Altman Changes Mind, Returns From Arkansas To Creighton

Wednesday, April 4th 2007, 12:40 pm
By: News On 6

Dana Altman's stint at Arkansas was over in one day.

The Razorbacks' search for a basketball coach? Who knows when it might end?

Altman quit Tuesday, apologizing to Arkansas fans and saying it was in his family's best interest to return to Creighton. A day earlier, he had been introduced as the Razorbacks' new coach _ at a news conference that included cheerleaders, a cheering crowd and a traditional ``Pig Sooie'' call.

``This is one of the shortest chapters and most disappointing chapters in the history of the institution,'' Arkansas Chancellor John A. White said at a hastily scheduled news conference Tuesday. ``But you know this program is strong and is going to be strong in the future. We want to wish the very, very best to Dana Altman and his family.''

Altman has coached at Creighton for 13 years and said he decided to return to the Omaha, Neb., school after talking to his wife and Creighton athletic director Bruce Rasmussen, who agreed to take him back.

``This is something I'm doing for my family,'' Altman said. ``I wish I would have come to that decision earlier.''

Altman was hired to replace Stan Heath, whom Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles fired last week. South Florida hired Heath on Monday.

White did not provide a timetable for a renewed search.

``We'll be engaging the services of a search firm to help us'' hire a new coach, White said. ``We'll be able to attract a very strong coach to come to the Razorbacks. This program is strong and we're going to be strong in the future.''

Arkansas has eyed Texas A&M coach Billy Gillispie, and received permission to talk to Memphis coach John Calipari. On Tuesday, a search that was at times frustrating turned surreal.

``I am disappointed that Coach Altman has decided to return to Creighton University,'' Broyles said in a statement. ``He put 13 years into that program and leaving his home state proved more difficult than he could have imagined. I have already been in contact with Chancellor White regarding the resumption of the coaching search.''

That search appeared over Monday when Altman was introduced.

``With your permission I'd like to finish my career at the University of Arkansas,'' Altman said then.

At Creighton, about 100 fans gathered outside the Vinardi Center on Tuesday night as players filed into athletic department headquarters for a meeting.

Guard Isaac Miles said the players were excited about Altman's return.

``Deep down inside he had some feelings, and he did the right thing,'' Miles said.

Arkansas forward Darian Townes said he first heard the news while watching television.

``I was flipping through the channels, just to see what was on,'' Townes said. ``I thought it was a joke.''

Altman's reversal is not without precedent. In 1993, Bobby Cremins accepted the South Carolina job, then reneged two days later and returned to Georgia Tech.

Last year, Gregg Marshall was introduced as the College of Charleston's new coach. One day later, he went back to Winthrop. Charleston ended up hiring Cremins, of all people.

Altman's departure likely puts Arkansas freshman Patrick Beverley in limbo again. Beverley, the Southeastern Conference newcomer of the year, announced Monday night he was staying at Arkansas after he met with Altman.

He said he had been leaning 60 percent toward leaving before talking with the coach.

White said he wished Altman well but was hopeful that the Razorbacks and the coach would one day cross paths.

``The No. 1 priority is doing what's best for you and your family,'' White said. ``I'm looking forward to meeting you in the Final Four and beating the socks off you.''