Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Spartan coaches recruited by top programs

Heath makes move from Kent State to Arkansas

March 29, 2002
Former MSU assistant coach Stan Heath celebrates with sons Jordan, 9, and Joshua, 6, during his introduction as Arkansas men —

While this year’s Spartan men’s basketball team didn’t achieve the same success as its predecessors, who earned trips to three consecutive Final Fours, faces from the program’s recent history still are making noise in March.

Former MSU assistant coach Stan Heath announced his resignation as the head coach at Kent State on Thursday to take the helm as head coach at Arkansas.

That decision came as other current Spartan assistant coaches discuss their potential futures as leaders of other programs.

Associate head coach Brian Gregory has spoken with DePaul and Bradley about their coaching vacancies, athletics department spokesman John Lewandowski said.

Neither Bradley nor DePaul spokespersons could be reached for comment.

Many major universities have turned to the MSU pedigree possessed by current and former assistant coaches.

Nabbing Heath to be the Razorback coach spawned Arkansas Chancellor John White to excitedly pass out Heath candy bars to everyone attending the news conference.

Heath, 37, got the 10th-seeded Golden Flashes within one game of the Final Four, losing 81-69 to the Indiana Hoosiers last Saturday in the South Regional final.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” Heath said Thursday at a Fayetteville, Ark., press conference. “After going to the Elite Eight, I thought I’d take a couple of days off and relax a little bit.

“It seemed like I was flying around the country day after day, but I tell you what, I had a lot of opportunities, but right here, when I came here, I knew this was the place.”

In taking over at Arkansas, Heath replaces Nolan Richardson, the only coach ever to lead the Razorbacks to a national title. Richardson was removed from his post one game shy of completing his 17th season.

The Razorbacks missed the postseason with a 14-15 record - Arkansas’ first losing record since 1986.

Richardson’s Arkansas teams employed the high-pressure philosophy known as “40 minutes of hell.”

When asked about what kind of style his Arkansas team would have, Heath said, “40 minutes of excitement.”

In his one season at Kent State, Heath set school records with 30 wins and 21 consecutive wins - a streak snapped in the loss to the Hoosiers. His 30 wins are the most ever by a first-year coach in the Mid-American Conference.

Heath was 17-1 in the MAC, a conference record.

Kent State athletics director Laing Kennedy said at a press conference he’s happy to see Heath land “one of the top-five jobs in America.”

“You like your good people to stay forever, but at the same time you do not want coaches that nobody wants,” Kennedy said. “I am flattered that the University of Arkansas came to Kent State to choose their head men’s basketball coach.”

Heath was an assistant to Tom Izzo for five seasons and won a national championship ring with the Spartans in the 1999-2000 campaign.

Izzo said Heath will have a lot to offer the Razorbacks.

“Stan has a great basketball mind and relates very well with kids,” Izzo said in a written statement. “He’s a people person, while also being well organized with an understanding of what he needs to do to accomplish his goals.

“I’ve watched him grow this year, and I know he is ready to take over a tradition-rich Arkansas basketball program.”

Heath was joined by another former Spartan assistant in the NCAA Tournament, Marquette head coach Tom Crean.

Heath and Crean aren’t the only assistants to find themselves with head coaching posts. Toledo head coach Stan Joplin was a Spartan assistant for six years, the first five assisting Jud Heathcote and the sixth under Izzo.

Also, Gregory’s name has been mentioned as a candidate before, with Delaware and Northwestern being the highest-profile schools to approach the 35-year-old coach, MSU assistant sports information director Matt Larson said.

In a March 20 press conference, Izzo addressed the possibility of losing Gregory and assistant coach Mike Garland to head coaching jobs.

“I think both Brian and Mike are going to be involved in some jobs, and I guess that’s the good part of the program,” Izzo said. “Bsut I guess we all make it the bad part because we’re always talking about someone leaving.

“The only way that happens is if they’ve had some success.”

And while it would appear the Spartans would suffer by losing vital parts of their coaching staff, Izzo said he’d do anything but hold back his assistants.

“If a good job comes up that they’re interested in, I think we’ve got some good tradition behind us to help them,” he said. “And believe me, I would help either one of them.”

Dan Woike can be reached at woikedan@msu.edu.

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