Flaska Officially A Gentleman

FAYETTEVILLE -- Rob Flaska, an assistant to Arkansas coach Stan Heath for each of his first three seasons, was named the new head basketball coach at Centenary College on Thursday.

Flaska, 45, who has helped Heath try and rebuild the Razorbacks program after Nolan Richardson's firing in 2002, faces an even more monumental task at Centenary, a small school in Shreveport, La. Last season, the Gentlemen's second in the Mid-Continent Conference, Centenary went 3-24 and 1-15 in conference play.

"We're really happy for Rob," said Heath said after arriving in St. Louis for the Final Four on Thursday afternoon. "We really appreciate the efforts he's given to our Razorback program. He helped us rebuild the program. He's going to do a terrific job there."

Flaska also was in St. Louis on Thursday and was unavailable for comment.

Centenary athletic director Taylor Moore said Flaska, a Michigan native who assisted Billy Tubbs from 1999-2002 at TCU, was the final choice out of more than 50 applicants and that his recruiting ties that stretch from Texas to Michigan were a decisive factor in his hiring.

Flaska helped Tubbs sign four consecutive recruiting classes ranked tops in the Western Athletic Conference and aided Heath in landing consecutive top-20 classes at Arkansas.

Centenary recruits regionally in Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas, but also recruits across the Midwest. Three Gentlemen returnees are from Wisconsin or Michigan.

"He's been a leading recruiter at (TCU and Arkansas), he's familiar with this area, he has Midwest ties. And being in the Mid-Con, we feel like he has a pretty good feel for the style of basketball that's played," Moore said. "The Texas ties are really substantial."

After being one of two candidates to interview on campus, Flaska was offered the job Wednesday night.

Flaska replaces Kevin Johnson, who resigned after his sixth season with a 65-100 record.

"He had some great ideas and some great thoughts about how he could rebuild our program," said Moore of Flaska.

Heath said he'd like to fill Flaska's position within the next two or three weeks and high-level Division I experience as a head coach or top assistant will be a "major factor" in his hire.

"I'd like to work within the next two or three weeks to find someone who can help our program and maybe has some strengths that will help us be better for next season and in our future," Heath said. "It's really early. Obviously Rob's situation just materialized.

"I'll make sure I search hard and am real diligent to find the best candidate available."

Heath is in the midst of what he has called a "top to bottom" program evaluation following Arkansas' stumble down last season's stretch after beginning 13-1 but finishing 18-12. In Heath's three seasons, Arkansas is 39-47.

The Razorbacks lost five of six to close last season, including defeats at Auburn in the regular-season finale and Tennessee in the Southeastern Conference Tournament by a combined 32 points.

Those lackluster efforts caused Heath to pull the plug on a possible NIT bid, which would have been the first postseason appearance for Arkansas since 2001.

Heath expects to be "flooded" with calls, resumes and suggestions while he gathers with most of the rest of the coaching profession this weekend in St. Louis, but said he has a "short list" of candidates who fit his criteria.

Of Heath's remaining staff of Oronde Taliaferro, 33, Darren Sorenson, 32, and Ronny Thompson, 35, only Thompson had major Division I experience prior to Arkansas. Thompson was an assistant at Oregon (1994) and Georgetown (1999-2003).

"Experience will be a major factor," Heath said. "How much experience -- if it's someone who's been a head coach or someone who's been in college basketball at a high level for a good period of time -- those will be the things that kind of shrink the pool.

"But at the end of the day, the one who I feel can bring the most to help our team, help our program and assist us in some areas we need to get stronger in, that will be the direction I look at."

Flaska was a junior college head coach for eight seasons. He coached at Mott (Mich.) Community College from 1987-91 and at Florida Community College from 1996-98, compiling a 185-75 record and earning three conference coach of the year honors while at Mott.

TCU was first or second in the nation in scoring for each of Flaska's four seasons in Fort Worth, which represent four of the 10 winningest seasons in Horned Frog history.

The Gentlemen lose three of their top four scorers to graduation but return second-leading scorer Tyrone Hamilton, who averaged 12.5 points and 3.9 assists per game as a freshman to earn Mid-Continent All-Newcomer recognition.

With one early signee and a mid-season transfer, Centenary has up to four scholarships to offer before next fall.

"(Flaska has) got his work cut out for him with a rebuilding situation," Heath said. "But he'll have a chance and some time to get them going again."

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