This is the fourth in a series of profiles of potential candidates for Indiana’s vacant basketball head coaching position.
Candidate: Eric Musselman
Current Position/Tenure: Arkansas head coach since 2019
(Some) Previous Jobs: Nevada head coach, 2015-19; LSU associate head coach, 2014-15; Arizona assistant/associate head coach 2012-14; Los Angeles D-Fenders head coach 2011-12, Reno Bighorns head coach 2010-11; Sacramento Kings head coach 2006-07; Golden State Warriors 2002-04.
Career Accomplishments: This season, the Razorbacks hit No. 8 in the AP poll and have a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Those are the best marks at Arkansas since 1994-95 when it lost to UCLA in the national title game after having claimed the title in 1994. He’s 42-18 there in two seasons. At Nevada he led the Wolfpack to three Mountain West titles in four years and was Mountain West Coach of the Year in 2018 when he led them to the Sweet 16. In six seasons as a college coach he’s never won fewer than 20 games in a season and has a career record of 152-52. He was NBA D-League Coach of the Year in 2012 and has a career combined 400-155 record in American minor league basketball in the NBA D-League, Continental Basketball Association and United States Basketball League. He is, however, 108-138 in the NBA and did not make the playoffs in any of his three seasons as a head coach.
Statistical Hallmarks: In six years in college coaching, Musselman’s teams have never ranked lower than 105th in tempo. This season the Razorbacks are 17th with 73.1 possessions per game. In the last five seasons, his team has never ranked lower than 55th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency. His Sweet 16 team at Nevada finished seventh, finishing first in the nation in lowest turnover percentage and 30th in effective field goal percentage. This year’s team at Arkansas is 35th in adjusted offensive efficiency. He’s had four teams rank in the top 60 in adjusted defensive efficiency and none of his teams have finished worse than 108th. This year’s Arkansas team is his best defensive team, ranking 13th nationally in adjusted efficiency.
Why It Might Work: Though Musselman hasn’t won in the NBA, he’s been there and he has a good sense of what works at the professional level and how to develop players for that level. The son of a former NBA coach in the late Bill Musselman, he’s spent his entire life of the game and knows how it works at every level. He’s extraordinarily energetic and still seems to be close to playing shape. He’s proven quickly that he can win in a major conference an proven he can bring a once successful program back to prominence. Arkansas isn’t Indiana from a historical perspective but it was a power in the Nolan Richardson and Eddie Sutton era from the late 70s through the 90s and three coaches in between haven’t been as successful as Musselman has been so far.
Why it might not work/might not happen: Musselman’s level of energy is Tom Crean-like, and though his resumé is much longer than Crean’s was when he was hired and it has professional experience Crean didn’t have, its highlights aren’t all that much more impressive. Crean had, after all, been to a Final Four at Marquette before he got to Bloomington and Musselman hasn’t reached those heights yet — though this season is his best chance so far. Bottom line, he might be viewed as an upgrade over Archie Miller, but not necessarily a home run hire.
The Hoosiers could view him as a fallback plan if they miss on Brad Stevens, Chris Beard and others, but he might get scooped up by another Big Ten program before the Hoosiers are in a position to fall back. Musselman bounced around all over the place as a child with his father, who had a total of 10 head coaching jobs, but one of the places he spent the most time was Minneapolis. The elder Musselman was head coach at the University of Minnesota from 1971-75 and the Minnesota Timberwolves from 1989-91. The Golden Gophers have an opening, having recently parted ways with Richard Pitino, and they could scoop Musselman up if the Hoosiers don’t move through their other candidates quickly enough.
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