– by Brandon Harrison, Arkansas Athletic Communications
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark.— It wasn’t all that long agoJimmy Dykesstood at midcourt of Bud Walton Arena and made a heartfelt commitment, dropping down on one knee and proposing to Tiffany Beasley, his now wife of many years.
This time standing–plus a few hundred more people in the room–Dykes made another heartfelt commitment at midcourt of Bud Walton Arena, becoming the eighth head women’s basketball coach at the University of Arkansas.
It was another commitment that the former walk-on, three-year letterman and graduate of Arkansas vowed to take seriously. The coach and former ESPN analyst had long looked forward to a day on which he’d be welcomed back home and given the opportunity to lead his alma mater. That day had finally come.
“This is the second biggest moment in my life inside Bud Walton Arena,” Dykes said as he stood in front of several hundred fans and supporters in attendance at his introductory press conference. “I am going to pour my life into these girls. I’ve asked them to pour their lives back into me. That will take time. But, at the end of this season when I hugCalli BernaandJhasmin Bowenon Senior Day, they will know that I love them.
“That’s how much I love the University of Arkansas and this basketball program.”
A longtime resident of northwest Arkansas, Dykes chose to walk away from a stable and lucrative position as a primetime college basketball analyst at ESPN endeavoring to return to coaching. There was only one job in the entire nation that would spark such action, according to Dykes. This was it.
"It’s a chance for me to coach at the highest level," Dykes said. "I don’t have to leave northwest Arkansas. It’s my alma mater. If that’s not a perfect equation or scenario for me, then I don’t know what is. I could not be in a better place right now in my life."
Over his early coaching career, Dykes made stops at the University of Sacramento State University, Appalachian State University, the University of Arkansas-Little Rock and served as an assistant coach under legendary coach Eddie Sutton at the University of Arkansas, the University of Kentucky and Oklahoma State University.
Dykes also spent two seasons working as a college scout for the NBA’s Seattle SuperSonics before moving to a full-time career in broadcasting with ESPN. In all, his experience includes more than 950 games called and more than 3,000 practices observed at all levels of college and professional basketball.
“For 15 years I coached and I’ve continued to coach ever since,” Dykes said. “That’s what an analyst at my level does, you have to teach the game on the air. You coach both teams, you scout both teams and you prepare for both teams. If I have one strength in this job, it’s that I can coach the game of basketball. I’m a better coach now after doing my job at ESPN than I was before becoming an analyst.”
His first tenure as a head coach, Dykes relates to hometown men, such as Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg, who returned home to coach their alma mater with passion and purpose only they can. Hoiberg recently finished his fourth season coaching the Cyclones, who have appeared in the NCAA Tournament three of his first four years.
Dykes intends to guide Arkansas women’s basketball on a similar ascent.
“No one can sell this program, sell the University of Arkansas, sell the state of Arkansas, better thanJimmy Dykes,” Dykes said of himself. “I know that with all my heart.”
For those who doubt?
“People will say that I’ve never been a head coach on the college level or in the women’s game,” Dykes said. “There’s nothing that I can do about that.
“But, tell them that if you play me, the pressure is on you then, isn’t it?”
A competitive philosophy and determined approach, Dykes aims to build a program with those same principles in mind. There are many tenets by which Dykes plans to lead, but above all, he would have the Razorbacks be relentless in all that they do both on the court and off of it.
“Relentless is hard to beat,” Dykes said. “Relentless in recruiting is hard to beat. Relentless on the boards is hard to beat. Relentless in guarding people is hard to beat. Relentless going to class is hard to beat. That’s what we’ll be. We’ll be relentless in what we do and how we attack it.”
Oppressively constant, incessant and never yielding in nature, Dykes believes being a Razorback is also about embodying noble characteristics in everyday life, which then translates to the court.
“We will have accountability. We will be an extremely tough team,” Dykes said. “Toughness to me is doing what’s right when it’s really, really hard to do. That’s what tough people do in life. That’s going to play out on the floor when it’s not easy. We will be known as a very tough team and I’m going to take pride in that.”
Far from a buzzword, pride is something Dykes will build up and grow the program with. Pride in the state of Arkansas. Pride in the University of Arkansas. Pride in a fanbase. Pride in a team. Pride in one’s self.
Pride in being a Razorback.
"This is the most passionate fanbase that I’ve been around," Dykes said. “There’s something about being a Razorback. It’s special. There’s only one Razorback. There’s only one ‘Woo Pig Sooie.’ There’s only one team in this state that dominates this state. It’s that passion that I need to have for my team."
To portray the passion and drive that motivates what Dykes intends to build in Arkansas women’s basketball, perhaps it is best understood by his response when asked what his pitch to an in-state recruit will sound like.
It always seems to come back to commitment for Dykes.
“Don’t leave this state and be from Arkansas. Stay in this state and be Arkansas.”