It's Official: Herrion To UNH

FAYETTEVILLE - The strangely short saga of Bill Herrion's Arkansas tenure finally came to an end after a week of speculation when he was named Thursday as the University of New Hampshire's 20th head men's basketball coach.

After an 18-12 season and huddling with athletic director Frank Broyles, fourth-year Arkansas coach Stan Heath tabbed Herrion to replace Rob Flaska, who left after last season to take over Centenary's program, on April 18.

Upon being introduced to reporters in the interview room of Bud Walton Arena the next day, Herrion made clear his intentions of again becoming a Division I head coach, but only in "the right situation."

Apparently, the New Hampshire job, which opened earlier this month when Phil Rowe was fired after six seasons and a 45-125 record, came close enough to fitting that criteria for the 47-year-old native of Worcester, Mass.

"The head coaching situation at the University of New Hampshire just opened up about two weeks ago and for me was a very unique opportunity," Herrion said in a UA release. "I wanted to be a Division I head coach again, but I didn't think I would get that opportunity this quickly.

"There were several other factors involved. I was the head coach at Drexel for eight years. Drexel is in the same league (America East) as New Hampshire, so there's a lot of familiarity there with both New Hampshire and the league.

"It is also an opportunity to get back to the New England area where I've done a lot of my coaching, where I played, and where my family lives."

Herrion felt that it was an opportunity he "had to jump at" and his move will send Heath scurrying to again fill a spot on his staff. Heath, who was unavailable for comment Thursday, didn't indicate any hostility about Herrion's decision in the release issued by the UA.

"We congratulate Bill and his family on this new opportunity," Heath said. "Although it was a difficult decision, Bill had to go with his heart and we wish him well.

"We have already begun the process of looking for a new assistant coach. We hope to have a new coach in place before the next recruiting period in mid-July."

Heath hired Herrion after he was fired following a six-season stint at East Carolina, where his teams were 70-98, including 9-19 last season. He was viewed as Heath's new right-hand man, someone who would oversee player development, offer more experienced input during planning sessions and games and handle head coaching duties when Heath was on the road.

Herrion called the pairing "perfect."

Said Heath on April 19: "Coach Broyles was really excited when he met Bill, and that was important. His resume, his credentials speak for themselves. How I'll use him, I think, is very apparent. He'll play a very important role."

Herrion said the New Hampshire opportunity came "out of the blue" and admitted it wasn't great timing for the Razorbacks.

He will take a pay cut -- from his $150,000 Arkansas salary to $130,000 at UNH -- and said his decision had nothing to do with money. Herrion described his financial situation at Arkansas as "very, very good," but took the New Hampshire job because it was "where his heart was."

"I was up front with Stan right from the get-go," Herrion said. "The minute New Hampshire contacted me, I told Stan. He knew every step of the way what was going on. The hard part about this decision is, I'm so appreciative of the opportunity that Stan and (Arkansas athletic director Frank) Broyles gave me.

"I felt very comfortable with Stan the month-and-a-half we were together. He's a great guy. I respect him as a person and as a coach. A lot of times, when you're going to go back as an assistant coach, you want to make sure you're with people and a person, the head coach, that you like, you get along with, and you can have a relationship with him. There's no question we could've had that together."

Herrion, who gained notoriety by leading Drexel to a 167-71 record and three NCAA Tournament appearances from 1991-1999, takes over a perennially poor program that hasn't had a winning season since 1994-1995. Rowe's last team was 9-19.

"This is an exciting day for the University of New Hampshire," said UNH athletic director Marty Scarano. "We are thrilled to announce the hiring of Bill Herrion as our men's basketball coach. Bill absolutely embodied everything we looked for in this search. He showed a vision for excellence that we aspire to in all of our athletic offerings.

"We are confident that he will take our basketball program to new heights."

Said Herrion: "I'm obviously very excited about the opportunity to be head coach at UNH. It's a great opportunity to get back into America East, a league that I'm very familiar with and have a lot of respect for. We are looking forward to moving this basketball program in the right direction and to compete for the championship in America East."

Herrion visited New Hampshire last Wednesday and Thursday and Scarano offered him the job over the weekend. A decision was expected by Scarano early this week.

That it took until Thursday indicated it was a tough choice.

But Herrion already has made an easy decision as New Hampshire's coach.

He's not going to schedule a series with the Razorbacks any time soon.

"I worked the players out the last week-and-a-half of school and I know how talented Arkansas is," Herrion said. "I don't think we're ready for that yet.

"Arkansas basketball is so close to turning the corner. The tough thing for me is going to be next January and February during the season when they're making a run to the NCAA Tournament and I'm sitting up in New Hampshire watching it on ESPN."

Staff writer Robbie Neiswanger contributed to this report.

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