original quote from Clark concerning the coaches ended in, ” I still love those guys and still talk to them”. That speaks volumes.

    It would be a lot easier on the coaches to tolerate BS, everyone knows how talented Henry is. Most coaches would have looked the other way for their own benift. I trust coach Pelfrey that he is making the right decision for each individual. Growing up is not easy.

    I am very thankful we have someone who is brave enough to ask each player to reach their potential on and off the court. We may not have enough left for a good scrimmage, but at least everyone will be going in the right direction.

  • GonzoHog

    The APR set upis silly to begin with. Part of the reason this standard was set up by the NCAA was because of their own non-sense.

    The problems began when the NCAA started allowing True Freshmen to play in their first year, instead of red-shirting.

    That , combined with the NBA now allowing HS star Sr’s to go after the “quike fix”, is taking focus away from our kids’s values and educational system.

    To add to these problems, Mommys & Daddys/AAU coaches, are now contributing to the mess by jumping on the “quike fix” bandwagon as well.

    Coaches like Pelphrey, who actually have a values system set in place, are usually the ones who end up trying to clean up everyone’s mess, while usually not recieving any credit for his services.

  • Pel Will Be Great

    It takes a while to right what was a wrecked ship. Let Pel recruit and coach. He is a fantastic coach and person. Stick with him. He needs about 5 years. The whole sports scene is in disarray in college and pro ball at every level and almost all schools and programs.

  • http://www.razorbloggers.net/ HogBlogger

    Owasso – he only has number 2 in my opinion. I think he has a very narrow definition of what ‘hard work’ looks like and that anything that varies from his view quickly puts a player in the dog house.

    The best ‘tough’ and ‘strict’ coaches also know how to rebuild a player’s confidence. ‘Tear them down, build them up.’ I’m concerned Pelphrey doesn’t have the ‘build it up part’ down yet.

    Robert E Glenn – Clarke ‘still talks to them’ because he needs them for a reference in his search for a new school.

    I hope all you optimistic people are right.

  • http://www.razorbloggers.net/ HogBlogger

    RazorChick – I’m in your camp. He hasn’t convinced me he can coach.

  • http://www.sethgunderson.com seth

    Can Pel coach, as in X’s and O’s? I don’t think we’ve seen enough to know that for sure — nor do I think we had the right kids there to execute as well as he might want to.

    I’m more interested in this quote from Jeff Long, I’d say it’s very telling and he knows that things are needing to shake up some:

    “I would say that coach Pelphrey has my confidence and he understands the kind of basketball program we want to build and run. He and I are on the same page about that, so I think the future is bright for our men’s basketball program.

    “Are we going to win instantly? No, but we’re building for the future. We’re building a strong program on and off the court and one that we can all be proud of.”

  • GonzoHog

    I think he’s made mistakes in the past, but all coaches do.

    He hasn’t proven he can coach all facets of the game yet, but then again, he hasn’t had enough time either.

    If a coach doesn’t have his kind of players to run his kind of system, (Pel’s first season) then his coaching is still in question.

    If a coach has his kinds of players, recruiting-wise, but fails to excell with mostly very immature (True Freshmen) players, then his coaching is still in question.

    So with all of that being said, Pelphery is still trying to prove he can coach.

    Maybe this is the reasoning behind how his contract is structured.

    If time is needed for him to excell, we won’t be paying a ton of money to him in the meantime (smart) . If and when he starts winning, the money being structured around the incentives will kick in, and we’ll all be happy.

    I think as long as Pelphrey makes headway on the court over the next couple of years, that’s all that really matters to most fans. All the rest between now and then is just talk.

  • GolfHog

    The only actual success that you can name for Pel is a PR success. He talks a good game. So far, by any reasonable measure he has not recruited well, he has not handled the team well generally, and he has not coached well. There is no evidence that he has. His first recruiting class has disappeared into thin air except for two players with tons of potential that are too short for the SEC. His record speaks for itself.

    But, I do agree, he has to be given 5 years. There is no other way. It protects the program. It protects Pel. The next guy will come in fresh with a clean slate.

    Of course the only problem is that big recruiting class in 2011. If we blow that we could be looking at another 10 years in the wildnerness. Those kids need to feel like they are the future of Razorback Basketball and headed to two final fours. They will need a coach they believe in.

  • Hawgfan100

    At least one of those kids has expressed more confidence in the coaching staff than the majority of posters on this board…

  • GolfHog

    Facts is facts.

    Confidence is a wonderful thing. So are love and respect. Pel gets plenty of those. But, this ain’t the Southland Conference. This is the SEC. Put up or shut up. Yeah, you can build a program but not by going backward.

  • Hawgfan100

    And platitudes are platitudes.

    Pel played for one of the best teams in the history of the SEC. He also worked with two of the best coaches the SEC has ever seen. I think its safe to say Pel understands both which conference his team plays in and what that means.

    Try to have a little patience…just a little.

  • http://www.fayettevilleflyer.com sg

    Here’s what AD’s don’t do if they don’t think the program is heading in the right direction — extend contracts.

    http://hogblog.nwaonline.net/2009/07/complete-sto

    Pelphrey is going to be given his chance to do something here. Two years and one recruiting class isn’t enough to base judgement. Let’s see what he, and his staff, can do this year. I’m completely convinced that last year’s recruiting class, minus Clarke and Fortson, wasn’t nearly as good as advertised.

    Young coaches have to learn, develop and evolve. Not that this is the correct comparison, but Coach K’s first couple of years at Duke were nothing to write home about. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Krzyzewski

  • GolfHog

    15 years ago. He played against the heyday of Hawgball. We all wish for those days again, long gone.

    That was a long, wonderful time ago. Today is rebuilding day. So far, no good.

  • Anonymous

    We will be better next year than this past year. Look at who is coming back. Look at the talent of a couple of the players coming in. I do not think we will have any depth, but the five on the floor next year will be better than the five on the floor last year.

  • GonzoHog

    The contract exstention Pelphrey just recieved is a pretty smart move by AD Jeff Long in my opinion.

    Not only does that signify even more that Long has confidence in Pelphrey to turn the program around, it also helps recruiting by showing future potential recruits a stable coaching stuation.

    I think we’re currently in one of those sticky situations were people always say “It’s going to get worse before it get’s better.

    We have to be patient with our coach or we’ll ruin it.

  • HogbloggerJr

    I’ll reserve judgment on Pel’s Pigmen until this next season comes to pass. On the bright side, we have finally gotten rid of the ultimate locker room cancer and his apprentice of laziness. But, on a sad note, the golfer turned basketball player has returned to golfing; the age of Cox is over.

    With that in mind several questions still present themselves: Can we win with what remains and what has been brought in? Will we add height/length/athleticism, i.e. useful pieces, or more “projects” in our next recruiting class? and… Can we get the big dogs, less Ross whose been locked up for the past decade, of the class of 2011?

    We shall see.