Two Cents: Give Heath a Break, He Deserves One (2/1/2006)

(I worked as a Sports Editor from late 2004 until the summer of 2006. This is one of the many columns I was able to save that were originally published in The Sun-Times of Heber Springs, Arkansas.)

Arkansas lost to Kentucky Sunday and from reading the state newspaper, you would think the end of Razorback athletics is at its nadir.

Before I get started let me make something perfectly clear: I don’t have a personal vendetta against Wally Hall. I just think that sometimes he overreacts a little, and other times he shows his age a bit.

After Sunday’s loss (who among you Hog fans thought that Arkansas would leave Rupp Arena with a win?) Wally Hall began a column writing campaign to expose the evils of Stan Heath’s regime.

He sort of defended Heath in Monday’s column – saying it wasn’t coaching and it was the players who didn’t play with energy and execution – and I somewhat agreed with him. Until I got to the point where he wrote, “there are no pure shooters on the team”.

Well excuse me for living and breathing in Heber Springs, but I believe there is a 6’7” former Panther who was once described by that same scribe as “the best pure shooter in the state”.

Now I’m not going to get into a rant about how Heath should be playing Preston Cranford more (I’m saving that one for March). I’m just trying to point out the selective shortsightedness that must come with being a Razorback supporter. Just because he never gets off the bench doesn’t mean he isn’t there.

Then came Tuesday’s column, where Hall derided Heath for not getting angry enough when his players messing up. He goes on to cite coaches like Jim Calhoun, John Chaney, Gary Williams, Eddie Sutton and of course, Nolan Richardson.

All of those coaches – with the exception of Nolan – have been tenured at their universities for years and have won their share of ball games. Not to mention the fact that most of them are old enough to be Stan’s dad.

Maybe Heath is part of the new generation of coaches that doesn’t feel the need to publicly berate a player because he didn’t set a screen, or threw a pass out of bounds. In any event, I don’t think that chewing the players out is Heath’s problem.

I don’t think he’s a great coach, and I don’t think he’s a poor coach. I think he’s a coach that doesn’t use his bench enough – ahem, Cranford and what’s up with only playing Sean McCurdy three minutes against Kentucky? – but give him a break.

He’s got a good class of recruits coming in, and he still isn’t playing a team that consists entirely of his kind of player. They have improved gradually each year, so have some patience and stick with what you’ve got.

Because the coach that should be leading your Razorbacks got away.

Stan Heath was the glamour hire, but if Broyles had any sense, he would have given the job to former Hog assistant Mike Anderson.

Anderson is doing a spectacular job at Alabama-Birmingham. I know this for a fact because my Memphis Tigers have to play them twice a year. And I dread those games more than I used to dread playing Cincinnati or Marquette.

All he has done at UAB is compile an 80-38 mark in his three plus years there. After his hire he led the Blazers to the biggest single season improvement in school history, and UAB has led the nation in steals all three years under Anderson – a NCAA first.

He has gone 30-18 in C-USA play and reached the sweet 16 of the 2004 NCAA tournament. And promptly upset the number one team in the country – the Kentucky Wildcats.

I know what you’re going to say. C-USA is watered down and is not the conference the SEC is. Well, up until last year it was as competitive as the SEC, and Anderson is achieving more success than Heath with less talent.

Imagine what he could do in the SEC with better recruits. Imagine all the players – Andre Igoudala – that would have honored their commitments to Arkansas had Anderson been promoted after Richardson’s dismissal.

So, I guess the moral of this story is: You put the mud and slop in your pigpen, now you have to lie in it. Give Heath a break and let him do the job he was hired for.

If you can’t stand that, check out the job your should have been coach is doing down at UAB.



Categories: Arkansas Razorbacks, Basketball, sports

Tags: , , , ,

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