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John Calipari Brings ‘Respectability’ to Arkansas Hoops, Says Razorback March Madness Hero

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Larry Henry

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John Calipari Brings ‘Respectability’ to Arkansas Hoops, Says Razorback March Madness Hero

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The hiring of John Calipari to coach the University of Arkansas men’s basketball team shows there is “a lot going on” in the Natural State, says a former Razorback basketball player.

Calipari takes over at Arkansas after leaving another SEC school, the University of Kentucky, a traditional basketball powerhouse.

“It lets the country know Arkansas has something about it, not just basketball, but also the success of Northwest Arkansas corporations that can make things happen,” said U.S. Reed, a starting guard at Arkansas in the late 1970s and early ‘80s.

The University of Arkansas campus in Fayetteville is near two major corporate global headquarters — Tyson Foods in Springdale, about 20 minutes north of the campus, and Walmart in Bentonville, about 30 minutes north of the campus.

Calipari’s friendship with John H. Tyson, board chairman at Tyson Foods, led to Calipari being hired, with a promise of millions in NIL money to recruit top-level athletes, according to published reports.

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‘Swagger’ Returns to Hog Nation

Calipari, who spent the past 15 seasons as the University of Kentucky’s head basketball coach, was brought in to replace Eric Musselman. After five seasons, Musselman left Fayetteville to take the head coaching job at the University Southern California.

Though Calipari and Musselman had enviable successes with these programs, both were under fire for disappointing recent results.

By hiring the 65-year-old Calipari, however, Arkansas is getting a major basketball name who “brings a level of respectability” to the program and a “blue-blood type of atmosphere,” Reed told

With the Razorback baseball team currently ranked No. 1 in the nation, and with Calipari’s hiring, a certain “swagger” has returned to the Hog Nation now that the state is back in the national spotlight, Reed said. 

During an earlier era, Reed’s basketball heroics put Arkansas in that spotlight.

In 1981, as a starter on the Razorback team, Reed launched a 49-foot, half-court, shot to defeat the defending national champion Louisville Cardinals in the NCAA men’s tournament.

That shot ranks No. 1 in’s list of the five most important buzzer beaters in tournament history. The shot helped give rise to the term March Madness being applied to the annual championship tournament.

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Social Media Buzzing With Fan Excitement

On social media sites, Razorback fans have joined in the enthusiasm over Calipari’s hiring.

Stories about him leaving Kentucky for Arkansas began circulating as the country was focused on the eclipse, which cut a dark-sky swath through Arkansas.

Said Facebook user Leslie Summers Bandy, “And just like that, everyone in Arkansas no longer cared about the eclipse.”

Other Arkansas fans seem undeterred by criticism that Calipari has had trouble lately in the NCAA tournament and that he is a “one-and-done” recruiter who brings star players in only to see them leave after one year to play professional basketball. During Calipari’s 15 years at Kentucky, 47 players have gone on to the NBA.

On the “Arkansas Razorback Fans” Facebook page, a social media user identified as Jack Roller said the Razorbacks have traded one previous one-and-done coach for another.

“I’m not saying I don’t like the hire,” Roller wrote. “I’ll wait and see what happens. I never cared that much for Muss, but he won. That’s all I care about.”

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