Altman Bolts Arkansas

The University of Arkansas made former Creighton coach Dana Altman the 14th coach in school history on Monday and then he changed his mind and left to head back to Creighton on Tuesday.

UPDATE: The University of Arkansas made former Creighton coach Dana Altman the 14th coach in school history on Monday and then he changed his mind and left to head back to Creighton on Tuesday.

FAYETTEVILLE — Many times before, Dana Altman didn't have any trouble saying "no" to schools hoping to lure him from Creighton. Schools such as Tennessee, Georgia and Miami came calling for the 48-year-old during his 13-year stint at Creighton.

But none of those schools possessed the tradition, facilities and fan support of Arkansas. And those were the deciding factors for Altman, who became the 14th basketball coach in Arkansas history Monday.

"It was the right opportunity at the right time," Altman said at his introduction and news conference in Bud Walton Arena. "The passion for basketball here is unbelievable."

And with that, a week after Stan Heath was fired, the saga that was the Arkansas basketball coaching search came to an end.

The exact terms of Altman's contract weren't released, but sources close to the basketball program said Altman would make around $1.5 million per season.

With members of the basketball team seated in the front row, Altman talked about living up to high expectations. He spoke of the Razorbacks handling themselves the right way on and off the court. And he promised a style of basketball that would captivate fans.

Right after revealing that his teams "press 40 minutes a game," the fans in Bud Walton Arena who showed up to see Altman rained down an impromptu round of applause.

Altman's style, which consists of pressing defense and a high-post offense based around 3-point shooting, impressed Broyles to be sure. But it was more than Altman's basketball acumen that struck Broyles.

"It's not just Xs and Os," Broyles said. "It's the relationships that he builds with the community and with the fans."

Broyles was the first one to admit Monday that Altman wasn't his first choice.

He tried to pitch some of the top basketball coaches in the country to Fayetteville. He made runs at Texas A&M's Billy Gillispie, Kansas' Bill Self, Southern California's Tim Floyd, Memphis' John Calipari and Marquette's Tom Crean, according to sources.

All declined, though, which didn't surprise Broyles.

"Only four coaches in the last three years moved from BCS schools," Broyles said. "They had such a good thing going at their own places. I don't blame them for staying."

Arkansas Chancellor John White praised Broyles for his persistence and patience, despite the early frustrations in the search.

But Broyles pressed on, consulting with coaches from around the country.

"He did not consider himself the expert," White said. "He consulted a lot people, and one name kept popping up. We think we got a coach that plays with a style of play that should energize the Razorback Nation."

That name was Altman's. The courtship of Altman started Friday night in Atlanta, when Broyles had dinner with him and his wife, Reva. Broyles then offered the job Sunday night, and Altman accepted early Monday morning.

In Altman, Broyles landed a consistent winner to become just the fourth Arkansas coach in the last 33 years.

Thirteen years ago, Altman took over a Creighton program that had just about hit rock bottom in 1994. The year before, the Missouri Valley Conference school located in Omaha went 7-22.

But Altman's teams steadily improved in every of the next four seasons, qualifying for the NIT in 1998 with an 18-10 record.

Since then, Creighton has never not qualified for postseason play. Seven of those nine postseason appearances were in the NCAA Tournament. Altman has gone 2-8 in NCAA Tournament games — his 1993 Kansas State team bowed out in the first round.

"He's got the sustained success I looked for," Broyles said. "And he built a program that people could identify with. Just look at how many fans went to their games.

To that point, Altman's teams have created a loyal following in Omaha.

When Altman took over in 1994, Creighton drew just more than 3,000 fans per game. The Bluejays averaged 15,909 fans in 14 games at the relatively new, state-of-the-art Qwest Center.

Actual attendance at Arkansas home games had dwindled in the past few seasons.

Altman said he hoped to put a team on the Bud Walton Arena court that would bring fans back, like he did at Creighton. The challenge of doing so drew him to Arkansas.

And in concluding his comments, he had one request.

"With your permission, I'd like to finish my career at the University of Arkansas," Altman said.

Dana Altman

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