Grace Under Fire

Amidst reports that he will be let go unless his team wins the SEC Tournament, Arkansas head coach Stan Heath tries to stay upbeat and puts his best face forward during his press conference on Monday.

And the Oscar for best outlook from a college basketball coach in the face of adversity goes to University of Arkansas head coach Stan Heath.

One night after Hollywood gave out its acting awards and with at least a couple of outlets reporting that the fifth-year Razorback coach must win the SEC Tournament to keep his job, Heath put as good a face on it as he could on Monday.

Heath said "I have no comment" to reporters from Hawgs Illustrated and another publication after practice when asked about the reports that he had been told last week that he had to win the SEC Tournament to keep his job.

He had addressed the speculation earlier in his press conference before practice about the Razorbacks (16-12, 5-9), who have lost four of five games and five of their last seven contests.

"That's not my concern," Heath said. "I don't want my team concerned about that. I just want to coach basketball, have our guys play basketball and play it the way it is supposed to be played, the right way and that's the way it is going to be."

Heath, was extremely upbeat before during his pre-practice press conference.

"Biggest thing I am going to do right now is encourage my guys, inspire my guys, motivate my guys, " Heath said, "because it is real easy to kick people when they are down.

"We are not going to take that approach," Heath added, "and we are going to finish this season strong, play hard and play as a team. We are going to have a little fun with it, too. That is our goal and that is our mission."

That mission begins Wednesday night when SEC Western Division co-leader Mississippi State (16-11, 7-7) comes to Fayetteville for the Razorbacks' last home game of the season and possibly the last one of Heath's tenure.

Sources indicate that Heath was told last week of his situation of needing to make the NCAA Tournament or be let go and that the NIT is not a possibility.

Factors playing into that apparently are a 6-32 record on the road in SEC play, a 29-49 overall mark in SEC play and what would be only one trip in five years to the NCAA Tournament if the Razorbacks fail to make it this season.

Heath said staying upbeat in the face of adversity was just something he believes in doing.

"The Sun is shining, it's bright and it's a beautiful day and that is the way we are going to move," Heath said. "… I have always been a positive person and always had a lot of faith and belief in God. That's where my strength comes from."

That's why he has hopes of a six-game winning streak similar to the one it closed out last season with to make the Big Dance.

"It is not outside my realm of possibility to finish strong," Heath said. "We had a six-game winning streak last year and what would be wrong with a six game-winning streak this year. It would be nice and put you right in the NCAA Tournament."


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