“THE” John Pelphrey Solution

Photo: Todd Gill
Arkansas head men’s basketball coach John Pelphrey during a January 25 home game against Auburn at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

John Pelphrey needs to be fired.

That’s what some of you have been saying. In fact, a few of you have been saying it for two years now. And you know what? You’re right.

Just what exactly has Coach Pelphrey done at Arkansas during his four seasons aside from posting back-to-back meltdown seasons? What exactly has he accomplished aside from recruiting players and then running more than half of them off? What has Pelphrey done aside from installing an offensive system where hardly anyone knows what type of offense we run, except for hoping that a) Rotnei Clarke can get open looks, and, b) he makes a lot of baskets?

The answer to what has Pelphrey done? Not much.

We could get into the nittiest of nitty and look at the lack of player development, his constant (and baffling) use of “overachieving,” and his odd need to belittle his players by suggesting we don’t have the right pieces in place. Oh, and lest we forget to mention the staggering decline of attendance at Bud Walton Arena (and dollars in the University’s pocket).

So yes, John Pelphrey needs to be fired.

But, here’s the problem: John Pelphrey needs to remain coach.

That’s what some of you have been saying. In fact, some of you have been saying it for two years now. And you know what? You’re right.

What more does Coach Pelphrey need to prove aside from taking the Arkansas program into his hands and rebuilding it, almost literally, from the ground up? What more does he need to prove aside from losing six seniors after his first season and then having to start over when the cupboard was very bare and produce several quality classes of recruits? What more does Pelphrey need to prove aside from having Arkansas being in the thick of battle for second place in the SEC West and a first round bye in the SEC tournament?

The answer to what does Pelphrey need to prove? Not a lot more than what he already has.

We could dig a little deeper and mention that all of this positive movement is occurring even after losing 5 of 6 players from his first recruiting class. We could mention that he’s got one of the best incoming freshmen classes coming in next year to ever play for Arkansas. And lest we remind everyone that Pelphrey was seemingly the ONLY person willing to take the job at Arkansas four years ago and has since turned the APR issues around?

So yes, John Pelphrey needs to remain coach.

But, here’s the even bigger problem: It’s not your call.

Being a fan means that you get to yell and cheer for your team as loudly as you want. Being a fan means you get to be upset when your team loses a game or makes a boneheaded play. Being a fan means you get to critique, second-guess, armchair quarterback, back seat drive, etc., about anything and everything that your team does.

Being a fan doesn’t mean we are suddenly in a sports-themed democracy where card-carrying fans are able to vote for who sits in the head coach’s chair. Thats not how it works, as much as some want it to. Put simply, Arkansas Razorback basketball is not a democratic form of government.

Nor is it a form of religion. You can’t pray to the basketball gods for a new coach, a win, or even for a free-throw to go in. Having faith in a system, and the direction a program is going, isn’t the same as having Faith about your destiny or even a higher power.

Being a fan gives you the right to care about your program. But it doesn’t get you a seat at the big decision table. It’s okay to have opinions and to get caught up in debate about what’s “right” or “wrong.” It’s okay to want a coaching change or to give the current coach more time. It’s okay, really, because it’s not your call.

It’s the Athletic Director’s decision. In this case, Jeff Long will be weighing Coach Pelphrey’s fate in his hands (more or less) once the season comes to a close. Long isn’t issuing any straw polls to fans about whether he should fire Pelphrey, or not. And I guarantee you that Long is in a much better position to make said decision than any of us. It’s his job. It’s what he’s paid to do.

And guess what? No matter what Long decides to do, half of you will like it and the other half won’t. Consequently, you’ll all be right, and wrong, for having that opinion.

As fans, we must abide by one simple charge: Cheer for those kids out there on the court. Cheer for those same kids that put on Arkansas Razorbacks uniforms every day. Cheer for those same kids that have come to our school to play for Coach Pelphrey. Cheer for those same kids that come back after every win, or loss, with the goal of getting better and competing.

We need to cheer for those kids. The same ones that are finding it harder and harder every day to shield their personal lives from us fans.

Fans have the right to cheer, complain and wish better things for our team. We all want the same goal: a winning program. But remember, college sports is not a religion or a government. Your faith isn’t going to make a program run smoothly and your vote won’t replace your coach. Those decisions are not in your hands.

When it comes down to it, Pelphrey needs to be fired.
But, Pelphrey needs to remain coach, too.
According to someone, that is.