"We all saw glimpses of what this young team can accomplish when we play to our fullest potential," the letter read.
The letter was sent to roughly 13,000 season ticket holders. It detailed some of the season's highlights and disappointments.
Long said its purpose was to assure fans Pelphrey and the program were working to improve after a tumultuous season. He said both agreed it was a direct way to communicate with the fanbase.
"That letter was simply to kind of update the fans on where we stand," Long said. "That the coaching staff is working hard. That we understand how important basketball is to our fans. John is committed to building our program. That's really what it was, just a direct communication with our fans about their support and that we're working very hard to improve."
Some of the work is evident. Three players (forwards Glenn Bryant and Delvon Johnson and guard Julysses Nobles) have been added in the late signing period. Two players from the 2008-09 roster — forwards Andre Clark and Brandon Moore — have decided to transfer.
Arkansas also is monitoring forward Michael Washington, who has entered his name in the 2009 NBA Draft as a junior but has not hired an agent.
It has been a busy offseason, but Long said he and Pelphrey have dissected every facet of the program. Long also said he has been supportive of every move Pelphrey has made the past two months.
"We're building a program," Long said. "I can't overemphasize that. We want to build a strong, solid program with the right kind of young people in our program that are growing academically and athletically. ...
"Winning is very important. But I think it's important that we run our program the right way as we win. John's steps he's taken are right in line with what I'd hoped he'd do. We're on the same page."
That includes the coach's strict disciplinary beliefs. Pelphrey wrote of the growing pains players endured on and off the court, but stressed he will never "compromise our program for the sake of winning a game."
He also acknowledged it will take "great effort" from the players and tireless work from coaches in recruiting to improve next season. But Pelphrey said he remains "humbled" to be Arkansas' basketball coach.
"While we will continue to be a young team next season, I believe the lessons learned this season and the added depth of some incoming student-athletes will be a significant step in returning our program to the level where we can compete for an SEC Championship and regularly advance in the NCAA Tournament, and ultimately compete for an NCAA Championship once again," the letter read.
Dear Razorback Basketball Season Ticket Holder:
Now that the college basketball season has officially come to a conclusion, I wanted to take the opportunity to reach out to some of our most loyal and passionate fans. On behalf of my coaching staff and our student-athletes, I want to say thank you for your continued support of Razorback Basketball.
Although the 2008-09 season did not meet our high expectations or those of our loyal Razorback fans, I believe there are many reasons for optimism as we head towards next season. We all saw glimpses of what this young team can accomplish when we play to our fullest potential.
The season started on a positive note as we were able to win nine of our first 10 games, including a buzzer-beating win at South Alabama and a tournament title in the Jim Thorpe Classic at Bud Walton Arena. The atmosphere at Bud Walton Arena was electric as we hosted No. 4 Oklahoma. We played team basketball and sent the Sooners home with their only loss in the first 26 games of their season. Blake Griffin went on to national player of the year honors and Oklahoma advanced to the Elite Eight, but on that night in Fayetteville, Arkansas came away with the victory.
One week later, another Big 12 power came to Bud Walton Arena and left with a loss. A frenzied Razorback crowd and a national television audience watched as the Razorbacks upset the No. 8 Texas Longhorns. The roar of the crowd when Michael Washington drove to the basket and dunked the ball in the final minute of play against the Longhorns is something that I won't soon forget.
Our back-to-back wins over nationally ranked teams certainly caught the attention of our Southeastern Conference opponents. Despite our youth and inexperience, we had performed above our own expectations in the non-conference season. As we entered the conference season, we faced the best shot from our SEC foes. While we weren't able to sustain success in SEC play, we did learn many valuable lessons that I am certain will better prepare us for next season.
We also had some growing pains off the court as well. Some of our young men learned what it means to represent the University of Arkansas. I want you to know I will never compromise our program for the sake of winning a game. Our student-athletes must understand that discipline is part of our program and that conduct on and off the court is important as well as class attendance.
Replacing seven players in one year was an unenviable position to be in, but the only way to improve was through hard work each and everyday at practice. It will take great effort on our returning student-athlete's part to prepare for next season. As a coaching staff we are working tirelessly to recruit additional student-athletes in order to improve our talent on the floor and to provide the much needed bench strength that we need.
While we will continue to be a young team next season, I believe the lessons learned this season and the added depth of some incoming student-athletes will be a significant step in returning our program to the level where we can compete for an SEC Championship and regularly advance in the NCAA Tournament, and ultimately compete for an NCAA Championship once again.
Freshman Rotnei Clarke made his presence felt with a phenomenal performance scoring 26 points to lead us to a win over Alabama. Perhaps just as impressive were the more than 14,000 fans that filled the arena just days after a debilitating ice storm hit Northwest Arkansas. The 1994 NCAA Championship Team provided the inspiration for a convincing home victory over the Georgia Bulldogs. It was an honor for me to be a part of a weekend that saw Coach Nolan Richardson, Corliss Williamson, Scotty Thurman and the rest of the squad back at Bud Walton Arena.
The season also included some outstanding individual accomplishments. Michael Washington was named All-SEC by the Associated Press and league coaches, and all-district by a pair of outlets after leading the conference in rebounding. Freshman Courtney Fortson posted only the second triple-double in school history and finished the season as the nation's top freshman with 5.9 assists per game while ranking among league leaders in three-point percentage, three-point goals per game and scoring. Fortson earned freshman All-America honors for his efforts. Clarke's 83 three-point buckets were the most since former Razorback and current professional player Jannero Pargo made 95 in 2002.
The most impressive numbers we have of the season, however, came thanks to you and thousands of other Razorback fans who packed Bud Walton Arena night in and night out. Arkansas averaged an impressive 16,043 fans per game in paid attendance at home this season.
Few programs in the nation enjoy the extraordinary support that we do here at the University of Arkansas. I am humbled to be the head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks and am appreciative to be a part of a program with such a rich tradition of success.
Our coaching staff and student-athletes are already hard at work with our sights set on the 2009-10 season. Once again, thanks for your support and we look forward to seeing you back at Bud Walton Arena when we take the court next November.
Head Basketball Coach