VAUGHT: Pelphrey a good storyline for SEC

One of the best storylines in the SEC next basketball season is the return of John Pelphrey, the new Arkansas coach. He's one of the "Unforgettables" that helped put Kentucky basketball back on the map under coach Rick Pitino and remains a favorite for most UK fans. But he also helped Billy Donovan build Florida into a national championship program before leaving to coach South Alabama.

"I think John is going to do great," Florida coach Billy Donovan said.

So do I. Some worry that he's stepping into a no-win situation at Arkansas. The Razorbacks have talent even though they forced coach Stan Heath to leave. Yet Arkansas is also rumored to have team chemistry issues -- something that must sound familiar to UK fans.

However, Donovan thinks playing at Kentucky and coaching at Florida will be an immense help to Pelphrey and so do I.

"He understands the league and the environement in this league. I think he will do a terrific job. He is dealing with a veteran team. It is very similar to the situation when we came to Marshall. I was 28 and inherited a team that had six seniors and a talented group.

"John is probably going to implement things he needs to do to win games. But there is no question he inherited a team that is very gifted, very talented and has one of best froncourts in the league to go with (guard Patrick) Beverly. There are a lot of pieces there. I also think he is a good enough coach that they will take to him well."

Pelphrey is personable, but demanding. He's caring, but disciplined. He likes offense, but understands defense.

He won't be overwhelmed by the attention of competition. He's been exposed to both.

Donovan's relationship with Pelphrey is similar to the one Donovan has with his mentor, Rick Pitino. That means Donovan doesn't try to give Pelphrey advice unless it is solicited.

"If John calls and wants to talk, we do that. We have a great relationshiop. Not only professional, but we are close friends. I had a chance coach him for three years. There was really no advice I could give john. I told him it was great situation and he it was a terrific team he was inheriting.

"With John, I don't think there was any wavering back and forth about wanting to be the coach. I think it is great to have him in the league."

So do I and my guess is that most Kentucky fans feel exactly the same way, too.


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