FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – John Pelphrey, a former assistant under Billy Donovan and Eddie Sutton who as a head coach guided South Alabama to the biggest turnaround in the nation two years ago and a conference championship this year, has been named head basketball coach at Arkansas.
He also stared as a player at Kentucky from 1988-92 where he played for first Sutton and then Rick Pitino, who was assisted at the time by Donovan.
Pelphrey spent the past five years as the head coach at South Alabama. After going 14-14 in 2003, 12-16 in 2004 and 10-18 in 2005, his 2006 squad had the best turnaround in the nation, finishing 24-7. USA won the Sun Belt Conference West Division title and the tournament championship to give the Jaguars their first NCAA Tournament bid since 1998.
This past season, despite losing his top three scorers from 2005, USA went 20-12 and won the Sun Belt regular season title at 13-5 before losing in the finals of the conference tournament and then falling at Syracuse, 79-73, in a first-round NIT game.
This year’s team led the Sun Belt in turnover margin (+2.53), assist-to-turnover ratio (1.12) and three-point defense (.325), and was second in steals (7.22) and scoring defense (67.3). The Jaguars also made 272-of-749 three-pointers, an average of 8.5 per game, while scoring 71.3 points.
The 2006 team, which lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to eventual national champion Florida, 76-50, led the league in scoring margin (+8.1) and three-point defense (.300), and was second in steals (8.52) and scoring defense (65.6). USA hit 267-of-728 threes, an average of 8.6 per game, and scored 73.6 points a game.
In making the biggest turnaround in the nation, USA improved from 62.3 points in 2005 to 73.6 in 2006, from a .416 field-goal percentage to .453, a .646 free-throw percentage to .703, a .351 defensive three-point percentage to .300, 16.0 turnovers to 13.4, 11.0 assists to 14.1, 13.9 turnovers forced to 16.8, 7.6 steals to 8.5 and 207 made three-pointers to 267.
The Paintsville, Ky., native went to South Alabama following six seasons as an assistant under Donovan at Florida from 1997-2002. He was also an assistant under Donovan for two years at Marshall in 1995 and ’96.
The 2006 Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year began his coaching career as an assistant to Sutton, who he played for at Kentucky, at Oklahoma State in 1994.
In his six seasons 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, he 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 UK fans as “The Unforgettables.”
Inducted into the Kentucky Hall of Fame in 2005 and named UK’s Student-Athlete of the Year in 1989, his jersey number (No. 34) was retired in 1992. Over his UK 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 UK’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 in 1987, he scored 2,477 points and claimed 1,316 rebounds for his career. He led Paintsville to the semifinals of the state tournament as a senior and three times helped his team win regional titles.
Pelphrey has served as a speaker and instructor at several camps, including his own, the John Pelphrey Basketball Camp, which he ran in his hometown of Paintsville from 1992-95. He also worked as a motivational speaker and instructor at camps throughout Kentucky while in college.
Pelphrey is married to the former Tracy (Lyon) and they have a son, Jaxson Hamilton (11) and a daughter, Ann-Marie Grace Donovan (8).
JOHN PELPHREY QUICK FACTS
Born: July 18, 1968
Family: wife – Tracy (Lyon); son – Jaxson Hamilton (1-7-97); daughter – Ann-Marie Grace Donovan (12-9-99)
Named Head Coach at Arkansas: April 9, 2007
Years of Division I Collegiate Head Coaching Experience: 5
Head Coaching Record:
80-67 (.544), five years at South Alabama, 2003-07
South Alabama – 2006 Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year
2008 – Arkansas, head coach
2003-07 – South Alabama, head coach
1997-2002 – Florida, assistant coach
1995-96 – Marshall, assistant coach
1994 – Oklahoma State, assistant coach
Season Records and Post-Season Experience as a Collegiate Coach:
South Alabama (Head Coach)
2007 (20-12, Sun Belt regular season champion) – NIT first round
2006 (24-7, Sun Belt West Division & tournament champion) – NCAA Tournament first round
Florida (Assistant Coach)
2002 (22-9, SEC Eastern Division co-champion) – NCAA Tournament first round
2001 (24-7, SEC regular season co-champion) – NCAA Tournament second round
2000 (29-8, SEC regular season co-champion) – NCAA Runner-up
1999 (22-9) – NCAA Tournament Sweet 16
1998 (14-15) – NIT first round
Marshall (Assistant Coach)
Oklahoma State (Assistant Coach)
1994 (24-10) – NCAA Tournament second round
1993 – Played professionally in France and Spain
1988-92 – Kentucky, four-year letterman
1984-87 – Paintsville (Ky.) High School
Kentucky – Inducted into the Kentucky Hall of Fame in 2005; jersey number (No. 34) retired in 1992; 1991 honorable mention All-American, first-team All-SEC by league coaches, second-team All-SEC by AP, team MVP; two-year team captain (1991 and 1992); 1990 UK Best Playmaker and Mr. Deflection team awards; 1989 Kentucky Student Athlete of the Year; started 90 of 114 career games; career scoring average of 11.0
Paintsville High School – 1987 Mr. Basketball in the state of Kentucky; finished prep career with 2,477 points and 1,316 rebounds; also a baseball pitcher and shortstop
1992 – Kentucky
1987 – Paintsville (Ky.) High School
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