Like It Is

OPINION | WALLY HALL: SEC having trouble catching the Muss Bus

March Madness had a new definition in the SEC.

While six teams were invited to the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament and posted an unimpressive overall record of 5-6, something else was going on.

Six coaches were terminated or got out in front of the posse.

Some say the league wanted to go for younger coaches, but it is the older coaches like Tennessee's Rick Barnes (67), Kentucky's John Calipari (63), Auburn's Bruce Pearl (62) and Arkansas' Eric Musselman (57), who are having the most success.

In fact, it may be Musselman's winning that led to so some of the coaches being fired.

If you are an athletic director at Mississippi State, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina or Missouri, and you see what Musselman is accomplishing in the mountains of Arkansas, you have to ask yourself why your school isn't prancing and dancing?

In his second season, Musselman took the Razorbacks to the Elite Eight, and in his third season by February was challenging for the SEC championship, and those other schools were hoping for a NIT bid.

Of course, the Razorbacks got back to the Elite Eight in his third season, and by then the dominoes were falling.

Florida's Michael White was scheduled for a review with his boss. Gator fans, who were used to having NCAA Tournament success, including winning back-to-back national championships, were grumbling.

Georgia had fired Tom Crean after a 6-26 season.

Before the scheduled meeting with Florida AD Scott Stricklin, White resigned and took the Georgia job. Florida hired Todd Golden, 36, from San Francisco, loser of its first-round game in March Madness.

Mississippi State fired Ben Howland, who after seven seasons was 59-67 in SEC play and had one NCAA appearance, a first-round loss. He was allowed to coach in the NIT, but that was probably because the guy they were hiring, Chris Jans, was in the NCAA Tournament, where he lost to Musselman in the second round with New Mexico State.

Jans, 52, accepted the Bulldogs' job the day after the loss to Arkansas.

South Carolina fired Frank Martin, who led the Gamecocks to the Final Four in 2017 but have not made a NCAA Tournament since.

South Carolina hired Tennessee-Chattanooga's Lamont Paris, 47, who was fresh from his only NCAA Tournament, where he lost his first game.

Missouri fired Cuonzo Martin after five seasons, the longest he had stayed in a head-coaching job. He had two first-round losses in the tournament in his five seasons and was 12-21 this past season.

The Tigers hired Dennis Gates, 42, who had one NCAA appearance, a loss, at Cleveland State.

Musselman's success had nothing to do with LSU's Will Wade being fired or the hiring of Matt McMahon, 43, who took Murray State to three NCAA Tournaments and a 2-3 record.

Musselman has led Arkansas up, and at least five programs realized he had passed them.


On a personal note, I'm not going to have a column for a few days. I'll have a better idea when I'll return, and I am returning, in a day or two.

This morning, instead of dyeing eggs for Easter, I'm having dye shot into my heart and expect to get at least one stint and maybe two.

I'm blessed I'm not reacting to a heart attack. I was proactive -- my wife was quite the encourager -- when I started having an irregular heartbeat.

In Buffalo for the NCAA Tournament, I got covid and brought it home. A doctor where I was tested discovered my heart was skipping beats.

Covid is gone, and this morning Dr. David Jones is going to start me back on the path to better health. Prayers are always appreciated.