FAYETTEVILLE — John Pelphrey needed 10 minutes and a few choice words to endear himself to his new team. Before being introduced at a news conference Monday in Bud Walton Arena.
Pelphrey met with Arkansas' players, many of whom were admittedly "worn down" after the past two weeks.
But the former South Alabama coach captured everyone's attention with his fiery personality and R-rated language.
"He was cursing as soon as he came through the door," Arkansas forward Sonny Weems said. "We were like, ‘Man, he's serious. He's serious about being here.'"
Considering how the past week has gone for the Razorbacks, Pelphrey's intense demeanor came as a welcomed relief.
Several players admitted Monday that they had some reservations about Dana Altman, who decided last Tuesday to return to Creighton University after spending around 24 hours as Arkansas' coach.
But Pelphrey made a good first impression with his new players by showing that he wasn't like the low-key Altman.
He was passionate during the 10-minute meeting. He also knew players' names, something that Weems said Altman didn't know during his brief meeting with the team before his introductory news conference last Monday.
"When Coach Altman came in, it was just a different vibe. That's why I feel like a lot of our players were iffy about his situation," guard Stefan Welsh said. "But with Coach (Pelphrey), it's a complete 180. "He came in real fiery. He came in like he's been here for a couple years already. You could tell that he wanted this job."
Welsh said he was impressed with Pelphrey after learning that the coach played for former Kentucky coach Rick Pitino and served as an assistant under Florida's Billy Donovan.
Pelphrey's resume, in addition to his no-nonsense attitude and up-tempo style of play, helped his new players warm up to him.
Pelphrey spoke of wanting to run a fast-paced style of basketball that requires his players to press and force turnovers. He also indicated that things would be done his way.
"He is one of the type of coaches that this program needs," forward Charles Thomas said. "You know, a Nolan Richardson-type coach."
That was apparently enough for guard Patrick Beverley to commit to staying with the Razorbacks.
After Stan Heath was fired March 26, Beverley said he would wait until a new coach was hired before he'd make a decision about whether to transfer to another school.
Beverley agreed to remain at Arkansas after meeting with Altman, and the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year ended any speculation Monday that his decision could change following Pelphrey's hiring.
"It's been real tough lately with the coaching changes and everything. But I really like what he has to say, and I really like what he's got to offer," Beverley said. "I'm going to be here to stick around and play under him, and I'm really excited about (that)."
Forward Vincent Hunter, however, was not with the rest of the team to watch Pelphrey's news conference at Bud Walton Arena. He also didn't attend Altman's news conference, perhaps a sign that he's looking to leave for
For Arkansas' other players, they hope that Pelphrey's hiring ends what has been a difficult 24 days since they lost to Southern California in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
A day after Altman announced that he was returning to Creighton, Arkansas released a statement acknowledging that two players had failed drug tests and one was under academic suspension.
"The hardest thing to do is to stay focused in the classroom when you have situations going on like this," point guard Gary Ervin said. "The guys sat back, and we did some of the things that just took our minds off of it. And
now we're excited and relieved today."
Weems was particularly glad to see the coaching search come to an end.
"We didn't think anybody wanted to coach us. We were like, ‘$2.5 million can't get a coach in (here)?'" Weems said. "So we're excited. We can't wait to get started with him."
They should expect a few curse words, though.
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