It's official: Eric Musselman is leaving Nevada for Arkansas

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Arkansas athletic director Hunter Yurachek announces the hiring of Eric Musselman in a tweet on Sunday morning (Photo courtesy: Hunter Yurachek)

It's official: Eric Musselman is Arkansas' head basketball coach.

The move, which was first reported Sunday morning, was made official Sunday afternoon by the Razorbacks. Musselman first interviewed face-to-face with Arkansas in Reno on Tuesday before the deal was sealed this weekend.

“I want to thank Eric Musselman for four thrilling seasons with the Wolf Pack and for elevating the Nevada men’s basketball program to the top of the Mountain West Conference," Nevada athletic director Doug Knuth said in a news release. "We wish Eric and Danyelle nothing but the best moving forward. We will immediately begin a national search for the next leader of the Wolf Pack men’s basketball program and will have no further comment until that search is completed”

Said Musselman in a news release issued by Arkansas: “My family and I couldn’t be more excited to be coming to the University of Arkansas. The opportunity to be a part of the rich tradition of Razorback Basketball and to experience the passion of the Razorback fans is something that I am very much looking forward to. I am appreciative of the professional manner in which Hunter Yurachek conducted the search and am grateful for the support of Chancellor Steinmetz and all of those affiliated with the University of Arkansas. I am ready to get to work with our student-athletes to prepare our program to compete at the highest level of college basketball.”

Musselman leaves Nevada as one of the most accomplished coaches in school history despite his relatively short four-year tenure. Musselman went 110-34 overall and 52-17 in conference games at Nevada. He won three Mountain West regular-season titles, one MW Tournament championship and led Nevada to three NCAA Tournaments, including a 2018 Sweet 16 berth.

More than that, Musselman ignited Northern Nevada around the Wolf Pack, filling Lawlor Events Center to unprecedented levels, with Nevada posting its three highest per-game attendance marks in school history in each of the last three seasons.

Inheriting a 9-22 program, Musselman led the Wolf Pack to a CBI title in his first season before three straight NCAA Tournament berths, which included first-round exits in 2017 and 2019 and a memorable Sweet 16 berth, the second in school history, in 2018 following massive second-half comebacks to beat Texas and Cincinnati before losing to Loyola Chicago by one point with an Elite Eight berth on the line.

“Eric Musselman is a coach that has had experience at every level of basketball from the NCAA to the NBA,” Arkansas AD Hunter Yurachek said. “He was practically born into the game and his passion for basketball is unmistakable. He has been successful throughout his career, including the remarkable job he did in returning the University of Nevada into a perennial NCAA Tournament team. Coach Musselman is high-energy and possesses an extremely high basketball IQ. He has a great attention to detail and has structured his programs to develop players individually while building a successful team. I am pleased to welcome Coach Musselman, his wife Danyelle and his family to the Razorback family.”

Musselman's departure highlights a mass exodus out of Nevada following this season, with the Wolf Pack losing all five starters, including stars Caleb Martin, Cody Martin and Jordan Caroline, as well as their head coach after peaking at No. 5 in the nation in the AP Top 25 and posting a 29-5 record, tied for the best in school history.

At Arkansas, Musselman will inherit a more money-rich program. The SEC school recently opened a $25 million practice facility as well as a student-athlete academic center and the Bud Walton Arena houses nearly 20,000 fans. Arkansas won a national title in 1994 and was runner-up in 1995 and has six Final Four appearances, the second most in the SEC behind Kentucky.

Arkansas has been in the NCAA Tournament in 10 of the last 22 seasons but hasn't reached a Sweet 16 since 1996, a goal that will be set for Musselman. Arkansas fired Mike Anderson last month after eight seasons in which he went 169-102 overall and 78-64 in SEC play. He reached three NCAA Tournaments but never the Sweet 16, getting to the second round twice. The Razorbacks went 18-16 overall and 8-10 in the SEC last season, losing in the second round of the NIT.

Arkansas has fallen on hard times of late, reaching the NCAA Tournament in just three of the last 11 seasons, all under Anderson.

Musselman will make $2.5 million per season on a five-year contract, dwarfing the $1 million per year he made at Nevada. Musselman will owe Nevada a $1 million buyout to break his contract, which ran through the 2020-21 season, and must forfeit all bonuses earned this season, including his ticket-revenue bonus, which is easily in the six-figure range.

Nevada athletic director Doug Knuth thanked Musselman for a thrilling four years in the Biggest Little City in a statement on Sunday afternoon after the hiring was made official.

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