Alright! It is Razorback basketball time! Time to take that next step. Time to get back the swagger that Arkansas Razorback basketball had in the 90’s. We’re back to a place where the Arkansas basketball program was mentioned in the same breath as Kentucky basketball . . . back to a time when the Hog Call resonated with the power of over 19,000 Arkansans through the hallowed halls of the palace of basketball known as Bud Walton Arena . . . back to…wait a second, I just got a text…What?…9 suspensions…INCLUDING Fortson who is suspended indefinitely?!?…Only 8 total players available for the first 2 games!?!
Well that’s a fine start to the season!. Hell, not even a fine start. To call it a “fine” start is like saying Quint and the Orca gang were off to a fine start once they got out to sea to capture Jaws after they got 3 barrels on him. “He can’t go down with three barrels on him – Not with three he can’t!”
What this team needs is not to go all Chief Brody and ask for a bigger boat vis-a-vis a new coach. No, what this team needs is steady leadership and an administration that is willing to back up that leadership. It needs John Pelphrey to remain the captain of this ship, for Jeff Long to continue to back him up, and for this program to have a foundation of responsibility, respect, and discipline. Pelphrey is right – great teams are built in a day, but great programs are built over time.
Yes, Arkansas has hit what most hope is rock bottom. The program has become irrelevant being fourteen years removed from the National Championship, going 2-14 in conference play, missing the NCAA and NIT tournament, losing four of the six players that came to campus as freshmen last year, and now this “incident.” From this place of despair, John Pelphrey gave his most energetic and hope-filled speech of his Arkansas tenure. He proclaimed that this job was his dream job, that it is his mission to get this program back to where it was in the 90s, and that the current state of the program has not thrown him off that set course. Granted, both the program and his career needed that kind of impassioned speech given the current state of affairs. However, there was something interesting posted on Courtney Fortson’s twitter page around 10 p.m. on the night of John Pelphrey’s press conference announcing the suspensions:
There's always hardships u go through wit life but as long as u have control of yourself I'm sure u will find a way. C fortson
I’m not sure if Courtney came up with this statement himself or if someone he respects imparted it to him – I’m looking at you coach. I would venture to guess that this “tweet” was in direct response to the events that have unfolded over the past month or more, including his indefinite suspension. Whatever the origin, I would like to propose that this “tweet” become the “montweetra” of this season.
Control is always a good thing whether you are trying to put together a championship-winning, nationally recognized college basketball team or trying to walk away from that all-you-can-eat pizza buffet with some kind of self-respect. Control is what this basketball team needs and what it will get as long John Pelphrey is given the ability to build a program, not just a good team that pops up every now again and is ripe for a good scandal involving some kind NCAA violations due to lack of control over the program, which allows the inmates to run the asylum. No, John Pelphrey is going to make sure that he builds this program in the vein of Frank Sinatra (whether it be the Old Blue Eyes version or the Bon Jovi “It’s My Life” version) . . . his way. This is the same way that allowed him to be Mr. Kentucky in basketball out of high school, and the same way that he got his jersey retired and hung from the rafters in Rupp Arena as one of the “Unforgettables.” His way includes hard work, perseverance, respect, and discipline a/k/a control.
Also, when was the last time you ever heard a coach proclaim that he was at his dream job in the midst of such turmoil? Sure, he might have been saying it to save his job like practically everyone does when their ass is on the line or when they are trying to get a little bump in that yearly raise/bonus, but I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt. If you want a little history on how Pelphrey has built a program in the past, take a look at his recent past at South Alabama:
NCAA 1st Round
NIT 1st Round
What have we learned? At South Alabama, things appeared to get worse before they got better. From looking at the record from his first season to his last, Pelphrey had to break down South Alabama before they could become a very good team. I don’t know if he ever had to endure anything like what is going on currently at the University of Arkansas, but it is not inconceivable to think that at his prior head coaching stop his philosophy of suspensions was the same. Maybe a combination of poor talent and poor attitude among his early players is what caused the down seasons and then a slew of suspensions and good recruiting helped correct both the lack of talent and improved attitude. Then again, this is all just my own suspicion, but I don’t think it is all that far-fetched.
So Arkansas fans do not jump ship yet. Yes, there are tough times ahead. Yes, while improved, this season could potentially not be much better than last season. And yes, there could be even worse news around the corner if the special prosecutor hired to investigate the alleged rape involving at least two of the players on this team uncovers some validity that the county prosecutor did not. However, whatever you do, remember this: control can get you through a lot of things, but control without patience is not enough.
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