On the morning of March 26, less than 72 hours after Kent State's improbable run to the Elite Eight had ended, Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles called Stan Heath, the Golden Flashes' first-year coach, to say he wanted to interview him for the Razorbacks' coaching job. Aware that West Virginia was also courting Heath, Broyles sent a private plane that afternoon to fly Heath and his wife, Ramona, to Fayetteville, Ark. The next day Broyles offered Heath the job, and one day after that he was introduced as Arkansas's new coach. "I still don't know how it happened," says Heath, 37, who before going to Kent State spent five years as an assistant at Michigan State. "Everything happened so quickly, but that's the nature of the business."
It's also a business in which nothing succeeds like success in March, especially for coaches at the mid-majors—schools one tier below the powerhouse basketball programs. First-round wins by Butler and Kent State in last year's NCAA tournament propelled their respective coaches, Thad Motta and Gary Waters, into head jobs at Xavier and Rutgers. Two years ago Gonzaga coach Dan Mon-son parlayed his team's Elite Eight appearance into the head job at Minnesota, while Tulsa's Bill Self did the same in 2000 in getting hired by Illinois. "If you win a couple of games in the tournament while at a mid-major," says Self, "you generate interest, and the athletic director who hires you can make a splash." In other words, says one former assistant who got a head job last spring, "these AD's just want to win the press conference."
Many coaches—already uneasy with the exaggerated emphasis placed on the tournament—are troubled by this new form of March Madness. As one head coach says of Heath, "Stan did a great job this year, but if Arkansas was so impressed, why didn't they hire Gary Waters, who built the team?" Even Heath concedes that "if we had gotten knocked off in the first round, I know my phone wouldn't have rung." If nothing else, give Heath credit for answering the bell.