Vitello salutes Van Horn, ‘Big O’ joins SWC Hall of Fame

Tennessee coach Tony Vitello, center, hoists the championship trophy following his team’s 6-5 victory against Texas A&M in Game 3 of the NCAA College World Series baseball finals in Omaha, Neb., Monday, June 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Rebecca S. Gratz)

Some Razorback fans enjoy ragging on Tennessee baseball coach Tony Vitello for his volatile and outspoken nature, despite the fact that he served as an assistant to Razorback coach Dave Van Horn from 2014-18 before getting his current head coaching position.

However, Vitello still cherishes his time as a Van Horn assistant at Arkansas, and he verbally doffed his cap to his mentor after his Vols won the program’s first national title by defeating Texas A&M, 6-5, Monday night in the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. He credited Van Horn for giving him chances to grow and mature as an assistant.

“I did that as an assistant at Arkansas, because Coach Van Horn gave me that opportunity, and also helped lead me along the way,” Vitello said. “The one thing I’d like to say, and I think some of them appreciate I hustled around down there. And most of them hate me, which is fine. But what they need to realize is their program definitely had a hand in what happened tonight. There’s no question about that. So I’m thankful for my personal opportunity. But guys like Zander [Sechrist] and Dylan [Dreiling] are benefactors of who I think is the best coach in the country in Coach Van Horn, is who I’m talking about.”

Most of the ill will Arkansas fans harbor for Vitello probably stems from a 2021 televised on-the-field blow-up he had at Van Horn after a ballgame, which he later apologized for, and Van Horn has said is water under the bridge.

While I dislike the fact that Vitello’s Vols won a national title before the Hogs, and I won’t ever “root” for any team other than Arkansas, I do enjoy watching the feisty Vitello coach. He did not have to mention Van Horn during the biggest professional moment of his professional career, but he did. I appreciate that, and I’m sure Van Horn does too.

Big O joins SWC Hall of Fame

Alabama’s Robert Horry, right reaches in on Arkansas’ Oliver Miller (25) during first half action in the NCAA Southeast Regional at the Charlotte Coliseum in N.C., March 21, 1991. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Razorback basketball great Oliver “Big O” Miller, who played for Arkansas from 1988-92, will be joining his teammates Todd Day and Lee Mayberry in the Southwest Conference Hall of Fame, it was announced Monday.

Miller was one of nine athletes added to the Hall of Fame. It’s induction ceremony will be held Aug. 13 at the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in Waco on the Baylor Campus.

Miller was a gifted big man with outstanding hands for Nolan Richardson’s Hogs that won three back-to-back regular-season Southwest Conference basketball titles in 1989, 1990, and 1991 and three SWC Basketball Tournaments. The Hogs added a SEC regular-season basketball title in 1992, Arkansas’ first year in the SEC and Miller’s senior season. The Hogs advanced to the Final Four in 1990, his sophomore season.

Miller remains the Razorbacks leader in career field-goal percentage (63.6 percent) and blocked shots (345). He ranks third in UA history in rebounds (886) and ninth in scoring (1,674 points).

Miller was a first-round NBA Draft pick, going No. 22 to the Phoenix Suns, and played eight NBA seasons. He also played two years with the Harlem Globetrotters.

Smith adds to his awards

Arkansas left-handed pitcher Hagen Smith continues to add to his list of accolades after his outstanding junior season for the Razorbacks by being named The American Baseball Coaches Association/Rawlings National Pitcher of the Year. Smith, who was named the SEC Pitcher of the Year and who has made four All-American teams, won the Perfect Game and The College Baseball Foundation pitching awards earlier. He was also a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award and the Dick Howser Trophy, which both went to Georgia slugger Charlie Condon.

Razorback Olympians

Congrats to Razorback track and field athletes Jarrion Lawson (3rd in the long jump), Chris Bailey (3rd in 400 meters), Taliyah Brooks (3rd heptathlon), and Rachel Glenn (second women’s high jump) for making the U.S. Olympic team that will compete in the Paris Olympics in July and August after finishing in the top three of their events at the U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials at Eugene, Ore. It will be Lawson’s second Olympics and the first for Bailey, Glenn, and Brooks. The Olympic trials run through Thursday.