Stunning Development

Just a day after getting a new head basketball coach, the Razorbacks react to him flying the coup and heading back to Creighton.

Some of Arkansas' basketball players heard the news on TV. Others simply received a text message on their cell phones asking if it was true.

But when the players arrived at Bud Walton Arena on Tuesday evening, only to be met by a large gathering of reporters, they had no doubt that the news was true.

Dana Altman had indeed decided to return to Creighton University after spending around 24 hours as Arkansas' new coach.

"It's a hurting feeling to think that we had a coach and we were going to move forward, and now today we took a couple of steps back," Arkansas point guard Gary Ervin said. "We've just got to stay positive and think positive about this situation."

That could be easier said than done.

After Altman was introduced at a news conference Monday evening, several Arkansas players spoke at great lengths about how relieved they were to finally know who their new coach was going to be.

They were looking forward to playing Altman's up-tempo style of basketball. And after meeting with the coach, Arkansas guard Patrick Beverley ended the speculation that he was considering transferring to another school.

But now there is more uncertainty surrounding the basketball program, which only three weeks ago was celebrating its second straight NCAA Tournament appearance.

"To see a head coach leaving like that, it kind of hurts a lot of people's feelings," Arkansas power forward Darian Townes said. "We had a lot of high expectations for him coming in. We think we're going to do a lot of good things, and it was a relief when he got here.

"But hearing that he's leaving, it's going back to square one."

Arkansas forward Sonny Weems said he holds no ill will toward Altman, who said his decision to return to Creighton was based entirely on his family and his love for the private school.

Still, the news came as a shock to Weems, as it had for the rest of his teammates.

"Like Gary said, I think we took two steps back, and I think it's been a big change for us," Weems said. "We were looking forward to this coach and this upcoming season, so I think everybody is down right now."

Several Arkansas players, including Beverley and forwards Charles Thomas and Michael Washington, walked past reporters as they headed into Bud Walton Arena for a team meeting on Tuesday. They were told not to speak with the media.

Beverley said Monday that he was committed to playing for the Razorbacks, and that he had signed to play for Arkansas -- not a particular coach. That could change, however, following Altman's abrupt decision to return to Creighton.

While Beverley didn't address the issue Tuesday, Townes said that several players could end up transferring -- though he doesn't plan to be one of them.

"People are probably leaving, just probably want to get away and do something for their career in basketball. But I'm staying here," Townes said. "... I'm not going (anywhere)."

Arkansas athletic officials will immediately begin another search to find Stan Heath's replacement, though that could take another few weeks.

In the meantime, Arkansas' players are forced to sit and wonder about which direction the program is headed.

"Everything is up in the air right now, but when we sit down with our team, the biggest thing is just trying to stick together as one," Ervin said. "... When it's all said and done, for our next coach we're going to have the same group of guys that were here last year."


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