For years, Eric Musselman has been on a text message chain with buddies who go back to his playing days at the University of San Diego in the mid 1980s. In the last few weeks they had, apparently, essentially dared him to put a clause into his new contract paying homage to his alma mater.
Musselman, as competitive as they get, took them up on this challenge, as the sports world found out on Wednesday.
In the fine print of his new 5-year, $20 million contract is a clause that states that no buyout is mandated if Musselman leaves Arkansas to coach San Diego after April 2024. (If he leaves to coach anywhere else in the 2024-25 season, he’d owe $1 million.)
Musselman said his former teammates are “going to be really happy when they see that, because no one thought I would actually put that in there or ask Hunter [Yurachek] to put it in there.”
A smile creeping across his face, he continued: “So there’s a lot of burritos that are owed to me when I go back for a three or four day vacation in San Diego.”
Razorback fans need not worry, he added.
“This is kind of a nod to the place I went to school, and I don’t think that University of San Diego is going to be competing with the Arkansas Razorbacks” when it comes to where Musselman will coach in the prime of his career.
That clause is all fun and games, sure, but the larger question remains: For how many more years will Musselman coach at Arkansas?
If he falls in love with Fayetteville enough, can he become the Dave Van Horn of basketball?
Arkansas’ baseball coach since 2003 is among the most consistently successful head coaches ever employed by the University of Arkansas.
Wess Moore, the longtime sports anchor in Little Rock, sees a few similarities between how he and Musselman have begun their Razorback careers.
In 2004, Van Horn, just in his second season, took the Razorbacks all the way to the College World Series — the “Elite Eight” of college baseball. Similarly, Musselman led his group of Razorbacks to the Elite Eight in only his second season in charge.
Granted, there are differences in that Van Horn is an Arkansas graduate who met his wife at the school, while Musselman is from the west coast. Still, Moore asked his Buzz 103.7 FM listeners, “could Musselman be an Arkansas coach that’s going to be here for 15 years? Do you see that? Do you allow yourself to think that far ahead?”
It’s quite a thought.
At 56 years old, Musselman hasn’t coached in any one place for longer than four years since the 1990s.
In the increasingly high-pressure world of college basketball and football, coaches don’t tend to stick with programs as long as they do in baseball, where the money — and pressure — isn’t quite as high.
To last as long as 15 years, Musselman will have to avoid long dry spells when it comes to NCAA Tournament success. So far, that looks unlikely.
Musselman returns what should be a loaded team in 2022, replete with at least three high-powered incoming transfers. Hopefully, this increases’ the Razorbacks’ NCAA championship odds for next season.
Musselman will also need to stay contented enough with Fayetteville to avoid leaving for other programs. A place like Kentucky or UCLA, for instance, could be a serious threat in coming seasons if those jobs open up.
When it comes to sticking with the Razorbacks in future years, a big factor will likely be the relationship between Musselman and Yurahcek.
So far, it’s been great. An exact 180 from the dynamic between former athletic director Frank Broyles and Nolan Richardson, the last Razorback basketball coach to achieve this much success.
Richardson lasted 17 seasons at Arkansas before things disintegrated (to put it mildly) at the end.
Van Horn, too, is now in his 18th season.
For Musselman to make it that long in today’s ever-changing coaching climate would be a small miracle in and of itself.
But sometimes folks tire of seeking greener grass and decide to stick with a good thing once they find it.
Stranger things have happened.
For more on Musselman’s contract, go here:
“Let’s Hold Our Horses”: Signing Eric Musselman to a $5 Million New Contract Would Have Been a Bad Idea.