By ROBBIE NEISWANGER
Arkansas News Bureau
FAYETTEVILLE — The Arkansas basketball team has won two straight games and has a chance to finish second in the Southeastern Conference Western Division with another strong week.
But is Arkansas’ late-season push, which has moved it to 18-10 this season, enough to bring coach John Pelphrey back next season?
One ESPN college basketball analyst doesn’t think so. Doug Gottlieb, who was a guest on a Kansas City radio show Tuesday, believes Pelphrey will not be retained and indicated Arkansas will push to hire Missouri coach Mike Anderson.
"Arkansas is coming open," Gottlieb told 810 WSB.
The show’s host wondered if it meant "Missouri will sweat it out." Gottlieb replied: "Yes."
Gottlieb couldn’t be reached for further comment Tuesday. Neither could Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long. Kevin Trainor, a school spokesperson, said "Doug Gottlieb doesn’t speak for the University of Arkansas."
But it’s clear Pelphrey’s job stability has been a hot topic the past couple several weeks, one that appeared to cool after Arkansas put together consecutive wins against Kentucky and Auburn.
Pelphrey, who is 69-56 in four seasons, has fielded plenty of criticism about the program. The Razorbacks endured losing seasons the previous two years and suffered issues with players on and off the court. Arkansas also has experienced an attendance dip in Bud Walton Arena this season.
Pelphrey addressed his tenure with a passionate plea on Valentine’s Day.
"Criticism, I don’t think anybody likes that," Pelphrey said on Feb. 14. "But I understand that, too, and I believe this wholeheartedly without exception ... Whatever I’m going through or whatever we’re experiencing, man it’s strengthening us right now. It’s getting ready to make us better. It’s going to make us great."
Anderson, who is in his fifth season at Missouri, spent 17 seasons at Arkansas as an assistant on former coach Nolan Richardson’s staff. He also coached Arkansas for two games on an interim basis in 2002 after Richardson was fired.
In addition to Tuesday’s radio comments, Gottlieb wrote in a Feb. 26 blog post on ESPN.com "Anderson is the most logical first call for Arkansas if, as widely speculated, it makes a change." During his radio show appearance, Gottlieb said college coaches "think Arkansas is a marquee job" and added the Razorbacks "are going to do whatever it takes to try and get Anderson."
"They want to get back to winning," Gottlieb said. "They’re embarrassed by how it’s gone."