Ask Mike: Ranking Pittman’s Salary, Nick Smith Jr.’s Tweet & Are Internet Fans Dumb?

By Mike Irwin
on 2023-01-09 19:26 PM

Q. T. L. Slaten says: A lot of our fans are complaining about Pittman’s new contract and blaming the 7-6 season on it. Like he suddenly got money hungry. I saw this week where he’s actually two from the bottom in SEC coaches salaries. I don’t get the problem here.

A. Most of those complaining probably don’t know where his salary ranks. They got mad because when he was hired Pittman said he was so glad that had the job he wasn’t sure what was in his contract. Also his agent was an attorney friend that he knew. Fans liked that.

So when Pittman switched to Jimmy Sexton, who is a high pressure negotiator for his clients, they got mad and assumed that Pittman was suddenly about money more than being at Arkansas.

Also Sexton was the agent who used an offer from Arkansas to get Gus Malzahn a big new contract at Auburn and the agent who stepped in when it looked like Lane Kiffin might be come to Arkansas and tried to get Arkansas into a bidding war with Ole Miss. So a lot of Hogs fans hate the guy.

The bottom line is, Pittman’s love for the job did not change. He’s not going to take another job for more money. His raise was actually fairly modest.

I am told that he doesn’t plan to coach for 10 or 15 more years. Coaching is a stressful line of work. More so as a head coach. He likes his time away from coaching. Going to the lake house in Hot Springs. Going to Oaklawn to watch the ponies run. He and his wife having friends over to their home. He’d like to enjoy his retirement years.

I think he wants to make Arkansas football a factor in the SEC. Build the program up and leave the next head coach with a much better situation than the one he inherited. And if he does that, good for him as far as I’m concerned.

Q. mousetown asks: Curious for your reaction to Jimbo hiring Petrino. Also since you appear to be a fairly conservative guy why are you so negative toward A&M since it is a very conservative university?

A. I don’t know about the academic side of A&M. Maybe it is a very conservative school. But athletically stuff has been going on there for decades that doesn’t mirror a conservative philosophy to me. If they hired head coaches who went into recruits homes and said, We don’t buy players, we want players who will come in and develop and win the right way with hard work, we’re all about teaching our players that cutting corners is not the way to be successful, I would be all over that. .

But the truth is, for decades they’ve been trying to use their booster war chest to try to win titles. Most of that comes from the old days when they were trying to outdo Texas. But it is, what it is.

As far as Petrino, he has proven in his last three jobs since he was fired here, that he’s settled his personal life down. That stuff looks to be behind him. But he does have an issues with commitments and I don’t like the way he took the job at UNLV and then dumped on them a few weeks later. If the Aggies wanted him they should have done that when the season was over instead of letting another school hire him and then stealing him away with a bigger money offer.

Also this whole thing has been forced on Jimbo Fisher by boosters. They don’t like his play calling and think the problem will be solved by hiring Petrino.

Maybe they should have talked to some Arkansas people who could tell them what happened when boosters tried that with Houston Nutt. It backfired, turning into a big mess. If a head coach wants to call his own plays then let him. If the AD thinks he’s bad at it, the AD can fire him. Forcing this on Jimbo looks like a mistake to me.

Q. Robs4516 says: Occasionally I read comments to the effect that media personnel don’t ask coaches difficult questions in fear of losing access to the particular program. Do you feel some in the media refrain from asking “the hard question”? Is “losing access” really a thing? 

A. This comes up all the time on the Internet and it’s complete nonsense. In 47 years of covering Arkansas I’ve never seen anybody in the media lose access. The coaches may not like you but you will get a press pass and you will be at press conferences.

He’s what the people who make that claim don’t get. When this is your job you’re not going to go to a press conference and attack a coach like you’re a high dollar defense attorney interrogating a key witness in a murder trial. Your supposed to be objective. So you ask your questions like a professional. You can ask Sam Pittman about play calling or other issues without implying that he’s an idiot.

But with some fans, I think they’ve been watching too many movies where reporters are always shouting and demanding answers instead of just asking questions.

Q. Hawgredneck wants to know: Did it surprise you when Briles decided not to go to Mississippi State?

A. No. It was just like last year when Miami showed interest in him and he stayed. Supposedly he got a raise. Maybe he got another one. I do know that K.J. Jefferson said he came back in part because of Briles and Briles has said that KJ is a big reason why he has stayed.

I think a lot of Briles issues at Arkansas have been caused by the lack of a backup QB who can move the chains when K.J. is hurt, a backup QB that he had to develop a separate package for. Arkansas will now have two backup QBs similar in style to K.J..

Briles job should be less complicated next fall.

Q. gogitchyershinebox says: There are multiple rumors about Dowell Loggains having burned his bridges on ever coming back to Arkansas. I’m even seeing that he was part of the locker room trouble that may have gotten the former strength and conditioning coach fired. Is there any truth to this?

A. Nobody I talk to believes this. They say that Loggains was an NFL offensive coordinator and play caller. He was not going to stay in the role of a tight ends coach at the college level for long. So when he got the chance to coach QBs and call plays at South Carolina he took it. There is no bad blood between Loggains and Pittman.

If he does a good job at South Carolina, I would not be surprised to see him back here at some point.

He’s really good guy and there’s no way he was a disruptive influence on this team.

