Heath Begins Work at UA

Stan Heath talks about everything from hiring assistant coaches to making out the schedule after arriving at Fayetteville to begin work as Arkansas' new basketball coach.

New Arkansas basketball coach Stan Heath spent part of his first day on the job meeting with the media. He went over the five days since becoming head coach and finished the 25-minute session by insisting that he now knows how to call the Hogs.

"I did an interview with CNN's Larry Smith, and we finished it by calling the Hogs," he said. "Did you see it ... it's on tape. I had the Kansas and Maryland fans calling the Hogs. I'm now the No. 1 cheerleader. You guys got me (Thursday), but I'm ready for you now."

Heath said Atlanta was such a whirlwhind that he "went home early." He returned to Akron, Ohio, to clean out his office at Kent State on Monday.

"It was just too crazy (in Atlanta)," Heath said. "There was an interview every time I stepped off the elevator. I'd only been in that office 11 months, but I had accumlated a lot of memories. It was tough."

Heath arrived at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, and hadn't stopped taking care of business by the time he met with the media at 2 p.m.

"I've stopped carrying a cell phone," he said. "Coach Broyles and I went over the contracts we have (with teams in the future) and we talked about some of those games. I don't see any problems there. We talked about the series with Oklahoma State, and I think that is healthy. As far as Illinois, I'm not against playing Big Ten schools."

Heath said he was not against playing mid-major schools, but that he would not schedule home-and-home games with mid-majors.

"I handled the schedule when I was at Michigan State," he said. "I'm not against playing (mid-majors), but I'd think what we might do is a two-for-one deal. I think we will look at playing as many home games as possible."

However, he likes the idea of playing traditional powers at neutral sites and is not against playing more games at Alltel Arena in North Little Rock. Heath said a contact with CBS officials in Atlanta indicated that the network plans to put Arkansas on national TV twice next year, possibly against Kentucky and one more time.

"I think you need some tough games to get your team ready for conference play, but you don't need all of them to be like that," he said. "You need some games where you can test out some things and find out about your players and still win the games. You have to have balance. Coach Broyles and I went over those things."

Heath said he would go over his contract with Broyles later Tuesday. He also plans a trip to see a junior college player, possibly Jarret Hart of UA-Ft. Smith. When asked if that is where he was headed, he would only say, "I have no response," but his smile gave away that he had been caught. He also said he planned a trip "soon" to Florida to check out the Hogs' three early signees from that area.

"I want to evaluate their academics ... see how close they might be to qualifying," he said. "I also want to evaluate them as players and young men to see how they might fit. I want to make sure they will fit us and that we fit them. I want to bring them in if they can be successful, but I want to advise them if I don't think they will fit.

"The rules allow us to work our current players two hours per week in individual workouts. I want to do that as soon as possible, too. We want to evaluate what we've got so we know what we might need as far as recruiting. That's important that we do that as soon as possible.

"I've seen two tapes of this year, Vanderbilt and Memphis. It looked like to me that Brandon Dean and Jannero Pargo were the mainstays and everyone else played to their strengths. I want to see the players in person to see what they can do. That will be a better indication than the tapes."

As far as assistant coaches, Heath said no one had been hired.

"I had a lot of (inquiries) in Atlanta," he said, "but I have not made any hires. I will take my time. I want to see what happens at Kent State. I believe one of my assistants has been hired, but I want confirmation on that before I move.

"It may be that we have one opening to fill, but I'm not sure about that yet. I do want to interview some of the current staff members. I think hiring someone with ties to this area would be beneficial and I have one or two people that I want to talk to about that.

"But, I have not scheduled any interviews for jobs right now.  I want to move swiftly, but wisely. I want to get the right guys and look at the big picture."

Heath said he had yet to visit with freshman guard J. J. Sullinger. He said he is not sure how many open scholarships he would have ... possibly as many as three, but maybe only one.

"I do know that there is interest from recruits out there right now," he said. "Some have said that Arkansas is at the top of their lists. There are guys that are available."

Heath said he was surprised at the media interest as far as interviews in Atlanta.

"I knew that Arkansas basketball was important, but I didn't know there would be that many requests (for interviews)," he said. "And, I found out that Arkansas fans are everywhere. I've always thought Arkansas was a big-time program but it is exciting to see so many people all around the country pulling for Arkansas.

"I talked with a lot of coaches and other people in Atlanta about Arkansas. I did have a conversation with Eddie Sutton. He told me, 'You are going to love it there.' I did get to visit for a couple of minutes with Mike Anderson. It was a tough conversation. He loves it here and wanted the job. But, we visited, and he shared with me his thoughts on some of the returning players. I appreciated his thoughts.

"Our trainer and strength coach continue to work with our players in the training room and the weight room. Those programs have continued, and I'm pleased with their work."

As far as his speaking schedule, Heath said he would priortize his time over the next few weeks.

"The top priority is our current players," he said. "They come first. The next recruiting class is next. I'll fill in the blanks after that."

Heath said his family, wife Ramona and sons Joshua and Jordan would remain in Ohio until school is finished.


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