basketball Edit

Pittman says Arkansas hit grand slam with Calipari hire

The Arkansas Razorbacks made a splash hire in the basketball department Wednesday, as it is now official that Kentucky's John Calipari will be the Hogs' 14th head coach in program history.

At the same time, Arkansas football is still finishing up spring practices ahead of their 2024 season — including the annual spring football game set for Saturday.

The Calipari hire shook not just the college basketball landscape, but the news also made its way to the Hogs' football team as well.

Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman said that even though he's not involved with the basketball team, he paid plenty of attention to the coaching search.

“Well, I live in Arkansas, so it kind of be hard not to," Pittman said Tuesday. "But I believe in Hunter Yurachek. He’ll find the best guy. I guess according to everybody, we found him. I don’t know him well but if he’s a good coach, we probably hit a pretty good home run. Maybe hit a grand slam.”



The basketball coaching search made Pittman reminisce about the time that he was approached by Yurachek — the program's athletics director — in 2019 to lead the football program. Reeling after two straight 2-10 finishes, the task of rebuilding the Razorback football program was daunting.

"The one question that he asked me was, ‘Can you handle being the head football coach at Arkansas publicly? Can you be the guy?’" Pittman said. "He obviously understood the passion of the fanbase. That can work for you and against you at times. I have experienced both of those. The answer was, ‘hell yeah.’ That’s what I remember. To be honest with you, he hasn’t changed at all since we’ve been here."

Yurachek's blunt and direct nature of leadership is something Calipari can likely expect from his new boss, according to Pittman.

"Hunter doesn’t leave that for question," Pittman said. "He’s going to tell you what needs to be done and what you’re doing well, what you need to improve on. Very direct, very honest and he stays to his word. That’s what the new basketball coach can expect. He’s my boss. I’ve enjoyed every bit of it with him because he been honest and directly to the point.”

Calipari said he called Houston head men's basketball coach Kelvin Sampson to learn more about Yurachek, who was the athletics director at Houston before taking the Arkansas job in 2019.

"(Sampson) and I are dear friends, and I said, tell me about Hunter," Calipari said. "Well, he almost jumped through the phone, and I said, what are you talking about? I talked to his assistant who used to work for me, Bilal, and he said, when you need things done, then he goes and does it. He’s, what can I do to help you, and then we’re going to get it done.

"I mean, what he did at Houston, the building, the practice facility, all this stuff. What Kelvin needed so he could coach basketball. That got me to where I had to listen, because I’m going to say it again, basketball coaches win games. Administrations win championships, and you know why? Because they want to, and it’s important to them."

HawgBeat will closely follow all movement regarding Arkansas basketball's roster and coaching staff, so stay tuned to The Trough premium message board for the latest.

As for Pittman and the football team, they practice again Thursday before finishing up with the annual spring football game on Saturday. Things are set to begin at noon CT and it will be streamed live on SEC Network+.