Altman takes over as Arkansas hoops coach

Updated: April 3, 2007, 12:37 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- For 13 years, Dana Altman was content at Creighton, helping the Bluejays win 20 games season after season.

Now, Altman has finally found another job that appeals to him -- coaching the Arkansas Razorbacks.

Closer Look: Dana Altman's Record
Dana Altman

Dana Altman has a 343-208 overall record in 18 seasons as a Division I head coach and has led Creighton to seven NCAA Tournament berths.

School Years Overall NCAAs
Marshall 1990 15-13 None
Kansas State 1991-94 68-54 0-1
Creighton 1995-2007 260-141 2-7

"I've had conversations with a number of schools," Altman said. "I just felt like at 48 years of age, the time was right. ... But more importantly, it was the opportunity. Arkansas has great tradition."

Altman was named the Razorbacks' new basketball coach Monday, ending their weeklong search to replace the fired Stan Heath. Altman was 260-141 at Creighton. The Nebraska school went 22-11 this season for its ninth straight 20-win season, a Missouri Valley Conference record.

Creighton officials were more concerned recently that Altman could be off to Iowa, which is a job he had coveted. But the Hawkeyes never contacted Altman. No one was convinced that Altman was going to Arkansas.

Scott Sutton of Oral Roberts, who was a former Bluejays coach who left there to go to Arkansas, is a possible replacement for Altman, according to ESPN.com's Andy Katz. Sutton is the son of legendary coach Eddie Sutton.

In 1974, Eddie Sutton came to Arkansas from Creighton.

A source close to the situation said Creighton also is losing athletic director Bruce Rasmussen, who will go with Altman to Arkansas as his director of operations for men's basketball.

The move, viewed as a step down for an athletic director, would put Rasmussen in line for an administrative position once athletic director Frank Broyles retires, which is expected at the end of the year, the source said.

On Monday, Rasmussen dispelled that scenario.

"Obviously, I'm not in Arkansas," Rasmussen told The Associated Press. "If my bosses will have me, I plan on continuing to be here."

Altman was introduced at a news conference in Bud Walton Arena, with Broyles leading a "Pig Sooie" cheer. Altman might need some tutoring on that famous tradition -- and he was quick to look back on his days at Creighton.

"You don't stay in a place 13 years, and in 72 hours change your feelings about a special place and a special group of players that I had," Altman said. "So today, although I'm very excited, has also been very tough."

Altman is 343-208 in 18 years at the Division I level. He coached at Marshall and Kansas State before going to Creighton. He has been linked to other jobs in the past -- such as Illinois and Minnesota -- but the Bluejays managed to keep him until now.

"We've been hearing what's in the rumor mill since the end of the season," Creighton guard Nick Bahe said. "For a while we took the rumors serious, then we dismissed them. It's always a shock when something like this goes down. When you see his name with another university, it's weird."

Forward Dane Watts said his roommate played an April Fool's Day joke on him Sunday, telling him that Altman had taken the Iowa job.

"The same roommate called me today and said it was Arkansas," Watts said. "I didn't believe it. When we had a team meeting, I saw it was for real."

Heath was fired March 26, and Arkansas eyed Texas A&M coach Billy Gillispie. The Razorbacks also received permission to talk to Memphis coach John Calipari -- so Altman probably isn't the type of big name some Arkansas fans were hoping for.

Broyles said he knows of very few recent examples of a coach leaving one major conference team for another.

"Virtually 95 percent of the hires are people who -- I call them non-BCS schools, but they're playing tough basketball," Broyles said. "We knew we were eventually going to have to look for someone who had sustained success, played the style of basketball that our fans like, and be willing to come and build our program back."

The program won't need that much building. Arkansas made the NCAA Tournament in 2006 and 2007 and had no seniors this season.

The Razorbacks heard some good news immediately after the news conference. Freshman Patrick Beverley, this year's Southeastern Conference newcomer of the year, announced he is staying at Arkansas. He had wavered since Heath was fired.

Altman said he was excited to follow in the footsteps of Eddie Sutton and Nolan Richardson. Sutton, also a former Creighton coach, took Arkansas to the Final Four in 1978. Richardson's teams reached the Final Four in 1990, 1994 and 1995 and won the national title in 1994 with a style of play dubbed "40 Minutes of Hell."

The soft-spoken Altman described himself as "boring" -- but he was only talking about his personality.

"We press 40 minutes a game," he said. "It's not quite the old Nolan press. We change it up a little bit. We'll back it up to three-quarter and we trap in different spots. But we do press all the time."

Offensively, Altman said he might have to adjust to his new players. The Razorbacks have some solid big men, such as 7-footer Steven Hill and forward Darian Townes.

"We have traditionally taken a lot of 3s, but looking at the size of some of our players coming back next year, we might go inside a little bit more," Altman said. "But we will push the ball up and down the floor."

Arkansas' attendance has been a concern lately, and Broyles stressed Creighton's ability to draw a crowd under Altman. The Bluejays averaged almost 16,000 fans this season.

"It's not just Xs and Os," Broyles said. "You're doing something special because the fans want to come see you play."

Creighton has been to the NCAA Tournament seven times in the last nine seasons and won a school-record 29 games in 2002-03. The Bluejays lose Altman just a few days after assistant Kevin McKenna left to take over the Indiana State program. Creighton lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to Nevada, 77-71 in overtime.

Rasmussen said he would conduct a coaching search along with the Rev. John Schlegel, the university president, and John Cernech, vice president for student services and dean of students.

Rasmussen said he would consider candidates ranging from non-Division I coaches to those with NBA backgrounds. He didn't disclose who has contacted him about the opening.

"Your vision, your idea, would be to have someone who has had documented success at the Division I level," Rasmussen said, "but I wouldn't dismiss anyone."

Heath took over at Arkansas after Richardson was fired in 2002, and it's been a while since the Razorbacks enjoyed much success on a national scale. Arkansas hasn't won an NCAA Tournament game since 1999.

Altman will be charged with helping the Razorbacks reach the next level again. It's a challenge he looks forward to.

"I'm 48 years old," Altman said. "And with your permission I'd like to finish my career at the University of Arkansas."

ESPN.com's Andy Katz and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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