Herring Good Hire, But Process Handled Badly

FAYETTEVILLE -Know most of you already are hooked on Reggie Herring, Arkansas' new defensive coordinator.

Rightly so. Seems he might be a keeper.

But there were several things fishy about the whole firing process of four-year defensive coordinator Dave Wommack.

First, we haven't spoken to anyone other than Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles who says - or believes - it was coach Houston Nutt's call.

Broyles almost certainly pulled that trigger, and if so, how many more shots will he be calling in the season(s) ahead?

Most all of us know the aftertaste left by over-riding decisions from afar. Not exactly sweet.

Secondly, it was very strange, and absolutely wrong, for Arkansas players - especially defensive ones -to learn of Wommack's ouster from the media.

And speculation was allowed to rumble too long after Arkansas' 43-14 season-ending Little Rock loss against LSU on Nov. 26.

Wommack was sacked on Nov. 30, but word of his firing wasn't tossed out until the next day.

Several Razorbacks defenders we spoke to during the "Will he be fired or not?" process were miffed, frustrated, and even angry, they didn't know what was going on.

Can't blame Nutt and company for keeping that quiet.

But many, if not most, Hogs felt the same way when they learned, from reporters, that Wommack had been canned.

Hard to imagine players - again, especially the returning defenders - were not huddled by coaches to explain what had, and was, happening before, or right after, Wommack's firing was made public.

Harder still to fathom no quick phone calls of explanation to them.

Nutt has admitted to the bad call.

It also was wrong for Nutt to stiff-arm reporters immediately after Wommack's firing. You needed to know his thoughts.

Wommack faced reporters the day the news broke. He appeared a bit emotional, but strong. He said the right things - the sort you must if you want to be hired in his field again - but was candid about his feelings.

Insert Herring. In a move that would've made Machiavelli cackle, Nutt scored a big-timer with whom he worked at Oklahoma State from 1981-84. Although North Carolina State finished 5-6 (just like the Hogs) last season, Herring's defense was statistically the best in the country (allowing just 221.4 yards per game).

The Wolfpack, however, was not playing a Southeastern Conference-type schedule.

The difference in Wommack was apparent when Herring met the Arkansas press on Dec. 5. Wommack is calm. Herring is a fireball.

"Defensive players at Arkansas beware," Herring said. "Beware that they will be challenged more than they've ever been challenged in their life. There's pressure that will be put on them on a day-to-day basis.

"The heat in the kitchen, so to speak, will be turned up on this university. It will be turned up tremendously."

Sounds good, but makes you wonder.

If the Hogs had been playing it cool (something not noticeable during games), where the heck have the matches been?

ARSN Drops Ball
The Arkansas Razorback Sports Network, part of Little Rock's Channel 7 division, is the exclusive provider of all things Hogs on radio broadcasts, and those folks produce a half-dozen basketball TV broadcasts per season.

Mike Nail is in his 24th year as the play-by-play man for basketball coverage.

Joe Kleine failed to make it five games into his fifth season as the color man.

Kleine was inexplicably fired after the Hogs' fourth game, a move that shocked Nail, who clearly wasn't involved in the process.

Look, Kleine doesn't have the most enthusiastic, animated voice (how many 7-footers do you know who do?), but he darned sure knew what he was talking about having been an Arkansas center who was the sixth player taken in the 1985 NBA Draft. The guy also was a Bull when Chicago won the 1998 NBA Finals.

Problem apparently was Kleine sometimes spoke his mind. Or at least came close. Trust us, there was lip-biting, too.

Still, feathers - of Broyles and/or some ARSN "braintrust" - must've been ruffled.

The timing of the move was atrocious and suspicious.

In the aftermath, you've got Rick Schaeffer (nice voice, knowledgeable, but a wearer of cardinal-colored glasses) in Kleine's chair, and fans, many of whom hate the move, are shaking their heads at yet another conspiracy theory.

And, of course, you've got a giant guy with a big, broken heart.

Though raised in Slater, Mo., Kleine is an Arkansan through and through. He even gave Hogs post players some pregame tips last season.

Here's a tip for ARSN or the UA, whoever runs the shows: Quit hiring folks that have been there and done that if you don't want Arkansas fans to hear what they have to say.

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