Head Hogs: Arkansas Basketball Coaches Post-1994

  • Feb 16, 2018

by Chase Gage



JONESBORO, Ark — There seems to be a slight rift in the Arkansas fan base in terms of opinions on the basketball head coach. Mike Anderson is currently sitting at 19-8 (8-6 SEC) in his seventh season at the University of Arkansas.

Arkansas basketball used to be a powerhouse. From 1977 to 1996, the Razorbacks made the NCAA Tournament 18 times, with 10 Sweet Sixteen appearances, six Elite Eight appearances, four Final Four’s, two National Championship berths and one NCAA National Championship (1994).

Since 1996, though, the Hogs have failed to make it past the Round of 32. What happened?

The Nolan Richardson era officially ended after the Hogs missed the postseason (NCAA Tournament or NIT) in 2002 for the first time since 1987. Since then, the Hogs have had three different head coaches.

The Stan Heath era ended after just five seasons and two tournament appearance (a first-round exit against Bucknell, 55-59, and another first-round bounce by USC, 60-77). His successor, John Pelphrey, didn’t have much better luck, as he, too, was fired after four seasons and just one tournament berth (a first-round win over Indiana and a second-round loss to top-seeded North Carolina).

In 2011, Arkansas hired former assistant coach Mike Anderson as their new head Hog. He served as an assistant under Richardson during the golden age of Razorback basketball.

Since his hiring, Arkansas has made the NCAA Tournament twice in six seasons and are on track to make a third appearance this year, which would mark the first back-to-back appearances since they went three in a row from 2006-2008. Each time they made the tournament under Anderson, they have lost in the second round (both times to North Carolina).

Many in the Razorback fan base seem to be under the impression that Anderson should no longer serve as head coach, as he has had seven seasons as head coach and has not produced the way they see fit.

As a journalist, it is not my place to pick sides. I will not tell you what to think, but I will show you what to think about.

I have compiled the resumes of every Arkansas head coach post-1994 National Championship. That list includes Richardson, Heath, Pelphrey, and Anderson. I have provided their overall records, records versus the SEC, and how they finished each season.

To develop a culture of winning again, Arkansas has a lot of work to do. They have not made it past the Round of 32 since 1996 (22 years ago), but do seem to be making progress toward that goal.

Is it time to pull the plug and start over? You be the judge.

*Note: If you are reading this on mobile, the format will be best if your phone is in landscape orientation (sideways). The charts are compressed to fit the smaller screen and are meant for laptop/tablet viewing*

This chart will be updated as the 2017-18 season continues.

Arkansas Coaching Resumes, Post-1994 National Championship

Year Coach Record SEC Finish
1995 Nolan Richardson 32-7 12-4 Lost National Championship

Ranked No. 2

1996 Nolan Richardson 20-13 9-7 Lost Sweet 16
1997 Nolan Richardson 18-14 8-8 NIT 4th Place
1998 Nolan Richardson 24-9 11-5 Lost Second Round

Ranked No. 17

1999 Nolan Richardson 23-11 9-7 Lost Second Round

Ranked No. 17

2000 Nolan Richardson 19-15 7-9

SEC Tournament Champs

Lost First Round
2001 Nolan Richardson 20-11 10-6 Lost First Round
2002 Nolan Richardson 14-15 6-10 Missed Tournament
8 Seasons 170-95 (64.2%) 72-56 (56.3%) 9-6 NCAA
2003 Stan Heath 9-19 4-12 Missed Tournament
2004 Stan Heath 12-16 4-12 Missed Tournament
2005 Stan Heath 18-12 6-10 Missed Tournament
2006 Stan Heath 22-10 10-6 Lost First Round
2007 Stan Heath 21-14 7-9 Lost First Round
5 Seasons 82-71 (53.6%) 31-49 (38.8%) 0-2 NCAA
2008 John Pelphrey 23-12 9-7 Lost Second Round
2009 John Pelphrey 14-16 2-14 Missed Tournament
2010 John Pelphrey 14-18 7-9 Missed Tournament
2011 John Pelphrey 18-13 7-9 Missed Tournament
4 Seasons 69-59 (53.9%) 25-39 (39.0%) 1-1 NCAA
2012 Mike Anderson 18-14 6-10 Missed Tournament
2013 Mike Anderson 19-13 10-8 Missed Tournament
2014 Mike Anderson 22-12 10-8 NIT Second Round
2015 Mike Anderson 27-9 13-5 Lost Second Round

Ranked No. 21

2016 Mike Anderson 16-16 9-9 Missed Tournament
2017 Mike Anderson 26-10 12-6 Lost Second Round
2018* Mike Anderson 23-10 10-8 Projected 6 Seed
7 Seasons  

151-84 (64.3%)


70-54 (56.5%) 2-2 NCAA

Coaching Resumes, Post-1994 Championship

Nolan Richardson (8 Seasons):

  • 6 Tournament Appearances (9-6)
  • 1 NIT Appearance
  • Missed Tournament twice
  • 1 losing season
  • 20+ Wins 5 times
  • 25+ Wins Once (32)

Stan Heath (5 Seasons)

  • 2 Tournament Appearances (0-2)
  • Missed Tournament three times
  • 2 losing seasons
  • 20+ Wins twice

John Pelphrey (4 Seasons)

  • 1 Tournament Appearance (1-1)
  • Missed Tournament three times
  • 2 losing seasons
  • 20+ Wins once

Mike Anderson (7 Seasons) *

  • 2 Tournament Appearances (2-2) *
  • 1 NIT Appearance
  • Missed Tournament four times
  • 0 losing seasons
  • 20+ Wins 4 times
  • 25+ Wins twice*

*23 wins so far in 2018, with at least two more games guaranteed

I’ll leave off with a fun experiment. Of course, it may be odd to compare a coach’s final seven seasons to another coach’s first seven but stick with me.

This will show what the state of Arkansas basketball was post-1995 (NCAA National Championship loss) compared to how it is now.

This does not mean to settle for mediocrity. Fans should never do such a thing. However, when analyzing the complete history of Arkansas basketball, it would be hard to argue that they are not on the right track to becoming what they once were. Since the Hogs lost to UCLA in the 1995 National Championship game, nothing has been the same. This level of familiarity and progressive success should come as a breath of fresh air to any fans that experienced pre-1994 Arkansas basketball and post-1995 Arkansas basketball.


Mentor versus Apprentice, Last Seven versus First Seven

Nolan Richardson

Final 7 Seasons (1996-2002)

Mike Anderson

First 7 Seasons (2011-Present)

Record 138-88 (61.1%) 151-84 (64.3%)
SEC Record 60-52 (53.6%) 70-54 (56.5%)
NCAA Record 4-5 2-2
Best Record 24-9 (1998) 27-9 (2015)
Best Finish Sweet Sixteen Round of 32 (twice)

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