From Pelphrey to Purvis: How one firing set off a wacky chain reaction

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When Arkansas fired its head coach, John Pelphrey, on March 13, could the school have imagined that the ripple effect would be felt by at least 25 teams* and even more individuals? That it would lead to Rodney Purvis, a top-five recruit the Razorbacks weren't chasing then, and aren't chasing now, backing out of a commitment to Louisville? From a college hoops world in which all things are connected, we present the 16 degrees of Pelphrey to Purvis, a chain reaction that has lasted for two months, and yet to stop:

* Arkansas, Missouri, Marquette, Oklahoma, Purdue, Butler, Minnesota, VCU, George Mason, Miami, Georgetown, Kansas State, Louisville, Florida, Harvard, Milwaukee, Murray State, Kansas, Duke, N.C. State, Kentucky, George Washington, Michigan, Virginia, Virginia Tech.

1. March 13: Pelphrey is fired by Arkansas after four seasons. "I think John could be successful in another situation," Razorbacks athletic director Jeff Long said. "But it wasn't happening here at Arkansas."

Reverberations: Immediately after Pelphrey is let go, Missouri's Mike Anderson -- a 17-year assistant under Nolan Richardson in Fayetteville -- is mentioned in media reports as the lead replacement candidate, with Marquette's Buzz Williams as a secondary option. Both coaches have teams in the NCAA tournament and decline comment. The future of Pelphrey's five-man 2011 recruiting class, which is ranked No. 6 nationally by, is in question.

2. March 23: Anderson is lured away from Mizzou by Arkansas, whose fan base widely approves of the hiring. The announcement comes the week after Anderson's Tigers were beaten in the first round of the NCAAs, and two days before Williams' Golden Eagles are to face North Carolina in the Sweet 16.

Reverberations: Anderson succeeds in keeping Pelphrey's recruiting class intact. Williams later emerges as a lead candidate for the opening at Oklahoma. His rising stock in the coaching community gives him leverage to enter into contract-extension (with a raise) talks with Marquette.

3. March 30: Williams agrees to a new, seven-year rollover contract with Marquette that's worth more than $2 million annually, with an approximately $2.6 million buyout. The extension was more a result of his candidacy at Oklahoma than Arkansas, but the fact that he was attractive to deep-pocketed SEC and Big 12 schools put pressure on Marquette to lock him up for the long-term.

Reverberations: Oklahoma, which wasn't interested in out-anteing Marquette, eventually hires Lon Kruger from UNLV. He's replaced there by BYU associate head coach Dave Rice.

4. March 30: Purdue's Matt Painter enters into deep enough talks with Missouri and some media outlets erroneously report he has accepted a seven-year, $14 million deal. During the courtship, an associate athletic director at Purdue scolds boosters for not stepping up and providing Painter with the resources he desires, and ex-Boilermakers coach Gene Keady suggests that the school has been too stingy with the basketball program.

Mizzou, in the end, gets played: At the 11th hour, Painter agrees to a new, eight-year contract at Purdue through 2018-19, with assurances that he'll have the financial support to run a top-tier program.

Reverberations: Tigers athletic director Mike Alden comes out looking foolish. Meanwhile, when the top assistant at Purdue, Paul Lusk, leaves to take a head job at Missouri State, Painter is able to spend the money necessary to hire Micah Shrewsberry, a rising star on Butler's staff, as a replacement.

5. April 3-4: Missouri seems to run out of candidates. Minnesota's Tubby Smith -- another Big Ten coach who could use leverage in a contract situation -- says he was contacted by the Tigers but declined to pursue the job. Shaka Smart, a widely discussed candidate for a number of major-conference openings after taking VCU to the Final Four, signs an eight-year extension (at $1.2 million per) to stay with the Rams.

Reverberations: The 34-year-old Smart -- and not 61-year-old George Mason coach Jim Larranaga -- is now the highest-paid coach in the Colonial Athletic Association. This will matter in the coming weeks.

