UCA’s new coach displays confidence

CONWAY -- Nine days after signing on, John Shulman was officially introduced to the public Wednesday evening as the new head coach of the University of Central Arkansas men's basketball team.

Shulman, 57, joins the Bears after five seasons at Alabama-Huntsville, where he led the Chargers to a 112-39 record and five consecutive NCAA Division II Tournament berths.

With that success, paired with two NCAA Tournament berths in his nine seasons at Tennessee-Chattanooga from 2004-13, in mind, Shulman didn't shy away from his lofty expectations of a program that has reached the NCAA Tournament.

"We're going to win a lot of games," he said. "I'm just going to promise you, we're going to cut down the nets. I'm not sure when, but we're going to cut down the nets, and we're going to the show.

"I've been a head coach for 14 years, D-I and D-II, and we've been to seven NCAA tournaments. That means 50% of the time, we're going to the show. So when I tell you that that's what I'm expecting, I am."

While Wednesday was Shulman's first public appearance as the Bears' coach, he has been at the job for more than a week. He and newly promoted associate head coach Brock Widders hit the recruiting trail immediately. They were in Oklahoma as recently as Tuesday.

"In eight days, we've gone from not knowing each other to I spent the night at his mom and dad's house [Tuesday]," Shulman said.

"It's been exhausting, but it's been exciting," Widders said. "I don't know that either one of us has slept a lot. We met, we finalized myself and him within two hours, and we literally got in the car and went recruiting as soon as our meeting with each other was done.

Widders is joined by assistant coaches Max Shulman and Ezra Pinzur and graduate assistant Scott Ashby on staff. John Shulman said there will be one more addition that he has already selected but is waiting to announce.

Widders and Ashby were the only members of Anthony Boone's staff who were retained after a 9-23 season that saw the Bears miss the ASUN Tournament for the second season in a row. Widders is highly regarded among high school coaches in the state and has been a key to the Bears' recruiting efforts since joining the staff in 2017.

Shulman said he will build his program on players who are winners and are there for the love of the game, in spite of the growing influence of Name, Image and Likeness in college sports.

"You got to remember your true self," he said. "You got to remember when you were 14 years old, in the gym by yourself, working on your game, and you were just dying to play college basketball because it was the greatest show on earth.

"Our kids are jaded. Our kids have forgotten why they're working. Are they working to make money or are they working for the satisfaction of getting with the team, bonding with the team and brotherhood and trying to win a basketball game? I know we can find 13 guys who believe as we believe."

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