FAYETTEVILLE — Rob Evans was waiting for the right opportunity, at the right place, at the right time.
And after a one year hiatus from coaching, the 38-year veteran found it in Fayetteville, on John Pelphrey's staff.
Arkansas' new head basketball coach tabbed Evans, a former head coach at Ole Miss and Arizona State, to fill one of two remaining coaching spots. Pelphrey said he hoped to complete his staff by Monday, at the latest.
But Thursday was all about Evans, the 60-year-old who was mentored by Lou Henson at New Mexico State and Eddie Sutton at Oklahoma State.
"We feel very fortunate to have Rob Evans join our staff, our
basketball family," Pelphrey said. "He's a class act away from the
court. He has been able to recruit Arkansas. He's going to bring a level of toughness to our program.
"I feel like he's the type of guy I wanted to be around on a daily basis."
For Evans, this will be an experience unlike any he has gone through in more than 15 years. He last served as an assistant coach in 1992.
But he didn't feel any reservations about no longer being the main man in charge. Speaking from Phoenix, Evans couldn't contain his excitement during a teleconference about returning to coaching.
"I never lost the itch to coach," Evans said. "I'm even more excited about it now, after being away from it."
Evans interviewed last month for the head coach opening at New Mexico and was approached by several schools recently about assistant coach possibilities. But he knew he could be choosy.
Before entertaining other options, he spent the last year traveling with his wife, Carolyn, and visiting his two children and one grandchild.
He did some color commentary on TV broadcasts for Mountain
West Conference games. He took trips to several schools and picked the minds of friends in the business, such as Kansas' Bill Self, Florida's Billy Donovan and Oklahoma State's Sean Sutton.
"I hadn't gotten to do that for a long, long time," Evans said.
When Pelphrey came calling, for the second time, Evans couldn't turn him down. The first time Pelphrey inquired about Evans was last year, around this time.
Pelphrey wanted Evans to join his South Alabama staff. Evans, who equated Pelphrey to "a young Billy Donovan," declined then. After coming to Fayetteville on Monday, Evans accepted.
"What I want to do is bring a head coach's perspective to him," Evans said. "Often times, when you're a young assistant coach, you want to tell a head coach what he wants to hear and not what he needs to hear.
"I want to tell him what he needs to hear."
That's exactly what Pelphrey was searching for as he sought to round out his staff. Pelphrey and Evans both remarked Thursday that they felt an immediate comfort level with one another.
Pelphrey talked about competing against Evans' Ole Miss teams when he was an assistant coach at Florida and watching Evans steal several recruits from Arkansas.
Evans spoke of his appreciation for Pelphrey's humble personality and his immense respect for Pelphrey as a former player and up-and-coming coach.
"There is a connection," Pelphrey said. "He brings a wealth of
knowledge, both as an assistant coach and as a head coach, and he knows what it's like to compete and recruit, not only in this league, but nationally."
ROB EVANS FILE
Children: One son, Damon, and one daughter, Amber
Hometown: Hobbs, N.M.
Colleges: Lubbock (Texas) Christian College (1965-66), New Mexico State (1967-68)
Division I Head Coaching Record: 205-201 (86-81 at Ole Miss, 1993-98; 119-120 at Arizona State, 1999-2006)
Assistant Coaching Jobs: New Mexico State (1969-75), Texas Tech (1976-90), Oklahoma State (1991-92)
Postseason Appearances: As a head coach at Arizona State, one NCAA Tournament (2003) and three NITs (2000, 2002, 2005). ... As a head coach at Ole Miss, two NCAA Tournaments (1997, 1998). ... As an assistant coach at Oklahoma State, two NCAA Tournaments (1991, 1992)... As an assistant coach at Texas Tech, three NCAA Tournaments (1976, 1985, 1986) and one NIT (1979). ... As an assistant coach at New Mexico State, four NCAA Tournaments (1969, 1970, 1971, 1975).
Notables: Named 1997 SEC Coach of the Year and CollegeInsider.com National Coach of the Year. ... Led Ole Miss to back-to-back 20-win seasons in 1997 and 1998, the first time that happened since 1937-38.
... Earned postseason bids with six of his 14 teams as a head coach. ... Coached as an assistant under Eddie Sutton and Lou Henson. ... Following college, signed as a free agent with the Dallas Chaparrals of the American Basketball Association and with the Oakland Raiders as a receiver.
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