Ask Mike: Cal Mania, Baseball Woes & Spring FB, Hype Or Real?

By Mike Irwin
on 2024-04-15 20:21 PM

Q. Our first question is from Marty Byrde’s proxy who wants to know: How will coach Cal fit in here with media and fans?

A. The initial impression looks very promising. What I liked the most was that he didn’t come across as making a hard sell to convince fans that he’s all in on being a Razorback. His approach was somewhat low key but convincing, yet the reaction in the arena was beyond anything I saw when Heath, Altman, Pelphrey or Anderson were introduced. I think the fans sense that this guy is genuine and they responded to it. Look, he’s the polar opposite of Musselman. He even made a joke that nobody would want to see what he looks like with his shirt off. The students loved that kind of stuff from Muss. Older fans not so much. I think the students will love Cal if he wins but he’s much more in line with what most of the fanbase looks for in a coach.

Q. Sherlock.Hawg asks: What is your analysis of this hire? Does Cal have enough gusto left to make the next 5 years memorable for us and maybe get us back in the championship hunt?

A. All we’ve got to go on now is what he said at the presser and how he came across. So What I just said stands. I liked that he didn’t oversell himself. He said he was energized and he looked like he was without tearing off his shirt and going bonkers. My best guess is, yes, he will get this basketball program back in the championship hunt. Hog fans have been very patient because since that presser there’s been no word about how recruiting is going. They want some good news.

Q. S-giles says: I really like Cal’s sense of humor. He’s not over the top funny but sort of understated. I never knew that about him.

A. I agree with that. Two good examples. First the way he handled a question about his @ handle. He was like, THE WHAT? Then he proceeded to explain that he doesn’t use a computer. He has somebody on his staff handle all of his social media posts. He tells them what to post. He doesn’t mess with posting it. He also went on to explain that he never responds to negative or challenging comments to what he puts up on his X or Facebook site. Like, this is my opinion. Take it or leave it. I don’t care. But I also noticed that he did have a new @ name for both X and Facebook. So he understood the question. He used that question to make several points about how he feels about social media.

The other funny quip he came up with was to a question about what he has done so far in his new job and he said, “First I met with the team. There is no team.” He didn’t get a big laugh out of that but the room was full of reporters. We don’t usually laugh in press conferences but trust me, inside a lot of us were laughing.

Q. KY Hogfan asks: What’s the big deal about Cal not calling the Hogs in front of the fans for the first time? I live out of state and yes, I get the Hog call but give the man time. He’ll come around. Same thing with him not wearing a red coat or red tie. He’s got other things on his mind right now.

A. There have been a few fans who have made those comments on social media. If you read the responses most of them are what you posted. Trust me, the Hog call and wearing a red tie is not a big deal with most fans right now. They are more interested in the players he brings in.

Q. whippersnapper asks: Can we get Derrian Ford and Joseph Pinion back? Hopefully Cal won’t push out the born and raised guys from this state. They’re the backbone of Arkansas’s best teams in the past.

A. I don’t think that Cal is going to bring back any of the guys who have left or hit the portal unless he believes that they can really make a difference. He’s got put a winning team on the floor. As for in-state recruiting, Arkansas has a really strong AAU presence in this state. There are four or five star players from Arkansas in almost every recruiting cycle. I don’t think he will ignore that.

Q. tophawg19 wants to know: Now that Muss is gone, can y’all talk freely about all that was going on? There was a lot of things going on in the locker room. Rumors came out but no facts. Can you elaborate on this.

A. I think we’ve been talking freely all along. Musselman is not a warm and fuzzy guy. He’s moody. He’s got a temper and and he’s well known for going off on players in practice. If you want facts you’re not going to get them unless some of these ex Razorbacks players open up but the story I got was that he he kicked a couple of players off the team early on, only to tell his assistant coaches to tell them to come back. There’s only one way to play for Muss. It’s his way or the highway and I’m fine with that personally. It wasn’t until mid February that some of the players started to come around. If it had happened earlier Arkansas would have been in the NCAA Tournament but Muss still would have left. He wanted a change of scenery.

Q. Hogdogger says: I’ve heard several national sports shows that muss left because “fans turned on him”. I don’t believe that at all. Our fans have showed up to cheer the Hogs on. But doesn’t every university have obnoxious fans when a team has a losing record?

