|John Pelphrey bio|
Courtesy: Phil Pierce, Athletic Media Relations
Entering his fourth season with the Arkansas basketball program, John Pelphrey's squad made significant improvements last season and should be even better in 2010-11. Returning 11 players from a team that finished third in the Southeastern Conference's Western Division and adding three others with athleticism to the mix should make this season's Razorback men's basketball team fun to watch as it hounds teams on both ends of the floor.
Beginning his ninth season as a head coach in 2010-11, Pelphrey was hired at Arkansas on April 9, 2007 and made an immediate impact as he inherited a veteran club and set a school record for wins by a first-year head coach with 23. That team also allowed Pelphrey to become the first first-year coach in Arkansas history to lead the Razorbacks to the post season as he guided the Hogs to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Pelphrey's inaugural team at Arkansas finished 23-12, second in the SEC West, advanced to the SEC Tournament finals and won a game in the NCAA Tournament. The win against No. 24 Indiana in the big dance was Arkansas' first since 1999 and Pelphrey's squad ranked as high as No. 18 in the national polls during the season, going 6-2 against ranked opponents.
Arkansas' 2008 team's 23 wins surpassed the 19-7 mark of Eugene Lambert in 1943 for the most by a first-year head coach and were the most wins by a Razorback club since 1999. Improved offense and rebounding were the teams' calling card as it averaged 74.1 points, shot 46.8 percent from the field, a 13-year high, grabbed more than 1,200 rebounds and limited opponents to just 32.2 rebounds per game.
Losing six seniors and its top seven players in 2009 hurt the Razorbacks as it began the rebuilding process. Pelphrey and his staff brought in talented players to fill the void, but experience was a factor, especially late in games leading to a 14-16 overall record. With seven newcomers, Arkansas overachieved during the non-conference season as it picked up wins over No. 4 Oklahoma, 96-88, and No. 7 Texas, 67-61, in late December.
The Arkansas rebuilding project continued in 2010 and after getting picked to finish fifth in the SEC West by the league's coaches, the Razorbacks stunned many by leading the division with just two weeks to play. The Razorbacks finished third in the West, but showed signs of brilliance in their seven-win conference season, which included a win over No. 18 Ole Miss on the road, a 15-point come-from-behind victory on the road at Georgia and a 35-point victory over LSU at home.
Even though Pelphrey is only beginning his fourth year at Arkansas, his ties to the Razorback basketball program run much deeper. He is a former standout at Kentucky and played for legendary Arkansas coach Eddie Sutton as well as Rick Pitino between 1988-92. After a brief professional career overseas, Pelphrey went into the coaching ranks, learning from some of the best in the nation like Sutton and current Florida skipper Billy Donovan.
Prior to taking over the program at Arkansas, Pelphrey spent five seasons at the Univ. of South Alabama where he led the Jaguars to a pair of postseason tournaments and won both a regular season and Sun Belt Tournament title.
After three decent seasons at South Alabama, Pelphrey guided his 2006 team to the biggest turnaround in the nation. That Jaguar team won the Sun Belt Conference's West Division title, the conference tournament championship and earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Losing to eventual national champion, Florida, in the 2006 NCAA Tournament, Pelphrey earned Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year honors while his squad led the Sun Belt conference in scoring margin and three-point defense and was second in steals and scoring defense. That team also improved its scoring by more than 11 points per game from the year before and finished the year with an impressive 24-7 record.
Losing its top three scorers from the previous year, South Alabama was poised to rebuild in 2007, but through solid recruiting, Pelphrey reloaded and led the Jaguars to another 20-win season, a 20-12 overall record, the Sun Belt Conference overall championship and a trip to the National Invitational Tournament (NIT).
Pelphrey's final team at South Alabama would lose to Syracuse in the first round of the NIT, but led the Sun Belt conference in turnover margin, assist-to-turnover ratio and three-point defense. The Jaguars were also deadly from long range as they hit more than eight three-point baskets per game.
The Paintsville, Ky., native was an assistant coach for nine seasons before his first head coaching stint. He spent six seasons at Florida with Donovan from 1997-2002, spent two additional years with Donovan at Marshall in 1995-96 and one year with his former coach Sutton at Oklahoma State in 1994.
In six years at Florida, the Gators went 124-65 with a then school-record four straight NCAA Tournament bids after one trip to the NIT. Florida reached the national championship game in 2000 and the Sweet 16 in 1999.
As an assistant under Donovan at Marshall, the Thundering Herd went 18-9 in 1995 and 17-11 in '96 after going 9-18 the year before they arrived.
Under Sutton at OSU in 1994, the Cowboys were 24-10 and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Pelphrey began his coaching career following one season playing professionally in France and Spain.
He played two years under Sutton and three under Pitino at Kentucky. After redshirting in 1988, he lettered from 1989-92 and was a team captain in 1991 and '92. He averaged 1.7 points as a freshman under Sutton.
In Pitino's first year in 1990, with Donovan as an assistant, Pelphrey improved to 13.0 points as a sophomore. As a junior in '91, he averaged a team-high tying 14.4 points on a 22-6 squad, earning honorable mention All-America and first-team All-SEC honors.
In 1992, Pelphrey was second on the team with 12.5 points, helping the Wildcats go 29-7, win the SEC Tournament and end the year ranked No. 6 in the nation. Kentucky advanced to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament, falling to Duke, 104-103, in overtime, in what is often regarded as one of the best college basketball games in history. Duke won on Christian Laettner's buzzer-beating jumper. Pelphrey was one of four seniors on that squad known to Kentucky fans as "The Unforgettables."
Inducted into the Kentucky Hall of Fame in 2005 and named the Wildcats' Student-Athlete of the Year in 1989, his jersey number (No. 34) was retired in 1992. During his Kentucky career, he started 90 of 114 games and finished with a career scoring average of 11.0 points.
The son of two teachers, he served on Kentucky's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee from 1990-92 and was named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll in 1990. He graduated from Kentucky in 1992.
Named Mr. Basketball in the state of Kentucky as a senior at Paintsville High School in 1987, he scored 2,477 points and grabbed 1,316 rebounds for his career.
Pelphrey is married to the former Tracy Lyon and they have a son, Jaxson Hamilton (14) and a daughter, Grace Donovan (11).