Plan coming together for Cal’s first Razorback squad

Kentucky head coach John Calipari shakes forward Zvonimir Ivisic’s hand as he walks to the bench during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Vanderbilt Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

The catch phrase of the lead character John “Hannibal” Smith from the 1980s action show “The A-Team” and its 2010 cinematic remake was “I love it when a plan comes together.”

If Arkansas Razorback fans can exercise a little patience, that might be their catch phrase for coach John Calipari’s first Hogs team, too. Cal’s own “A-Team,” if you will

While Cal might not be moving as quickly publicly as some, maybe many, Hog fans hoped, it is clear a plan is coming together for his Razorbacks.

The first player Cal added to his Razorback fold was 7-foot-2 forward Zvonimir Ivisic (Big Z) from Kentucky, a sophomore with three years of eligibility remaining after playing at Kentucky for a season.

While Big Z isn’t a traditional back-to-the-basket big man because of his deft shooting touch and other skills, it makes sense that Calipari’s first publicly announced hire to his first Arkansas staff is Kenny Payne as his associate head coach. Payne, a former Louisville Cardinal great and NBA first-round selection, is known as a master recruiter and one of the best big man coaches in the college game.

Though his recent two seasons as Louisville’s head coach didn’t go the way anyone expected, Payne brings a wealth of experience to Arkansas from successful stints as an assistant with the New York Knicks, the Oregon Ducks, and a landmark run at Kentucky, where he helped recruit and develop several NBA performers.

While Cal can’t act fast enough to please some Razorback fans in filling out his roster. Big Z is the only Hog scholarship player announced for next season’s squad. However, you can see his method at work with the hire of Payne, who no doubt is already at work on several prospects to fill out the Arkansas roster.

I’m not sure if we will hear announcements about the rest of Cal’s Arkansas coaching staff before players begin committing, but either way it ought to be fun as an onlooker as Calipari methodically constructs his initial coaching staff at Arkansas as well as he builds out his first team.

Like many Hog fans, my druthers would have been to have this process completed yesterday, but frankly that’s unrealistic and unwise. Impatience always leads to mistakes.

Louisville coach Kenny Payne watches the team during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Kentucky in Lexington, Ky., Dec. 31, 2022. Arkansas has announced that Payne has been named associate head coach under new head coach John Calipari. (AP Photo/James Crisp)

One must remember that Calipari said in his introductory press conference that it would take time for him to fill out this first roster, specifically mentioning that some of his targets would be testing the NBA waters. Now is the time when patience is indeed a virtue for eager and anxious Hog fans.

One has to love the first two publicly announced building blocks that Calipari has placed in his reconstruction of the Razorback program. Given time, we’ll probably appreciate his next announced moves, too.

A master needs time to paint, and so far, Cal’s every stroke on his Razorback canvas has been a beauty.

Let’s be patient while the master crafts his first team into existence, and just enjoy the process.