Sizing Up The Season

UA head basketball coach Stan Heath addresses this past season, the future and speculation surrounding his job status at his traditional end of the season press conference.

Buisness as usual.

That might as well have been the theme of University of Arkansas head basketball Stan Heath's season-ending press conference on Tuesday afternoon at Bud Walton Arena.

While others speculate about his future with the Razorbacks, the fifth-year coach said he was busy recruiting and making plans for his program's future after a 21-14 season.

"I told our guys to hold their heads up high," Heath said. "When I look back and I reflected - coming into this season we lost three 1,000-point scorer. We lost 70 percent of our offense. So there were a lot of unknowns.

"I think most of the people in this room and most of the fans around our state," Heath added, "if you had said - coming into the season - that you lost those guys but you are going conference championship, you are going to win the Old Spice Classic, be 4-3 against top-ranked teams, you are going to go to the NCAA Tournament, win 20 games again in back-to-back seasons, I think a lot of people would have been satisfied and happy."

Arkansas won five straight games before falling to Florida in the SEC Championship and then to USC in the NCAA Tournament.

"Yes, we left there with regrets that we weren't able to continue to play on, but our future is just so bright," Heath said. "I look at a team like Kansas who lost two first-round appearance games the last two years and now they are one of the best teams in country because they returned all their guys back and had great experience.

"I look at them as some of the same things we are going through," Heath added. "The program has definitely turned the corner. Unless you read the newspapers, it really is all positive."

Heath pointed out that his team has one of the better two-year track records in the SEC.

"We are one of four teams in our league that have gone to the NCAA Tournament back-to-back and I think that is a statement unto itself," Heath continued. "There are a lot of positives to talk about."

He also pointed out that he knows how high the standards have been at Arkansas.

"The expectations that were set 10 to 15 years ago that were set have created a standard that is really high," Heath said. "It is something that is one of my goals, one of my team goals and I don't see why we can't be a team next season that wins multiple games in the NCAA Tournament."

He mentioned that winning and home games with Texas and Missouri should create excitment for next season as long a schedule that might include the preseason NIT.

"I think there could be a lot of energy and excitement around next season's team," Heath said.

Heath said that his improved in a couple of areas this season – field goal defense (first in the league) and scoring (third in the SEC), but obviously needed to improve in a couple more to take the next step up.

"I think there were games where our ball-handling and passing were not where they needed to be, we were sloppy and created opportunities for other teams quite a few times," Heath said. "I think the perimeter shooting could be attributed to our ups and downs as well."

Heath said his end-of-the-year review with UA athletic director Frank Broyles has not been scheduled as of yet.

"I would imagine it will be the same as it has already been," Heath said. "He'll call me and say "are your free, are you going out recruiting? Let's get together.' And most likely I am going to change my schedule and get together with him.

"That is how it has always been," Heath added. "Whether it is a week or a month or sometime in June, I don't know."

Heath was asked if the speculation about his job status had become frustrating.

"It's not frustrating at all," Heath said. "It's been that way for five years. I think there has been a lot of misinformation our there and our fans have been misled on what is really going on. If there was something out there, I think something would have already happened."

Asked if that mean he thought his job was safe, Heath responded saying that people should believe everything that read in the newspaper or on the internet.

"I really don't want to comment on that, but I just feel there are a lot of sources and speculation that really aren't accurate," Heath added. "I think they have been misleading. I think there is a hint of truth to some things that have been said, but not the full truth. That's all I'll say.

"I am here to talk about our season, our future and maybe at some other time in the future, if that is a topic we want to talk about, we can," Heath continued. "I don't want to comment on sources and speculation. I think there should be a law against that - people just putting things on the internet. I don't think that is right."

There have also been rumors that Heath might be looking for another job.

"I am saying that I am the head coach at the University of Arkansas, I am excited about being the head coach at the University of Arkansas and that I am looking forward to next season and that's it.

"… I am here to talk about this season, how we did this past year," Heath said. " I will say that I am not pursuing any jobs and that's all I'll say. I haven't been contacted if that helps you, too, and I don't think that anyone in the athletic department has been contacted. Again that is one of those things of being misled."

Heath did say the speculation was not helping recruiting at all.

"I don't want to have to play defense (against negative recruiting)," Heath said. "...Playing defense recruiting wise is not fun and it's not healthy. It's not so much my concern about this year's team as I am about the future.

"The other schools - they beat you up now," Heath said. "They read the papers, they beat you up and they use it all against you. It is just ammunition. It's too bad. It's tough. I think over time things will clear up."

Speaking of recruiting, Heath said that he and his staff were still likely to add a recruit or two this spring before moving on to the 2008 class.

"We would look at the best player that fits our need," Heath said. "It could be point guard and if someone at another position decided to leave, it could be someone in that position. I feel pretty good at the 2s and 3s, but because they frontcourt has so many seniors, that would be a look and the point guard would be a look."

Two players?

"I think that would be a healthy thing to do to create a little bit more balance in the classes," Heath said.

Heath did say that no current players have brought up transferring to him as of yet.

"I am not aware of anything," Heath said. "I will meet with all my players as soon as they come back (from spring break) on Monday, Tuesday – sometime next week.

"…At that time I would like to talk with them and find out what they are thinking and let them know what my plans are for their future and we'll see what happens from there," Heath said. "Every year it is not surprising if someone wants to look at another situation for playing time reasons."


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