Long, Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics for the Hogs, met with the media following a school release that announced Pelphrey had been "dismissed" after four seasons as head coach. Pelphrey had an overall record of 69-59 at Arkansas, including 25-39 in SEC games.
Long said Pelphrey would be paid the remaining three years on his contract at his annual salary of $600,000, unless there is money coming to him through any new job he might take during those three years.
As far as the time frame for naming the next UA hoops coach, Long said, "We won't talk to candidates until after they are done with the NCAA. So I think you'd have to believe that it would be somewhere around when the Final Four takes place. If a candidate becomes identified earlier, then it could move quicker."
Long did not mention any candidates, nor was he asked about any at the media briefing that lasted about 45 minutes at the Miller Room in the Broyles Center. Seniors-to-be Michael Sanchez and Jeff Peterson also took questions from the media with both expressing confidence that Long would make a good hire.
Among the things Long mentioned in the school release as factors in his decision to terminate Pelphrey was a reference to "an assessment of the overall student-athlete experience within our program."
Pressed on that statement, Long said, "For me, it all begins with the student-athlete ... it's about discipline, accountability and winning is also important. But winning is not the end all. One of the factors is the student-athlete not having experienced the NCAA tournament."
Long was asked if he had contacted the five signed recruits. He said staff members would do that first, but that he would "contact them personally" in the near future. He would ask them to be patient and would emphasize how important they are to the future of the program.
Long said he thinks it is "unlikely" the Hogs would be considered to play in the NIT, but they would accept such a bid. In that case, Rob Evans would serve as interim head coach and players would like to play.
As far as criteria to fill the head coach position, Pelphrey said he's not set on hiring only a proven head coach, but thinks that's where they will end up because of the interest the job will demand.
"Leadership and the focus on the student-athlete is a priority along with our high standards and goals," Long said. "As far as style of play, we are interested in winning. I think you can adapt to a style of that wins."
Did the drop in attendance figure in his decision?
"It was certainly a factor," he said. "But it was not the over riding factor. It was not based solely on the empty seats.
"I'm disappointed we are not in the NCAA tournament. I'm disappointed in the student-athlete experience. If I thought that we would get back to the NCAA tournament with where we were headed (with Pelphrey), then we could tolerate (the empty seats) for awhile longer."
As far as seeking a sitting head coach, Long said, "I think our program will command a sitting head coach."
But as far as seeking only an elite current head coach, Long noted that most current SEC head coaches came from rising coaches from the mid-major ranks. If an elite coach is not attracted, he said, "Then, we can act on what's available. I think the answer you are looking for with the questions is to say we are wide open."
Does Long have a list of candidates ready?
"A majority of ADs have a short list," he said. "But it can change as candidates present themselves and they are not on that list."
Long did not feel any pressure when a fan bought a newspaper advertisement noting his displeasure with the basketball program. He called that "a cowardly act." He said he did respect plenty of others who used "appropriate" means to express themselves to the AD.
"I do respond to those that are appropriate," he said. "I don't to those that don't deserve it."
Can the Hogs afford the top coaches? Can they go after a basketball coach the way they went after Bobby Petrino for football?
First, Long said there was not a set salary for the job. It will be dictated by the marketplace. The marketplace can change. Some of the fund raising efforts during Long's three years on the job may enable the school to pay a higher salary than when Pelphrey was hired.
"You have to meet what the demands are when it comes to background and experience," he said. "I think we have more resources now than we did three years ago when we got here because of some of the things our staff has done."
But he said there are limits. He would not say money was no object. In fact, he said, "Money is an object. We do have to make an analysis of what we can pay. But we are in a different financial situation now and no doubt can get a high candidate. We do think we can add some revenue with seats in Bud Walton Arena. Our program is in much better condition, thanks to some things Coach Pelphrey has done and our student development situation. We can support our young men now with maybe some things we didn't have four years ago."
Sanchez and Peterson were the only players to address questions from the media. They both thanked Pelphrey and said they are confident Long will get the right coach to lead the program.
"I think Mr. Long will make the best decision for our program, but it's emotional to see Coach Pelphrey leave," Sanchez said.
Peterson said, "Mr. Long knows where our program can be. I think he knows we can start the tradition of being in the NCAA tournament."
Both Sanchez and Peterson said they would help try to keep the current signees "in the fold." Sanchez said, "They are great guys. We saw that on their visits. We don't want to lose anybody." Peterson added, "We know this is a special place and we need them to be all we can be."