The University of Arkansas welcomes back an old friend tonight, but doesn't have any plans to allow him to leave with a parting gift.
Former Razorback assistant coach Bill Brown – who helped Eddie Sutton lead the program to five straight NCAA Tournament berths from 1981-85 – brings his California-Pennyslvania team into Bud Walton Arena for an exhibition game tonight.
The Division II Vulcans – who have dropped a 79-78 thriller to Maryland and were downed 80-65 at Pittsburgh on Saturday – will battle the Razoorbacks in a 7:05 p.m. game.
"I am excited to bring a team and come back and play in Fayetteville," said Brown, who had to have a leg amputated earlier this year. "Bud Walton Arena is not Barnhill, but at the same time it will be filled with the greatest fans in America. I say today, my five years in Fayetteville was the greatest time of my life and I look forward to seeing old friends and being a part of Razorback basketball again for a night."
Arkansas ripped Xavier-New Orleans 82-49 in its other exhibition game and hopes to use tonight's game to get prepared for the regular season opener with visiting Southeast Missouri State on Friday night.
"You learn a lot when you watch film," Heath said. "That left me with good impressions (of the Xavier game). We had emphasized defense in practice and we got good defense. Our guys worked hard. They were sacrificing their bodies.
"Heading into (this next game), more emphasis will be on offense," Heath said. "We want to play at a fast pace, but there will be times when we will need to play in the half court. We need to work on our patience."
Razorback head coach Stan Heath was happy to help out Brown's program by scheduling the game – especially because Cal-Pa has been a traditionally strong program in Brown's 11 years at the school.
"It's a way to help them out while knowing the type of team and program they have will also help us prepare," Heath said. "We saw each other on the road recruiting and we talked about it. He also knows Dan (Hipsher, UA assistant coach) from the past and we worked on it."
The Vulcans are coming off a season in which they went 23-7 during the last campaign.
"This is not one of my better teams that we've had, but it's a good team," Brown said. "It is the smallest team I've coached. Normally we have 7-footers and 6-10 and 6-9, but this year the tallest guy on my roster is going to be 6-7. We will be athletic. The thing that you will notice is that our guards will remind you of the guards we had at Arkansas like the (Darrell) Walkers and the (Alvin) Robinsons – that same kind of build, long, slender and very athletic."
He became head coach at Sacramento State after leaving Arkansas as Sutton took over the head coaching job at Kentucky.
That lasted for three years and after some personal struggles that resulted in going to rehab, he put his life back on track with a successful stint at Division III Kenyon College before taking over California-Pennsylvania.
He has battled diabetes and this spring a trip to the hospital turned into a 28-day stay in which a blod clot eventually led to his leg having to be amputated.
"I've had several crossroads in my life," Brown said. "But I have learned over the years that living life on life's terms is very important. I don't have time for pity parties, I don't have time for me feeling sorry for myself. I feel I have more to give. Life has been good to me and I am still getting to do the thing I always wanted to do and that's impact young people's life. And the main thing is that I have always surrounded myself with good people and I still feel the best is to come."
This actually won't be Brown's first trip back to Fayetteville since his coaching days as he has been a guest of Razorback basketball announcer Mike Nail and his wife Jean on a few occasions.
"I've been back a couple of times," Brown said. "In the summer time I normally go up to Tulsa for a junior college jamboree where I go and evaluate players. When I am in the area, I normally drive down and spend a night or two with Mike Nail and Jean.
"I've also come down for a couple of football games, but I am going to tell you that I actually get lost in Fayetteville now," Brown said. "It seems like so much has happened to that town. Fayetteville and Springdale seem like they have just grown together."
Brown looks back on his years at Arkansas with great fondness.
"I think more than anything I think about the teams I have been associated with over the years and the thing that really comes back to me in my mind," Brown said, "is that all the teams that I was a part of was always on the same boat headed in the same direction with the same goals in mind."
"We had a lot of talented players, but we didn't have egos and while we had some All-Americans, everybody came to work everyday with their hard hat on," Brown continued. "Coach Sutton had a way of making sure everybody was on the same page and everybody was focused on the same goals of team play.
"But perhaps the biggest thing that will always stick out in my mind is the undivided loyalty that the fans gave our program," Brown said. "The young men that played for us had one main goal in mind – representing the state of Arkansas."
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