Altman Can Be Funny In Right Setting

FAYETTEVILLE — In order to find out what Arkansas' new basketball coach is like, who better to ask than Dana Altman's family members?

"He's pretty fun," said Audra Altman, 14, the only girl among four children of Dana and Reva Altman. "He's always making random jokes. He thinks he's pretty funny. And he doesn't get mad very often at all." Though coach Altman described himself as "boring," his wife had a different take. "He's a very emotional, passionate person," Reva Altman said. "When he gets to know somebody, he gets to know them dearly." When the Altmans were in Atlanta last week, Reva Altman said: "Dana said, ‘You're not gonna believe who called me.' I got excited, just seeing the look on his face. He was talking about coach (Frank) Broyles. I trust Dana's gut instincts, and he's never made a mistake yet about a move we've made." The Altmans' three sons — Jordan, 22, Chase, 20, and Spencer, 18 — could not attend Monday's introductory media conference in Bud Walton Arena, but friends said Spencer, a Kansas freshman, plays good enough golf that Dana Altman had been bitten by the golfing bug himself while at Creighton. "He's a sandbagger on the golf course," joked Kevin McKenna, a two-time assistant under Altman at Creighton who just took the Indiana State head coaching job last week. "He's always begging for more strokes." Seriously, McKenna said, "Coach is as fine a guy as I've been around in my 48 years. I've known him for 13 years and have leaned on him for advice, even in the last few days. He hired me at Creighton without even knowing me — a rarity in this business." Lynn Farrell, who coached basketball at Hastings College in Nebraska for 30 years, said Monday night, "I think Dana is as good a coach as Arkansas could have hired. I've known him since he was a boy in our basketball camp at Hastings. He grew up in Wilber, Neb., a little town near Lincoln." Farrell, brother of the late Lon Farrell, a former Arkansas athletic administrator, added, "I think Razorback fans will really enjoy and appreciate Dana. His teams will extend the defense, score and do the things conducive to fan support. I know he had good booster support at Creighton. To me, he's the whole package." Altman, a former all-conference quarterback at Wilber High, became a head basketball coach at 30 at Marshall, then landed the Kansas State job as a mustachioed 31-year-old. He had been an assistant at K-State under Lon Kruger. While coaching the Wildcats in the Final Four of the NIT in New York in his fourth year at the school, he accepted the Creighton job. "I remember people were surprised he left K-State," said Arkansas graduate John Ballard, an associate dean of engineering at Nebraska, whose father-in-law, Jerry Patrick, had played basketball at Kansas State. "But I know he's really liked by all the high school coaches in Nebraska." Like former Creighton and Arkansas coach Eddie Sutton before him, Altman refers to "our young men" a lot when speaking about his players. "He's very careful with notepads or cameramen around him," said Omaha World-Herald sportswriter Steve Pivovar. "At non-media events he can be very funny. But he's also very accessible and low-key. His practices have always been open. But his low-keyness ends at tipoff. He's as animated a coach as you'll ever see. He jumped in the air when Creighton beat Nebraska." Reva Altman said she and Dana often have their players over for barbecue. "I'm going to look around at houses here (today), before we fly back," she said. "I've never really been in Arkansas except for a time-share thing we did around Hot Springs Village one time. This is all new. Audra was good on the phone when we told her about Arkansas." Audra, an eighth-grader, has already seen Fayetteville High School. Coach Altman did OK on his first Hog call ("for a Northerner," he said), and in talking Patrick Beverley into remaining at Arkansas. "We had recruited Beverley a little bit at Creighton and his mother remembered the phone conversation I had with her," Altman said. Altman also said he looked forward to coaching against Texas next season. "I hope we can always play Texas," he said.

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