FAYETTEVILLE -- Back in Eric Musselman's CBA days, he once coached his team from high in the stands at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City, S.D.
It was the 1992-93 season during Musselman's five-year stint as general manager and coach of the Rapid City Thrillers.
Arkansas men vs South Dakota
WHEN 8 p.m.
WHERE Walton Arena, Fayetteville
RECORDS Arkansas 3-0; South Dakota 5-0.
SERIES Arkansas leads 1-0
RADIO Razorback Sports Network
TELEVISION SEC Network
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS
POS., NAME, HT., YR.;PPG;RPG
G Stanley Udude, 6-6;Jr.;16.4;4.8
G Triston Simpson, 6-2;Sr.;13.8;2.6
G Cody Keller, 5-11;Sr.;8.4;4.0
G Tyler Peterson , 6-4;Sr.;10.0;2.8
F Tyler Hagedorn, 6-10;Sr.;19.4;2.2
COACH Todd Lee (18-17 in two seasons at South Dakota, 172-98 in 10 seasons overall)
POS., NAME, HT., YR.;PPG;RPG
G Isaiah Joe, 6-5So.;20.5;4.3
G Mason Jones, 6-5Jr.;18.3;5.0
G Jimmy Whitt, 6-3;Sr.;11.5;5.5
G Desi Sills, 6-1;So.;8.0;3.0
F Adrio Bailey, 6-6;Sr.;8.0;7.3
COACH Eric Musselman (4-0 in first season at Arkansas, 114-34 in five seasons overall)
CHALK TALK — South Dakota senior forward Tyler Hagedorn has hit 16 of 19 three-pointers (84.2%) to lead the nation … The Coyotes’ 51.% on three-pointers (47 of 92) also leads the nation …. Arkansas is holding opponents to 11.6% (8 of 69) on three-pointers to rank third nationally … Razorbacks junior guard Mason Jones has hit 32 consecutive free throws going back to last season. He’s hit all 23 attempts this season … Arkansas has won its first four games by an average of 30 points … South Dakota was picked to finish second in the Summit League behind North Dakota State in a preseason poll. Coyotes junior guard Stanley Umude was picked as the Summit League preseason player of the year … Sophomore guard Isaiah Joe is averaging a team-high 3.0 assists for the Razorbacks … South Dakota won the Rainbow Classic in Honolulu by beating Pacific 72-62, host Hawaii 81-75 and Florida A&M 85-82 … Texas Southern, which lost 82-51 at Arkansas on Tuesday night, lost 88-69 at South Dakota last Friday night … The Coyotes beat SIU-Edwardsville 71-56 on Monday night.
— Bob Holt
"Eric had kind of a history with this one referee in the CBA," said Todd Lee, Musselman's assistant coach with the Thrillers in 1992-93 and 1993-94. "In the first two minutes this referee -- who shall remain nameless -- gave Eric two technical fouls and kicked him out of the game."
Musselman left the bench, but he didn't go to the locker room.
"There were about 5,000 people there, and Eric went way up into the stands where the referees couldn't see him," Lee said. "He was sitting in the rafters watching the game and sending notes down to the trainer to give to me."
In some of the notes, Musselman told Lee to put in Chris Corchiana, the Thrillers' new point guard and a former North Carolina State star who had just been cut by the NBA's Boston Celtics.
"Eric had promised Corchiana's agent that he was going to play him X number of minutes in the game," Lee said. "So he kept sending me notes saying, 'You've got to put Corchiana in.' "
Lee laughed as he told the story.
"That's Eric," he said. "Always coaching -- even when he got kicked out of the game."
Musselman and Lee will coach against each other for the first time tonight.
Musselman's University of Arkansas Razorbacks (4-0) play Lee's South Dakota Coyotes (5-0) at 8 p.m. at Walton Arena. The SEC Network will televise the game.
"It's going to be a weird feeling to play Eric's team, because having worked with him, I know how much each game means to him," Lee said. "I know how much he puts into it and how hard he works.
"Even if you win the game, when you beat a friend's team, you don't feel the same."
Musselman and Lee, now both 55, became friends 30 years ago when they met in San Diego. Lee was an assistant coach at the University of San Diego after Musselman played there. Musselman returned to the area in the offseason to visit his mother and would stop by the campus.
"I started playing basketball with Eric and we'd get dinner and just hang out," Lee said. "We became close friends."
Lee is from Huron, S.D., and played at South Dakota, and Musselman asked if he wanted to return to his home state and be his assistant with Rapid City, an offer Lee accepted.
"I tell people that working with Eric in the CBA was like getting a master's and a Ph.D in basketball," Lee said. "I went from coaching college kids to guys that had played in the NBA, and I learned so much from Eric."
Lee said it was tough for him to deal with the constantly changing roster of a CBA team, so after two seasons he took an assistant's job at California State-Bakersfield. He and Musselman have remained close.
"Todd is a lifetime friend," Musselman said. "We talk basketball all the time. His teams play smart, they play hard and they play tough."
Lee said that with CBA players leaving to sign with NBA teams or teams overseas, Musselman was adept at re-stocking the Thrillers' roster.
"Eric knew where everybody in the world was playing basketball," Lee said. "I mean, literally, every player, whether it was in Italy, Greece, the NBA, the CBA."
Musselman said one season in the CBA 61 players cycled through his roster.
"I remember getting a phone call at like 5:30 in the morning," Musselman said. "They said, 'Three of your guys are at the airport.' Two of them were going to Italy and one of them was going to Spain. They had all gotten pretty lucrative deals and left."
The sudden departures left Musselman with six players -- including Wes Matthews, who was suspended -- for that night's game against the Oklahoma City Calvary.
The game went into overtime, Musselman recalled, and because one of the Thrillers fouled out, he had to play Matthews.
"Wes was uniform because I had to dress out at least six guys," Musselman said. "So I had to put a suspended player in the game, and I think he had 11 straight points in overtime.
"He hadn't played a second up until that moment, but that's how talented Wes Matthews was."
Musselman said being a CBA general manager and coach meant he had to know where to get players in a hurry.
"So you would have to know which guys were unhappy in which countries or had to understand which countries didn't pay well," he said. "You had to know which countries from a roster standpoint weren't patient. An American player would go over there and have two bad games and get sent home.
"It was just a constant game of connections with overseas agents and agents in the U.S. that would tell you what was going on from a revolving door with players."
Musselman, who coached 21 seasons in professional basketball with CBA and NBA teams including as a head coach with the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings, got his first college coaching job as an Arizona State assistant for the 2012-13 season.
The move to Arizona State, in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe, reunited Musselman with Lee, who at the time was an assistant coach at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix.
"I told Eric he'd be a great college coach," Lee said. "That's certainly proven to be true."
After helping Arizona State and LSU to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances as an assistant, Musselman got his first college head coaching job at Nevada, where in each of the previous three seasons he won Mountain West Conference championship and led the Wolf Pack to NCAA Tournament appearances. His four-year record at Nevada was 110-34.
"I think Eric is one of the best coaches in the country," Lee said. "What he did at Nevada was unbelievable."
Lee wasn't surprised Musselman got his first technical foul at Arkansas during the Razorbacks' 82-51 victory over Texas Southern on Tuesday.
"Eric's always been fiery and intense," Lee said. "I think the only time he relaxes is when he's around his wife and kids and maybe going to a movie. He had endless energy, and he's really, really smart. He thinks about basketball from every angle.
"I don't think Eric's ever going to change. That's why he's really good at what he does."
Sports on 11/22/2019
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