Column: 'The Sports Trail': Creighton's Dana Altman named Razorback basketball coach

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

by David McNeal

The big search is over, but the Razorback basketball nation won't be at rest for a while until they meet new coach Dana Altman.

Word was just e-mailed in that Altman was to be Stan Heath's successor, and already the blogs and message boards were on fire with opinions.

Gee, the guy is on board and five minutes later the "experts" are already on the warpath. Good grief. He's an experienced head coach that has made eight NCAA Tournament appearances, and he did it at a school, Creighton of the Missouri Valley Conference, that is much like Vanderbilt of the SEC.

Translate that as a school having a high entrance requirement. Translate that as not every future star having the grades or ACT scores to get in. Makes for tough recruiting.

Altman is 343-208 as a Division I head coach, which puts him way ahead of where Stan Heath was when he came of board. And Altman has been at the Omaha, Neb., school for 13 years, which means he's a stayer.

As Nate Allen reported mid-morning Monday, Altman was named Big Eight Coach of the Year during his tenure at Kansas State, and has won a minimum 20 games for nine straight seasons, a Missouri Valley Conference record.

I kind of like what I'm hearing, and I hope some of the more egotistical Razorback basketball players are paying attention.

Unfortunately, Heath was never able to keep all the boys in line, which was the main reason for his demise.?It didn't take long for the players to realize that Heath was a gentleman and believed that all were working together for the good of the team.

Too many took advantage of his kind nature and hogged shots or tried to make plays they weren't capable of making. When you have as many big men as Heath recruited, and they didn't touch the ball in key situations, there definitely was a problem.

I'm not sad to see Heath go. He just wasn't tough enough, which was easy to tell because his team wasn't tough enough every night. I do wish him well where ever he goes.

So, within the next few days we'll find out if Altman can recruit, as he is going to have to hang on to some of the players Heath brought in. Not all will stay. Some wouldn't fit in no matter who the new guy was. Every coach has to get his own.

But Altman can make or break next year's team with his efforts this week. Get those good freshmen back in the fold, keep those juniors-to-be-seniors and all that experience.

Frank Broyles insulted us all when he explained the month-long wait Stan Heath had before he was fired by claiming he was giving Heath a chance to find another job.

Broyles failed to mention that Heath thought he had a job and wasn't looking, but hey, that's the way it has worked all those years.

As for me, I'm happy to see Altman on board, and just as happy to see Broyles stepping away. How far he steps away is the question.

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