Q. Deep Shoat wants to know: Why are online Arkansas fans so danged dumb?

A. First of all, we if we are talking about habitual complainers on the Internet I would say it’s about some fans and not even close to most of them. Also most of the ones you are referring to are not dumb, they just like to stir things up. When I was a kid my best friend and I like to go around stepping on ant beds just to watch them go bananas. It was fun. That’s what some of these people are doing.

Also popping off makes them feel like they have power.

The few that seem dumb are usually just uninformed, like the guy on Facebook who thought Arkansas’ new secondary coach was going to coach linebackers because he was the numeric replacement for Michael Scherer who coached linebackers under defensive coordinator Barry Odom. Odom had gone to UNLV as head coach leaving an opening for a secondary coach. After the Liberty Bowl Scherer joined Odom. Arkansas new defensive coordinator is a linebackers coach but the fan clearly didn’t know that when he ripped head coach Sam Pittman on Facebook for, he thought, hiring a secondary coach to coach linebackers.

Q. Marty Byrde’s proxy says: We now have our third great basketball coach at the U of A. The common thread is all 3 had superb defensive teams. Can you compare the defensive styles they coached? Do you see Muss’ teams as a Nolan-Sutton hybrid or more like Eddie’s teams?

A. No question Muss is more like Sutton in his defensive philosophy. He likes to play a man defense. Sutton would rather be shot than put a zone defense on the court. Muss will do it at times but he’s mainly a man defense guy.

Nolan was a full court trap advocate. He also trapped in the half court but had no problem going with a zone defense if needed.

Q. To basketball where PlanoHog asks: Why do we only play Auburn once and don’t get them at home?

A. The SEC schedule shifts from year to year. You don’t play every team in your division twice every season. Last season Arkansas played Auburn just once, that was at Bud Walton. This season it was still one game but at Auburn. In 2020 they played each other home and home.

Q. OKINAWAHOG says: The men’s basketball team really struggles on offense. If the defense travels every game we should be able to have a good season but not as good as the last 2 teams. What do you think?

A. I think it’s too early to come to that conclusion. Musselman’s teams have historically started slow in conference play but come on strong by late January or early February.

Arkansas actually shot 11 fewer three pointers against Auburn than against LSU. They did the right thing. They got open for layups. They just missed a bunch of them. That’s not typical.

I think defense was a bigger part of the Auburn loss than most fans noticed. Auburn is shooting 28% from three point range. They are more of an inside scoring team this season. They shot 42% from two point range. A lot of that was on uncontested layups, defensive breakdowns on backdoor plays. As we move forward I expect to see that problem corrected.

Q. Eddy Lynn says: What’s going on with Nick Smith Jr.? Two weeks ago it was all over the Internet that he was done. Last week all these Internet experts started saying he’ll be back in February. Which is it?

A. Well this afternoon Smith Jr .actually weighed in on this subject. He posted on Twitter: ‘I’m not here to talk. It’ll all make sense later. I’m here to work.’

This, in reaction to a tweet by teammate Kamani Johnson telling people to get off his case.

Q. Hogdogger says: I know Muss’ history at the U of A is to get the team in sync eventually and towards the middle of sec play. Is this the norm for other basketball schools too? Is it different with each coach experience?

A. I think Muss is somewhat rare in the way he does things. I’m told that it’s his experience in pro basketball that makes him different. He does X’s and O’s like a football coach. He often comes up with very different game plans game-to-game. Mainly he believes that defense can carry a team in March and he works throughout the season to get his guys better and better defensively. So far it’s worked really well.

Q. Edwardclutch says: My nephew is going crazy for a Devo Davis jersey but we can’t find them anywhere. I know the NIL football jerseys weren’t released until the season was about halfway over. What is the hold up with getting these products to fans who would gladly pay the money to support the athletes?

A. My contact at the university has not gotten back to me on when those basketball jerseys will be available. But my sources in sports merchandising tell me that Nike is in the shoe business, not the jersey business. They have been slow is getting these NIL jerseys ready for football and now basketball. Nike is about their logo being on TV. Having them on fan’s jersey is not a priority for them. Just be patient. I’m sure the athletic department is doing everything it can to speed this process up but it’s a problem at all Nike schools.

Q. Dr. Strangepork says: After attending MBB in the Barn and Bud from late 70s to mid-90s – was finally able to make my way back and watch the MO game. Great game. Sadly though I am not a fan of the DJ, the commercials and very disappointed in the reduced/limited role of the Hog Wild Band.

A. This comes up periodically. The best answer I can give is that D.J.s at games is a thing all over college basketball. The band will always be there but it is not going to play the same role as in the past. In general, older fans don’t like this. Younger ones are all over it. Recruits, who are at the games, really like the D.J.s. I’m told that Arkansas’ D.J. is really good.

Q. RazorAlex88 says: This question is actually for Courtney:
How was your first Razorback bowl experience? What was your favorite part(s) aside from the Hog victory?

A. This was a hard one for me to answer honestly, but since I can’t say the thrilling 3OT victory for Arkansas was my favorite part, I would have to go with the fact that the atmosphere was one of the best I’ve ever been a part of when it comes to bowl games. All week long the storyline on social media was that Arkansas doesn’t want to be there and that Kansas is more motivated to win. I didn’t know if those sort of comments would affect Razorback fans attendance. Boy, was I wrong. Hog fans showed up in full force and made it an electric atmosphere. Truly one of the best bowl games I have ever been to!

(Last updated: 2023-01-09 19:26 PM)