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Looking back: Eric Musselman hired this day in 2019

Arkansas v Duke Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

FAYETTEVILLE, Ar. (AF) — Arkansas has a storied his of success when it comes to basketball. Many fans who were around in the 80s and 90s became accustomed to winning from coaches like Eddie Sutton and Nolan Richardson.

Between those two coaches, their teams won a total of 650 games between 1974 and 2002. Those wins included three Final Four appearances, one National Championship, 12 regular season conference championships, and seven conference tournament championships.

Those days had been lost somewhere along the way, though. Long enough that anyone born after 1994 had not seen the Razorbacks go so far as the Sweet 16.

After Nolan Richardson departed the program, Arkansas went the way of hiring Stan Heath, who took the reins from 2002 to 2007, and amassed a record of 82-71 in that time with just two tournament appearances.

A steep decline from the success Richardson had, the university parted ways with Heath and hired John Pelphrey.

An even steeper decline from the glory days of old, Pelphrey won just 69 games in four seasons, only seeing the tournament once between 2007 and 2011. Then the program turned to Mike Anderson.

Anderson was an assistant under Coach Richardson at the University of Tulsa, and Richardson brought him to Arkansas during his time there as well.

In his eight seasons at the helm for the Razorbacks, Anderson won 169 games, going to the tournament three times.

His final few seasons did not go quite as planned, and in 2019, the university moved on and a coaching search was underway.

Fans began to forget what it felt like to be on top of the college basketball world. The giant had fallen asleep.

Names continued to be tossed around, from guys like Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson to Gregg Marshall who was at Wichita State.

In the end, on April 7, 2019, Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek decided on Nevada Head Coach Eric Musselman.

Musselman had been in many places in his career, including multiple stops in the NBA with the Golden State Warriors and the Sacramento Kings. He finished second behind Gregg Popovich for the NBA’s Coach of the Year award in the 2002-2003 season.

Since Musselman has been at Arkansas, a sleeping giant has been awakened. His first season, he started the season at 8-0, a streak that hadn’t been seen since the 1997-1998 season.

Had it not been for the COVID-19 pandemic, fans might have seen an Arkansas team that was one season removed from an 18-16 season in the NCAA Tournament.

Musselman hit the ground running in the offseason, bringing names like Moses Moody, Justin Smith, JD Notae and more to the team. They started conference play that year 1-4 with losses to Tennessee, Missouri, LSU, and Alabama.

They finished the season as a three seed in the NCAA Tournament. In just his second season, he took the team to their first Elite Eight since 1995.

Heading into the 2021-2022 season, Musselman was determined to make sure that was not a fluke. He hit the recruiting trail like a bat out of hell, grabbing Trey Wade, Au’Diese Toney, Chris Lykes and others out of the transfer portal.

While things started off somewhat rocky, including an 0-3 start in SEC play and losses to Oklahoma and Hofstra, Arkansas finished the season with, once again, an Elite Eight appearance.

Moving forward, national experts have been put on notice with the Hogs. Musselman has secured the number two recruiting class in the nation, bolstered with three McDonald’s All-American players, and highly-rated transfers.

While you remember where the program has been compared to now, just remember this, Hog fans.

This is only year three.