Coaches, Players Surprised By Arrow’s Sudden Retirment

December 21, 2012 · By · Filed Under Basketball, Men's 

Interim head coach Jeff Price | jaguarsmensbasketball.com

The University of South Alabama men’s basketball team spoke about Wednesday’s sudden announcement of head coach Ronnie Arrow’s retirement on Thursday. Instead of Wednesday being a normal day, it would be anything but that.

Players said that Coach Arrow walked in, called his players together, informed them that he had decided to retire effective immediately then made a quick trip around the room shaking hands with each player before he left.

The players were shocked.

“I was shocked because we just came off a win (over Arrow’s former school Texas A&M-Corpus Christi where he returned for his second stint as USA’s head coach),” Augustine Rubit said Thursday to AL.com. “And we were just looking forward to getting better and bringing more wins for him in the conference. It was just surprising that it happened all of a sudden.”

“We were all shocked,” he continued. “Going through the year, you knew you had coach Arrow as the head coach. That’s all you expect. I know we have some really good coaches who are stepping in. In some ways, it’s the same thing as him. I feel like we still have good coaches.”

Dr. Joel Erdmann announced that associate head coach Jeff Price as interim head coach in the press conference on Wednesday. This is also Price’s second stint at South Alabama.

“He just walked in and he told us all that he wasn’t going to be our coach anymore and that he was proud of us and that he wishes us well on the future of the season,” Javier Carter recalling about the meeting. “We were just all stunned, honestly. Everybody was just in awe because we didn’t know what to expect. It was just out of the blue because we were getting ready for practice.”

Carter indicated that none of the players sensed that Arrow was disappointed or unhappy or even leaning towards that decision.

Additionally, Carter said that the meeting was so short and abrupt that none of the players had an opportunity to ask Arrow why he had made that decision. “None of us has talked to him to my knowledge. He came in and he talked to us and he greeted us all around the room and that was about it,” said Carter.

Rubit said that the players sensed the somberness and that they recognized the seriousness of the moments before Arrow addressed the team. “He came in, it was serious. Everybody put their phones down. We were thinking it’s like a normal day, (we’d) watch film. And he said it and it didn’t seem real. He said it, shook our hands and walked out. It didn’t seem real at all.”

“It was kind of awkward, just sitting back thinking about what the first game will be like without him. But I feel like all the coaches taught the same thing and followed him so we’ll see how it happens and how it goes.”

Carter said that the team is comfortable with Price taking over. “Coach Price as an assistant, we’ve really enjoyed him. He’s a players’ coach and a coach coach. We really enjoy coach Price and we believe if anybody else is for the job, it’s definitely him.”

“Everybody has their ups and downs, like anybody does as a head coach, but we all loved coach Arrow and we enjoyed him as a coach,” Carter finished.

Coach Price is excited to take over the program despise the circumstances. Price said that the joined Arrow’s staff at South Alabama because he could visualize himself taking over the program when Arrow’s time came to an end. But he didn’t expect it to be Wednesday.

Price was just as shocked as any of the South Alabama fans when he found out about Arrow’s decision.

“It was rather abrupt and took us all a little by surprise,” Price said in his first meeting with the media since the announcement. “Particularly me. I’ve known Ronnie for over 20 years. I think it took us all by surprise a little bit but I think up to this point everyone has handled it well and understands that we have to move forward and get back on track and do what we have to do.”

“You never want things to happen this way,” he continued. “I came back to South Alabama because I wanted to be the head coach here one day, which is why I came back here. But obviously you want to come back and be the head coach after we go to the (NCAA) tournament and Ronnie retires. That’s been different and difficult just because of my respect for him and our relationship. But I’m sure Ronnie understands as well, and wishes me the best of luck and obviously the players he was close to as well the best of luck.”

This becomes Price’s fourth head coaching stint as he takes over a team that is 5-5 on the season and 2-0 in the Sun Belt Conference. The Jags have a big win over then ranked Florida State to open the regular season. Price’s overall record as a head coach is 318-188 in 17 seasons as a head coach at Georgia Southern (1999-2009), West Virginia Wesleyan (2010-11) and Lynn, FL (1993-99).

Previously he was an assistant coach at South Alabama under Ronnie Arrow from 1989-1993, twice at Washington, Georgia Southern, Union KY, and Pikeville KY.

Now Price gets to audition for the permanent job the remainder of the season. He will be judged on how he handles the team and his team’s success. But Price said that he cannot view it as an audition, he has to approach it as service to the players.

“I think you have to stay away from yourself and understand this is about these guys,” Price said. “These guys have worked so hard. We’ve been at this even back to the summer when we went to Canada. We’ve been working for six or seven months and it’s about them right now. My situation will be taken care of based on how things go and it’s all about them and how they perform and present themselves, and I think we’ve got a great group of guys and they’ll do that.”

According to Price, there will not be any dramatic changes in how the team looks and plays, but there will likely be some differences.

“I don’t think, because we’ve been at it so long, that you can make drastic changes,” he said. “You’ll see some changes in regard to maybe how we approach the game, not so much what we do on the floor. We might open the floor up a little bit more. I respect coach Arrow and I learned from him in everything that he did. I think if anything changes you’ll see maybe some changes in our approach to the game and game day and practice and things like that more than you will, in particular, on the court.”

As of Thursday’s time with the media, Price said that he had not spoken to Arrow about his decision. “I’m sure he had his reasons (for retiring now), whatever they are, and I try not to speculate,” he said. “I’m sure a lot of people try to speculate and at this point, but obviously he felt like it was time to do that (retire).”

Price said that he believes the players have reacted well to the news. “It’s hard to tell (how the decision may have affected them immediately). Morale has been good to this point. I think our guys are mature enough to understand that this is part of the business. I’ve been doing this 30 years and this is just part of the business. People come and people go and you learn to circle the wagons and start over and regroup and I think after we get past this our guys will be excited. We’ve got a talented bunch of guys and I really like our team. I think we have a chance to have a special year, we’ve just got to get past this and regroup.”

“We have a goal in mind. This isn’t about me. This is about this university and these players and the success they know they can have. I think our team has a lot of promise and they know that and they’re smart enough to know you can’t let things drag on, you’ve got to get back to work. Hopefully, we’ll see that on Saturday.”

South Alabama will host Arkansas-Little Rock on Saturday in the team’s first game since Arrow’s retirment. Tip-off is scheduled for 2:05pm at The Mitchell Center.

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