6. April 4: In a surprise move, Missouri hires Frank Haith away from Miami, where he was 43-69 in the ACC over seven seasons, with just one trip to the NCAA tournament. It was thought that Haith might be on the hot seat in Coral Gables after the 2011-12 season if he failed to reach the NCAAs.

Reverberations: Otto Porter,'s No. 37 overall player in the Class of 2011, had been leaning toward Mizzou when Anderson was its coach, but goes on to sign with Georgetown instead. Meanwhile, Haith's move creates the third ACC opening of this offseason (after Georgia Tech and N.C. State), and the result is ...

7. April 4-onward: The awkward Frank Martin/Miami non-courtship begins. The Kansas State coach grew up in Miami as the son of Cuban immigrants, and is a logical -- almost too logical -- candidate for the Hurricanes. With his local connections and inroads to Puerto Rico, there's little doubt Martin could be a recruiting force in Coral Gables. Multiple sources around him indicate that he has strong interest in the job, and he makes some veiled references to this in interviews.

The problem? Miami seems to have little interest in Martin, in part because when he was a high school coach in the city, he had a state title vacated due to a major recruiting scandal. He seems miffed when he says, repeatedly, "I've never been a candidate for the Miami job."

Reverberations: Martin's interest in the Miami gig puts some strain on his situation at Kansas State, but not nearly enough for fans to sour on him. He's built up plenty of capital in Manhattan after winning five NCAA tournament games in the past four years. Meanwhile, with some Hurricanes fans -- and prominent media members -- clamoring for the 'Canes to hire Martin, pressure mounts on new Miami athletic director Shawn Eichorst to make an impressive hire.

8. April 12: Richard Pitino leaves his assistant post at Florida to resume working for his father at Louisville, where Billy Donovan suggests the younger Pitino could be a "[head] coach in waiting."

Reverberations: This is the first of three spots that opens on Florida's bench this offseason, with Larry Shyatt also leaving for a head coaching gig at Wyoming and Rob Lanier becoming an assistant at Texas. One of Donovan's new hires is none other than Pelphrey, who was an assistant with the Gators before leaving for South Alabama in 2002. Another is Kevin Keatts, the former head coach at Hargrave Military Academy. (Remember that connection for later.)

9. April 13: Louisville assistant Tim Fuller, the former Wake Forest walk-on who recruited Raleigh, N.C., product Rodney Purvis --'s No. 7 overall player in the Class of 2012 -- to the Cardinals, leaves for a similar post at Missouri. Fuller says that new Tigers coach Frank Haith, whom he met at Wake, is like a "father figure." This means Louisville, like Florida, will have an all-new set of assistants for 2011-12, after Steve Masiello left to become head coach at Manhattan, and Mark Lieberman returned to his role as Director of Basketball Operations.

Reverberations: Purvis' verbal commitment is in question, because Fuller was his primary contact at Louisville. While Purvis doesn't immediately open up his recruitment, rumors swirl that he's reconsidering his college options.

10. April 15: Haith completes his Missouri staff by hiring assistant Isaac Chew away from Murray State. Chew was one of the top recruiters in the Ohio Valley Conference, helping stock a Racers team that won an NCAA tournament game in 2010, and he formerly worked with the loaded Kansas City Pump 'N' Run AAU program.

Reverberations: Aside from Murray State losing its top recruiter? Missouri lands a coach with direct connections to the AAU program that produced current players Marcus Denmon, Michael Dixon and Steve Moore, and will likely be a source of future talent. That means Kansas, where a number of other K.C. Pump 'N' Run products (Travis Releford, Tyrel Reed, Brady Morningstar and Elijah Johnson) have landed, will have to battle for some of the program's recruits.

11. April 22. After flirting with Harvard's Tommy Amaker and Milwaukee's Rob Jeter, Miami hires George Mason's Jim Larranaga. To some, Larranaga's willingness to leave Fairfax for a low-level ACC gig comes as a surprise, but in the context of Smart's extension at VCU, it's not. George Mason couldn't give Larranaga a Shaka-trumping contract or commit to building a new practice facility, while Miami could offer that money and the chance to coach in the ACC before he retired.

