Pelphrey Rehashes First 40 Days At Arkansas

FAYETTEVILLE -- John Pelphrey's cell phone rang earlier this week, his wife's number popping up on the caller ID. Pelphrey knew the subject of the call.

His 10-year-old son, Jaxson, played in a baseball game that day back in Mobile, Ala. Pelphrey's wife, Tracy, and his two children have stayed in Alabama as he has worked 15-plus hour days and traveled extensively during his first 40 days as Arkansas' basketball coach.

And, all the while, he has missed out on everyday family life, including Little League baseball games.

"The hardest part about all of this has been what it's done to my personal life," Pelphrey said. "I mean, Jaxson hits a big triple, and I'm not there. I'm missing out on so many important things. I understand it's part of the job. But it's tough."

The time away from family have admittedly been difficult for Pelphrey, but they've been productive.

Ever since he and Tracy eagerly participated in a Hog Call in Bud Walton Arena on April 9, Pelphrey has crammed in as much work as possible. Pelphrey talked about his hectic beginnings at Arkansas on Friday, meeting with members of the media for the first time in more than a month.

Seated behind the desk in his Bud Walton Arena office, Pelphrey explained how crazy his life became after leaving South Alabama, discussed the upcoming season and praised Arkansas' fans and facilities.

Upon his arrival in Fayetteville, Pelphrey initially met with Arkansas' current players, then committed to adding at least two recruits before the spring signing period ended Wednesday. He logged plenty of miles in the air, traveling to destinations such as New York, Maine, Texas and Louisiana.

In the end, he landed two in-state players, in Forrest City guard Marcus Britt and Springdale Har-Ber forward Michael Sanchez, and spotted key talent in the Class of 2008. Add in Stan Heath-recruited guard Nate Rakestraw, also of Har-Ber, and Pelphrey produced an all-Arkansas class for his first.

"That's real important," said Pelphrey, who recently took a golf trip to Ireland with Florida coach Billy Donovan. "We want to keep the best players in Arkansas at Arkansas." As for the current Razorbacks, Pelphrey found time to put them through individual workouts.

He said that he was encouraged by the two-hour sessions, which exposed the players' lack of conditioning, but that he didn't learn much from them.

"The players probably got more out of it," Pelphrey said. "Now they know what we expect out of them."

First and foremost, the coaching staff expects the players to take summer conditioning and lifting seriously. They need to "come back stronger, trimmer," Pelphrey said.

One of Pelphrey's assistants, Tom Ostrom, went further.

"They won't survive practices if they're not in much better shape after the summer," Ostrom said.

The increased conditioning is necessary because of Pelphrey's preferred style of play. His teams push tempo with the ball and harass opponents without it.

Pelphrey said his style forces him to use a nine- or 10-man rotation, subsequently making him test his players during practices.

"Fatigue will be an issue at our practices, and we're eager to see how they respond to those circumstances," Pelphrey said.

Learning how to deal with such trying, tiring times should benefit Arkansas throughout the weekly grind of the Southeastern Conference, Pelphrey said. The Hogs were erratic in conference play last season, experiencing multiple highs and lows.

"I was always ready (as a player at Kentucky) because I was never sure if I'd get a second chance," Pelphrey said. "This team needs to realize you don't always get second chances. Every game is important. It's kind of coach speak, but no one game is important than the other."

Hawgs Daily Top Stories