This was not exactly the way University of Arkansas chancellor John White saw his Tuesday going – or now his Wednesday for that matter.
But with new Razorback head basketball coach Dana Altman deciding he was better off staying at Creighton than fully committing to being the head coach at Arkansas just a day after taking the job, White was forced to talk with reporters and will be dialing up a search firm today.
"This is one of the shortest chapters and one of the most disappointing chapters in the history of the institution and certainly the long storied success of this program," White said. "But you know this program is strong and we are going to be strong in the future."
White said he and athletic director Frank Broyles – who was on his way back from Augusta National Golf Club - will move immediately Wednesday morning to hire a search firm that specializes in coaching searches.
"Coach Broyles and I are going to discuss that in the morning," White said. "We have a firm in mind, but we don't know if they are available. We'll make the contact tomorrow. Obviously it was beyond the close of business today and we didn't have the ability to make those contacts today.
"..I think the principal benefit of this search firm is – in a sense – the ability to make contacts outside of the view of the entire public," White added. "My belief was – and I think Coach Broyles' belief was – that we had strong reasons to believe that there were some individuals that had great interest in being here at this program and that we would have a great interest in attracting. So we move forward on that basis."
Arkansas' search to replace Stan Heath had been highly publicized and at times ridiculed by the national media as the names of Texas A&M's Billy Gillispie, Kansas' Bill Self, USC's Tim Floyd, Memphis' John Calipari and Marquette's Tom Crean were all mentioned before Altman was offered and accepted the job."
"Now we have had a hiccup and we say ‘okay in that case – because there are likely to be all kinds of false perceptions now nationally at what is going on at Arkansas and what caused this to occur," White said, "we are going to have to know use a professional that can tell our story and tell it in ways that we are limited in our ability to do so publicly.
"They will be able to go and talk about all kinds of parameters in terms of what financial packages would be and what all the opportunities are in a way that you just can't do otherwise."
Speaking of financial packages, White said the search will not be restricted by money and that certainly the basketball coach could be paid more than the football coach if necessary – something that many thought would never happen at Arkansas.
"We are going to pay what we need to pay to get a top coach at the University of Arkansas in basketball," White said. "There are not any constraints that I know that are going to limit us there. That is one of the things I told Coach Broyles before he started the search – ‘I don't want you to think small, I want you to think big and I don't want you to be worrying about what the salary is. You do what you need to do to get the best person here.'
"He was true to that all the way through the process," White said. "I have no doubts we will be able to provide the resources necessary. Now we have got to get moving quickly and we need to get a firm out there and making contacts with those individuals that they may know that we didn't know that would be available today. There are probably some that are going to be available now that would not have been available a week ago."
The Real Deal on the Hill AAU Tournament is this weekend in Fayetteville. It is an event that will bring over 1,000 top prospects and the nation's biggest name coaches to Bud Walton Arena.
White said the search is not one that must be done before that event.
"We understand that, but we are going to take the time to get the right person for the job," White said. "In the long term, that is the most important thing. We are not going to be driven by whoever is available first. We are going to engage the services of that firm and we suspect there is going to be a lot of movement and a lot of opportunity for us in the next few days. We are not going to get rushed into a decision."
Until a head coach is hired, former Heath assistant Glynn Cyprien will be in charge of the program.
"We still have Coach Cyprien who is here with us and we have the administrative staff working with the players and the trainer and basically that is their part of continuity right now.
"We will have a much better plan on this tomorrow," White said. "I don't have a lot of experience in this so I can pull something out and say go to page 13 – this is how you handle a situation like this."
White said he feels for the players most.
"This is a bump in the road," White said. "We'll get past this and I am very confident we are going to get a terrific coach. I just hate it for the players. I hate it for our players. They went through a week of agony about who our coach is going to be and they got all excited with Coach Altman. It was the style of play that I knew would excite them."
He believes things will run smoother with the search firm in place.
"I think the search firm is the thing that will help us to move this quickly because they already have a list," White said. "they have been in discussions all during this process and the tournament and they know who the people are that are going to be accessible and available to us. They also know what style we are looking for and that we have been able to define the parameters of the job through this process that there should be no uncertainty."
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