Arkansas coach Eric Musselman headed out of his driveway Thursday morning, had the radio on and decided to call into The Morning Rush on ESPN Arkansas with Tye Richardson and Tommy Craft, but he had questions.
“As I was pulling out I said I’m going to try this call-in number and see if they really like pick up or if they just put you on hold or how does this really work,” he said at the end of a 10-minute conversation. “My first official call-in due to the virus of boredom so I appreciate you guys putting me on. I didn’t know if you were going to tell me to call back tomorrow or say we don’t have time today so why don’t you try calling back on Tuesday or Wednesday or something.”
Craft put it pretty simply how things work in Arkansas sports radio.
“Head coaches go to the front of the line,” he said.
After Wednesday’s signing day where Musselman landed four signatures including big men in Fort Smith Northside’s Jailyn Williams and graduate transfer Vance Jackson.
Both are 6-foot-9 and will go with 7-3 Connor Vanover and totally change the look of the lineup at least and, in theory, the way the team plays.
“We’re going to have to explore,” Musselman said. “Not having the guys right now makes it a little more difficult because we will have so many new faces.”
Having a bigger lineup and an awful lot of time to do his analytics and tinkering it’s a good bet all the film teams have on the Razorbacks from last season will be nearly useless.
“We want to try to get creative,” Musselman said. “We’re watching teams that play two bigs together. Right now that’s one of our projects. The big thing is how do we play pick-and-roll with a bigger lineup. We might not be able to close out as quickly as five guards.”
One thing he doesn’t want to do is give up too much ground on what the Hogs did best last season — guarding the three-point line.
“For all the problematic defensive rebounding issues we had we were number one in the country at defending the three,” he said. “When you get bigger, defending the three and extending your perimeter defense you become a little bit more vulnerable.
“Statistics are telling you now the three ball is as important as anything so we’re going to have to work with some of our bigs because we don’t want to lose one of the things we did better than anybody in the country in defending that three-ball line.”
In his NBA career he’s seen some pretty creative things, going all the way back to when his father, Bill Musselman, was coaching in Minnesota and faced the Los Angeles Lakers.
“One of the most creative matchups I’ve ever seen in my life my dad had Randy Brewer at 7-3 guard Magic Johnson in a game,” Musselman said Thursday morning. “They encouraged three-balls and took away all of his post-up.”
One thing is for certain, though, just as things are different with a media-savvy coach that makes unplanned call-ins to the morning show, coaches are going to have to figure out the Hogs as the early games get under way.