A. Yes and most coaches understand that. Muss was ready to go. In his long career he’s never stayed anywhere for long. He was here for five seasons. That’s his limit. There’s some pretty good evidence that he would have left for a couple of other jobs had he been offered. That worked in his favor because USC was one of two or three jobs that he wanted most. This has nothing to do with Arkansas and everything to do with going back home to Southern California. The truth is, this wasn’t a lateral move. It was a backward move in the coaching profession. USC has a small fanbase and very little history of success in basketball. It’s a football school and next season those Big Ten road trips are going to be brutal. Muss loves warm weather and the beach and now he’s got it. That’s what this move was about.

Q. hawgredneck says: Hunter said that Calipari was the only coach he offered the job to. Don’t you think he’s fibbing? What did Broyles used to say? The only coach that got offered was the one that accepted the job?

A. It may be that but some ADs approach a candidate by saying, Look, I’m really interested. Let me shoot you a proposed contract. You look it over and tell me if you would accept it. Supposedly that’s what happened with Chris Beard. Yurachek showed him a contract that had a heavy penalty if he left before three seasons. Beard that’s not a contract he would sign. Going all the way back to when Musselman was hired there were some boosters that wanted Yurachek to wait until after Texas Tech lost in the national championship game to see if Beard would be interested. Yurachek told me at the time that Beard had only been and Tech for two seasons and he wasn’t looking for a coach that would jump ship after a year or two.

I believe that Yurachek suspected Beard would leave Arkansas in a heartbeat if the Kentucky job came open which is why he added that clause in a proposed contract.

It’s entirely believable to me that Yurachek discussed a contract with Beard without offering him the job but unless Beard confirms it how would we know?

Q. HotlantaHog asks: Did something bad happen between Muss and Hunter Yurachek. I’ve heard references/rumors to their having a falling out in the Bahamas? Is there a story there?

A. Muss mostly left for the reasons I just gave. There are rumors that Yurachek didn’t like what happened in Hawaii two seasons ago with Muss and some San Diego State fans. That Yurachek said something about it and Muss got mad at him for that. There’s also a rumor that he told Muss to stop pulling his shirt off after big wins. That the big boosters thought it was childish. Supposedly Muss got mad about that.

Yurachek joked that he’s gonna write a book someday about all the behind the scenes stuff that goes on in coaching searches. If he does maybe he’ll address the rumors that Muss was mad at him. That’s he only way we’ll know for sure.

Q. Light Hoss Harry says: It’s been said that one of the reasons Muss left was a lack of NIL money. Listening to national media, which now say Arkansas has one of the best NIL budgets in the neighborhood of $5 million up to $6 million. I guess Tyson’s good for this???

A. I don’t think there’s any question that Tyson is playing a major role in providing not only the money to supplement Cal salary but also an NIL investment that will help him recruit. However Yurachek made it clear in his press conference with Cal that Warren Stephens is also involved along with several other boosters. But he also says there’s still more to be done. Honestly the Edge program, a grassroots NIL collective, needs a boost. I think a lot of fans who aren’t season ticket holders, or contributors to the Foundation are resisting the idea that the should help with smaller donations. $50, $100. A lot of it is a resistance to the whole notion of paying players when some of those players are just hired guns who come in, collect money and leave if they get a better offer.
It’s not NIL that needs to be reformed. It’s the portal.

Q. Nationwish says: If there were truly some large donors who felt jilted by what they got out of players’ commitments from NIL deals, can we read anything into Calipari’s comments that if a player wasn’t a great person and didn’t want to be active in the community that they wouldn’t be here?

A. That’s entirely possible. I have heard that several boosters want to make sure their money is well spent if they’re going to contribute. I also believe that they want some loyalty out of these players who are getting big NIL money. Another reason why the portal combined with NIL needs to be reformed.

Q. To football where T.L. Slaten says: I saw where you were making comparisons between K.J. Jefferson’s spring game stats and Taylen Green’s. Some fans thought you were taking a shot at K.J. Were you?

A. Absolutely not. I posted that before before Arkansas game started. I got a totally different vibe from the players this spring that what I observed last season and a lot of that has to do with Green. Your quarterback has to provide leadership and it’s hard for him to do that is he’s not getting the job done on the field. The Red-White game was a huge challenge for Green.

Q. mousetown is back in a told-you-so mood. He says: Warned you weeks ago. Hogs have the pitching and defense but that Nate Thompson launch angle exit velo nonsense will keep this team from being what it could be. Wake up DVH. Small ball works.

A. Hogs drop their first series of the season. Lose back to back for the first time and yes they were really bad at the plate in games two and three against Alabama. But baseball is a marathon not a sprint. Also let’s not forget…Arkansas bullpen…which has been rock solid in SEC play was off on both of those losses.

So now they have to bounce back. We’ll see how it goes.

(Last updated: 2024-04-15 20:21 PM)