From Pelphrey to Purvis: How one firing set off a wacky chain reaction
John Pelphrey's firing at Arkansas triggered events affecting at least 25 teams
As a result, head and assistant coaches moved to new schools or got raises
Players also decommitted, affecting the prospects of their new and old teams
Nothing in this sport occurs in a vacuum. Firings, hirings, commitments, decommitments -- they all have ripple effects. Five offseasons ago, I looked at the early reverberations of Bob Huggins' hiring at Kansas State and Kelvin Sampson's hiring at Indiana. Those moves affected the futures of players such as Scottie Reynolds, who would lead Villanova to a Final Four; Damion James, who would star at Texas; Darrell Arthur, who would win a national title at Kansas; and Michael Beasley, who would help put Kansas State back on the map. Sampson's departure from Oklahoma impacted as many as 16 programs in a little more than a month, and Indiana is still digging out of the crater he would create.
When Arkansas fired its head coach, John Pelphrey, on March 13, could the school have imagined that the ripple effect would be felt by at least 25 teams* and even more individuals? That it would lead to Rodney Purvis, a top-five recruit the Razorbacks weren't chasing then, and aren't chasing now, backing out of a commitment to Louisville? From a college hoops world in which all things are connected, we present the 16 degrees of Pelphrey to Purvis, a chain reaction that has lasted for two months, and yet to stop:
* Arkansas, Missouri, Marquette, Oklahoma, Purdue, Butler, Minnesota, VCU, George Mason, Miami, Georgetown, Kansas State, Louisville, Florida, Harvard, Milwaukee, Murray State, Kansas, Duke, N.C. State, Kentucky, George Washington, Michigan, Virginia, Virginia Tech.
1. March 13: Pelphrey is fired by Arkansas after four seasons. "I think John could be successful in another situation," Razorbacks athletic director Jeff Long said. "But it wasn't happening here at Arkansas."
Reverberations: Immediately after Pelphrey is let go, Missouri's Mike Anderson -- a 17-year assistant under Nolan Richardson in Fayetteville -- is mentioned in media reports as the lead replacement candidate, with Marquette's Buzz Williams as a secondary option. Both coaches have teams in the NCAA tournament and decline comment. The future of Pelphrey's five-man 2011 recruiting class, which is ranked No. 6 nationally by Rivals.com, is in question.
2. March 23: Anderson is lured away from Mizzou by Arkansas, whose fan base widely approves of the hiring. The announcement comes the week after Anderson's Tigers were beaten in the first round of the NCAAs, and two days before Williams' Golden Eagles are to face North Carolina in the Sweet 16.
Reverberations: Anderson succeeds in keeping Pelphrey's recruiting class intact. Williams later emerges as a lead candidate for the opening at Oklahoma. His rising stock in the coaching community gives him leverage to enter into contract-extension (with a raise) talks with Marquette.
3. March 30: Williams agrees to a new, seven-year rollover contract with Marquette that's worth more than $2 million annually, with an approximately $2.6 million buyout. The extension was more a result of his candidacy at Oklahoma than Arkansas, but the fact that he was attractive to deep-pocketed SEC and Big 12 schools put pressure on Marquette to lock him up for the long-term.
Reverberations: Oklahoma, which wasn't interested in out-anteing Marquette, eventually hires Lon Kruger from UNLV. He's replaced there by BYU associate head coach Dave Rice.
4. March 30: Purdue's Matt Painter enters into deep enough talks with Missouri and some media outlets erroneously report he has accepted a seven-year, $14 million deal. During the courtship, an associate athletic director at Purdue scolds boosters for not stepping up and providing Painter with the resources he desires, and ex-Boilermakers coach Gene Keady suggests that the school has been too stingy with the basketball program.
Mizzou, in the end, gets played: At the 11th hour, Painter agrees to a new, eight-year contract at Purdue through 2018-19, with assurances that he'll have the financial support to run a top-tier program.
Reverberations: Tigers athletic director Mike Alden comes out looking foolish. Meanwhile, when the top assistant at Purdue, Paul Lusk, leaves to take a head job at Missouri State, Painter is able to spend the money necessary to hire Micah Shrewsberry, a rising star on Butler's staff, as a replacement.
5. April 3-4: Missouri seems to run out of candidates. Minnesota's Tubby Smith -- another Big Ten coach who could use leverage in a contract situation -- says he was contacted by the Tigers but declined to pursue the job. Shaka Smart, a widely discussed candidate for a number of major-conference openings after taking VCU to the Final Four, signs an eight-year extension (at $1.2 million per) to stay with the Rams.
Reverberations: The 34-year-old Smart -- and not 61-year-old George Mason coach Jim Larranaga -- is now the highest-paid coach in the Colonial Athletic Association. This will matter in the coming weeks.
6. April 4: In a surprise move, Missouri hires Frank Haith away from Miami, where he was 43-69 in the ACC over seven seasons, with just one trip to the NCAA tournament. It was thought that Haith might be on the hot seat in Coral Gables after the 2011-12 season if he failed to reach the NCAAs.
Reverberations: Otto Porter, Rivals.com's No. 37 overall player in the Class of 2011, had been leaning toward Mizzou when Anderson was its coach, but goes on to sign with Georgetown instead. Meanwhile, Haith's move creates the third ACC opening of this offseason (after Georgia Tech and N.C. State), and the result is ...
7. April 4-onward: The awkward Frank Martin/Miami non-courtship begins. The Kansas State coach grew up in Miami as the son of Cuban immigrants, and is a logical -- almost too logical -- candidate for the Hurricanes. With his local connections and inroads to Puerto Rico, there's little doubt Martin could be a recruiting force in Coral Gables. Multiple sources around him indicate that he has strong interest in the job, and he makes some veiled references to this in interviews.
The problem? Miami seems to have little interest in Martin, in part because when he was a high school coach in the city, he had a state title vacated due to a major recruiting scandal. He seems miffed when he says, repeatedly, "I've never been a candidate for the Miami job."
Reverberations: Martin's interest in the Miami gig puts some strain on his situation at Kansas State, but not nearly enough for fans to sour on him. He's built up plenty of capital in Manhattan after winning five NCAA tournament games in the past four years. Meanwhile, with some Hurricanes fans -- and prominent media members -- clamoring for the 'Canes to hire Martin, pressure mounts on new Miami athletic director Shawn Eichorst to make an impressive hire.
8. April 12: Richard Pitino leaves his assistant post at Florida to resume working for his father at Louisville, where Billy Donovan suggests the younger Pitino could be a "[head] coach in waiting."
Reverberations: This is the first of three spots that opens on Florida's bench this offseason, with Larry Shyatt also leaving for a head coaching gig at Wyoming and Rob Lanier becoming an assistant at Texas. One of Donovan's new hires is none other than Pelphrey, who was an assistant with the Gators before leaving for South Alabama in 2002. Another is Kevin Keatts, the former head coach at Hargrave Military Academy. (Remember that connection for later.)