It’s no time for Hogs to look for a bargain in their coaching search

Anything less than a proven winner won't be enough for the Razorback fanbase.
(From left) Will Wade, Jerome Tang and Chris Beard are some of the names to keep an eye on during Arkansas’ search for a new head basketball coach. (AP Photos)

There are very few easy coaching searches any longer.

Perhaps there never were any easy ones?

Maybe they just seemed easier. There just wasn’t as much media, interest, or resources 40, 50, 60, or 70 years ago to try and track an athletic director’s every move.

Hiring a coach today isn’t as easy as just placing a phone call across state lines as Arkansas AD John Barnhill did when he hired Frank Broyles away from Missouri prior to the 1958 season.

While Arkansas athletics director Hunter Yurachek and former head basketball coach Eric Musselman’s relationship evidently wasn’t as carefree as it had been previously, the strong work Musselman did in revitalizing the Razorback basketball program during the bulk of his five seasons should make Yurachek’s search for his successor that much easier.

The 2023-24 season can be written off as an anomaly or even be blamed on Musselman’s wanderlust. However, Yurachek can use the fact that Musselman guided the Hogs to back to back Elite Eight appearances in 2021 and 2022, and a Sweet 16 finish in 2023 as proof positive that Arkansas is one of the top 15 programs in America as it sits.

Yurachek can also claim the right coach can advance the program even further just like Nolan Richardson did 30 years ago when he won a national title after he took over the reins of the program in 1985 from Eddie Sutton, who took the Hogs to their first Final Four of the modern era in 1978.

With Bud Walton Arena, an outstanding practice and office facility dedicated to basketball, and a rabid fanbase, the Razorback baton is just waiting on the right coach to pick it up and race the Hogs back into contention for Final Fours and perhaps another national title.

Other than this past season — just a hiccup — Musselman elevated the Razorback basketball program in every way. Yurachek just needs the right person with the right plan to put their energy, effort, and intelligence behind it.

Yes, the roster is a bit depleted, but if Yurachek can lure in a coach quickly — by early next week — some players in the portal could be convinced to return, and of course, whomever is hired might have some players and recruits who would want to follow them to Arkansas.

Yes, the Razorbacks will have to get the program’s NIL ducks in a row, but that would have been the case if Musselman had stayed.

Arkansas will also have to pay the next coach more than the $4.2 million it was paying Muss if it wants someone with a comparable pedigree.

The UA will probably have to even pony up for a counter bid if it is serious about a coach like Ole Miss’ Chris Beard. Yeah, a steep buyout will be involved, too.

But, this isn’t the time to be cheap or take a flyer on a coach who isn’t a proven winner. The program doesn’t need to repeat the mistakes made with Stan Heath or John Pelphrey, who were out of their league.

Now, obviously Beard isn’t “THE ONLY” choice. He comes with some baggage, but every coach does in one way or another.

The Razorbacks need to hire a proven winner with the energy and the will to attack its basketball coaching job just like Musselman did — with every inch of his fiber.

Anything less won’t be enough to make this Razorback fanbase happy.