The University of Arkansas has decided not to retain head basketball coach Stan Heath and informed the fifth-year head coach of that decision by Razorback athletic director Frank Broyles at a meeting late Monday morning.
"It obviously was a disappointing day for me personally," Heath said Monday while addressing a small gathering of media. "I love those guys and I will miss my team.
"I think five years when I came here that boy, it was a hard, hard job," Heath continued. "The environment was tough and there were a lot of things we had to deal with. We found a way to get through that and I proud of that and proud that this program is now better than it was when we started - two back-to-back 20 win seasons, two NCAA appearances and being only one of four teams in our league to do that."
Heath, who took over the Razorbacks after leading Kent State to the Elite Eight in his only year as head coach, was 82-71 at Arkansas, but just 31-39 in SEC conference action.
His squads were just 7-33 on the road, but they did win 20 games the past two seasons and made the NCAA Tournament both years.
"The decision to make a coaching change was difficult due to the respect I have for Stan Heath," Broyles said in a press release. "He represented the University of Arkansas with professionalism and integrity. I appreciate Coach Heath's efforts and his contributions to the program. However, in my professional judgment, it is best that the program move forward under new leadership in our efforts to return Razorback Basketball to national prominence and to compete consistently and successfully at the very highest levels."
Heath said he was told by Broyles that his not being retained was more about season ticket sales than anything else.
"The only thing that was mentioned to me was that the season-ticket sales were down," Heath said. " And that the fan support was lessening. However, the statistics from last year's attendance figures are actually up 2,000 people. Last year, we were 14,900 season average. This year, we were 16,700. So that's almost 1,800 people. But the season-ticket sales and
the fan base was Coach (Broyles') biggest concern. I don't know those figures, but I'm sure he keeps track of those."
The coach said he went into the meeting pretty sure he was going to be retained.
I was leaning toward that," Heath said. " I felt like I would continue on as the coach. Those were my personal feelings. I thought we had done enough this season.
"But I realize here the expectations are really high," Heath added. " It's Final Fours, it's Sweet Sixteens and it's SEC Championships on a regular basis. Those certainly were my goals, and I really feel like this team is poised to do that.
"It was no question going to be the best team that I had coming back with everybody back and some guys coming in," he continued. " I feel real disappointed that I don't get a chance to coach what I think was going to be my best basketball team."
Heath's contract calls for him be paid a buyout of $900,000 over the course of three years unless he becomes employed elsewhere.
"I am a little surprised, but in this business universities have the right to make decisions and the right to make their choices and what they want and what they feel is best for their university," Heath said. " It is what it is. I am more concerned about my coaching staff and my players. My family and I will be okay. "
Heath admitted that he was surprised that he was being let go especially after someone in the UA administration - thought to be Chancellor John White - told him he was safe.
"I don't want to get into that, but I was told that I would have support," Heath said. "People change their mind and that happens and I guess that's the way it is in life."
Speculation is that Arkansas has its eyes squarely on hiring Texas A&M head coach Billy Gillispie, but Broyles said he would initiate a national search and that no UA officials would have any comments on the search or possible candidates.
"The University of Arkansas has a rich tradition of excellence in basketball," Broyles said. "These past successes and the tremendous fan support of our program have established the very highest standards and expectations for our program. We will work diligently to find the best candidate who will not only embrace our winning tradition but enhance it."
Heath is scheduled to meet with his team tonight in a meeting that had been already scheduled as the players return from spring break.
Heath said he certainly plans to continue coaching and expects to be back doing soon.
"I don't think there is any question that coaching is in my future," Heath said. "It was amazing when I went out, people were really happy for me and said you guys did a great job the way you finished. I think there is definitely an opportunity for me and something I want to do.
"Right now I just want to make sure my family is okay, my coaching staff is okay - I want to make sure those guys are solidified," Heath added. "I am sure they are going to hire somebody very good that will do a good job with these kids. These kidsd are great kids and somebody is going to get here and really enjoy coaching them."
Heath Not Retained
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