Eric Musselman will have something else to occupy his time this summer other than sitting around waiting for coveted recruit Ron Holland to choose between the G-League and one season on The Hill.
With the news of longtime Musselman aide, Gus Argenal, accepting the head-coaching position at NCAA Division II Cal-State-San Bernardino, the Arkansas basketball coach may need to go to his Rolodex (do people even still use those now?) and find a replacement for Argenal. It won’t be easy to replace a guy who has been loyal to Musselman dating back to his Nevada days; it was obvious the head coach valued his opinion on the bench and that Argenal was a big asset on the recruiting trail.
Like many coaches, Musselman has a pattern of hiring members of his staff who have played or coached with him before. For example, in May of 2021, Musselman hired Keith Smart. Smart played for Musselman in the CBA and was later an assistant on his Golden State Warriors staff before becoming an NBA head coach. The Baton Rouge, La. native has done well and even served as interim head coach against LSU not long after Musselman underwent shoulder surgery.
Next Arkansas Basketball Assistant
Given how well Smart has fit in, and the fact that Musselman’s foundation was built in pro basketball and the NBA, the next Hogs assistant could very well be another former NBA coach or a former player with whom Musselman has ties. There are also a few other logical choices that share a bond with Musselman.
Below is a look at some of the most intriguing possibilities for next Arkansas basketball assistant coach. Some are a lot more realistic than others, but it’s always fun to aim high:
‘Big Nasty’ checks two boxes. One, he played for Musselman in the NBA at Sacramento, and before that of course starred at Arkansas, leading the Hogs to the 1994 national championship game. Not only that, but he has served as an assistant coach in the NBA and was the head coach at the University of Central Arkansas. Currently, he is an assistant coach at Little Rock Christian, where his son Corliss Jr. plays. Williamson would appear to be a great fit; the question may be is he willing to leave central Arkansas and take on the rigors of major college basketball.
Jones doesn’t have NBA ties, but he is very familiar with Musselman. The former LSU and North Texas head coach served on Musselman’s Nevada staff for the 2017-18 season after Musselman had served under Jones at LSU. Johnny Jones is currently the head coach at Texas Southern. At age 62, it’s uncertain if Jones has designs on moving his way back up to major college basketball but certainly being on Musselman’s bench in the SEC would be a promotion from his current position. It could definitely get him a Power 5 job if the Hogs continue to make noise in the NCAA Tournament.
The former star floor general for the San Antonio Spurs finished his playing career during the 2003-04 season with Musselman at Golden State. Johnson, a current CBS sports college basketball analyst, has served as an NBA head coach twice and was most recently the head coach at Alabama. Granted, Johnson may have head coaching options in the NBA, but if he’s had enough could elect to breathe new life into his college career by joining Musselman’s staff. His NBA star power would be an asset in recruiting as well as his head-coaching experience, and Johnson could also turn this gig into another Power 5 head-coaching job.
The former North Carolina star and NBA veteran played on Musselman’s fist NBA team in 2002-03 in Golden State. The two-time NBA All-star has worked as a TV analyst and scout since his lengthy playing career ended. He currently is the director of pro personnel for the Washington Wizards. The former McDonald’s All-American and NBA lottery pick would be popular with the players as would the fact he has worked in an NBA front office. Yes, being on the bench would be an adjustment, but he wouldn’t even be the first former North Carolina star to make the jump from working in the NBA to SEC basketball. Jerry Stackhouse did that in 2019 when he took over the Vanderbilt head coaching job.
Nick Van Exel
Another one of Musselman’s former Warriors, Van Exel made a name for himself as an NBA point guard and is now an assistant with the Atlanta Hawks. Van Exel, a 13-year NBA vet, started his coaching career as an assistant at Texas Southern. Van Exel has also served for a season as the D-League’s Texas Legends head coach and has also been an assistant with the Milwaukee Bucks and Memphis Grizzlies. “Nick the Quick” was also an NBA scout for some time. If Van Exel is having issues landing a head job in the NBA, he could take a similar path as Smart and find a good refuge in the college game.
The former Hog star and NBA vet is currently a recruiting coordinator on Musselman’s support staff. After a stellar collegiate and pro playing career Brewer has the chops to move down the bench closer to Musselman. With a few years under his belt, Musselman should feel comfortable with him, but Brewer may be more valuable bringing in prep blue chippers and transfer portal gems.
The current Utah Jazz assistant general manager was a member of Musselman’s staff at Golden State. Fizdale was an assistant at his alma mater San Diego and Fresno State before taking the leap to the NBA with Musselman. That NBA road led to Fizdale eventually landing head-coaching jobs with the Memphis Grizzlies and New York Knicks. Fizdale, who was a Los Angeles Lakers assistant, has a similar story to Smart’s but may be angling for an NBA GM job. Reuniting with Musselman may be a good change of pace if the 48-year-old feels like his NBA head-coaching career is over but doesn’t want to wait on the GM doors to open.