Reverberations: Amaker is locked in at Harvard for another season, where he'll be coaching the Ivy League favorite. Jeter is still at Milwaukee, and Martin is still at Kansas State. One of the best jobs in the CAA is now open -- and the new coach will inherit a top-30 roster that's capable of making the NCAA tournament.

12. April 30: Paul Hewitt, who was fired by Georgia Tech on March 12, is hired as the new coach at George Mason. He has the potential to earn $1 million per year with bonuses -- but he'll also be receiving $7.2 million over five years as part of his buyout from Tech.

Reverberations: Mason's choice of Hewitt means several hot mid-major candidates -- including Vermont's Mike Lonergan and Long Island's Jim Ferry -- are still on the market. Lonergan, a former Maryland assistant, is soon hired by George Washington, which is a rebuilding job in a bigger conference.

13. May 2: Rodney Purvis officially reopens his recruitment, backing off his verbal commitment from Louisville. His new list of teams includes the Cardinals, as well as N.C. State, Duke and Kentucky. "I just want to develop a relationship with the new staff," Purvis says of the Cards. "Louisville isn't out or nothing like that."

Reverberations: A huge Class of 2012 prospect -- perhaps the best scoring point guard -- is back on the market. Although Purvis' new list is only four teams long, it's thought that Missouri still has a chance due to his relationship with Fuller. Either way, Purvis will be one of the most aggressively recruited players on the summer scene.

14. May 5: Luke Hancock, the sophomore who hit the game-winning shot in George Mason's second-round victory over Villanova in the NCAA tournament, is granted permission to "explore the possibility" of transferring. The 6-foot-5 forward wants to consider his options in the wake of Larranaga's departure for Miami.

That move had come as a shock; when SI interviewed Hancock for a story on Mason in February, he said, "Larranaga was a big reason I came here. I didn't want a coach who was going to flake out and leave for a bigger school. He's had the opportunity to go to bigger places, and he likes it here."

Reverberations: Mason's status as a likely NCAA tournament team is in question without Hancock, who led the team with 4.3 assists per game while also averaging 10.9 points. He could still return to the Patriots, but says "around 15 or 20" schools have contacted him about transferring. Among them are Virginia, Virginia Tech, Michigan and Louisville. Why the Cardinals? Because of the Kevin Keatts connection: Hancock was a former player of his at Hargrave.

15. May 15: Hewitt lands a huge recruit in 6-8 Philadelphian Erik Copes, who's ranked No. 57 overall in the Class of 2011 and could see instant playing time at George Mason. Copes was released from his letter of intent at George Washington after the firing of coach Karl Hobbs, and Hewitt's plan to hire Copes' uncle, former GW assistant Roland Houston, helped seal the deal. As Copes told, "I really wanted to be coached by my uncle."

Reverberations: New GW coach Mike Lonergan's rebuilding effort gets more difficult with the loss of Hobbs' top recruit. Hewitt bolsters his roster with the highest-rated prospect that any CAA school landed for the Class of 2011.

16. May 16: The first recruit to commit to Mark Gottfried at N.C. State is a huge one: Five-star shooting guard Torian Graham, the No. 25 overall player in the Class of 2012. He passed on Florida State and Kentucky, and is the second-highest rated recruit committed to any ACC school (after Duke-bound Rasheed Sulaimon) from that class.

Reverberations: N.C. State fans have already started to feel better about the Gottfried hire, which initially drew a tepid reaction. Graham believes the Wolfpack can finish with a loaded 2012 class, and has taken it upon himself to start recruiting other elite, in-state players -- the primary target being Rodney Purvis, who could join him in a backcourt that would rival anything at Duke or North Carolina.

If Gottfried gets Purvis, the coach should thank John Pelphrey. In a convoluted way, all of this was triggered by his firing in Fayetteville.