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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

Arkansas coach Eric Musselman feels at home in the Bay Area

March 23, 2022 Updated Wed., March 23, 2022 at 8:28 p.m.

Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman speaks to the media Wednesday before the Razorbacks’ Sweet 16 game against Gonzaga Thursday in San Francisco.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman speaks to the media Wednesday before the Razorbacks’ Sweet 16 game against Gonzaga Thursday in San Francisco. (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
By Colton Clark The Spokesman-Review

SAN FRANCISCO – Since beginning his coaching career in 1989, Eric Musselman has been all over the map.

But the third-year Arkansas coach feels right at home here.

Musselman returns to the Bay Area – one of 14 places he’s lived over the past 33 years – for Thursday’s Sweet 16 matchup between the Razorbacks and Gonzaga. Tipoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. at Chase Center, the home of the Golden State Warriors.

“I’m surprised my picture isn’t up on the wall anywhere in here,” Musselman joked with media members Wednesday during a news conference in a Chase Center practice area, which is decorated with photos of Golden State greats.

The 57-year-old Musselman is well traveled, to say the least.

His loaded resume includes head coaching gigs with Golden State and the Sacramento Kings and four jobs as an NBA assistant.

Musselman led the Warriors from 2002-04, mentoring pro notables such as Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison. He finished runner-up in the NBA’s Coach of the Year race in 2003 after guiding Golden State to its best season in almost a decade. Musselman compiled a 75-89 record with the Warriors, but was let go after his second season when new management took over the franchise.

“They wanted a new direction, but certainly that first year with the Warriors was as gratifying coaching as I’ve had,” he said. “I had fun, loved the guys. When Gilbert Arenas is young, there’s always going to be some wacky stuff going on. It was a great experience. I feel fortunate to have coached an NBA team at such a young age (38).

“I know I’m a lot better. I probably knew 1/100th what I know now.”

Musselman cherished his time in the Bay Area, enough to return after his lone season in Sacramento.

“Just the experience in the Bay Area, the crowds for the Warriors, even then when we were a nonplayoff team, it was incredible,” he said. “After I got fired from Sacramento, I came right back here to be a dad and live in Danville.

“It’s kinda funny. I’d go to 24 Hour Fitness in San Ramon and wear Warriors gear, even though I’d been let go.”

He said he remains friends with several current and former Golden State employees, including franchise legend Chris Mullin. Musselman spoke fondly about his days as a youth coach in the Bay Area in the late 2000s.

He spent a few years building a powerhouse Bay Area AAU program and providing commentary as a TV analyst before returning full time to the coaching profession in the NBA’s developmental league, and at the international level – Musselman had stints coaching Team USA, and national teams in China, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela before entering the college ranks in 2012 as an assistant at Arizona State.

He then worked a year at LSU before landing his first NCAA head coaching job with the Nevada Wolfpack, who reached unprecedented heights during his tenure and qualified for the NCAA Tournament three times.

In his second year in charge at Arkansas, Musselman took the Razorbacks to the Elite Eight, where they fell to eventual champion Baylor.

Now back home in the Bay, he’s looking for a return trip.

“Just so many friends. To come back and be able to play here – that day I was either fired from the Kings or the Warriors, to think I would be coaching in the Sweet 16 in the Bay Area, if anybody would have asked me at that particular time, I would have told them there was zero chance,” he said.

“I guess the world has a funny way of working itself out. It’s a cool experience for my whole family.”

West Coast Conference background

Musselman spent part of his upbringing in San Diego and played for the University of San Diego, a WCC program, from 1983-87. Musselman’s mother lives in San Diego and his son, Matthew, attends USD.

“I watch the conference whenever I can,” he said, “if (the Toreros) are ever on TV. It’s always Gonzaga. It’s not San Diego/Santa Clara – I promise you that. Gonzaga is always on, playing somebody in that conference. I have seen them play throughout the year a lot.”

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