Razorback fans will of course remember Pat Bradley as one of the Hogs' top all-time bombers. One of the best players of the late-period Nolan era, he was voted to the All-SEC team in 1998 and 1999, and until this season still held the SEC career record for most three-pointers made (he's still in the all-time NCAA top ten). These days he co-hosts "The Zone" radio show on 103.7 The Buzz out of Little Rock, and we were fortunate enough to chat with him yesterday to get his expert take on this year's Hog team, the best player he ever played with, and how he'd fare in a shootout against another Arkansas legend. Read on for all that and more...
Pat, it's great to talk to you. In 1996, Stephen and I were living together in an apartment in Memphis and watched your team's last minute run to the Sweet 16 pretty religiously.
This year with the Razorbacks kind of brought back memories to that year , when we needed to win at least one game in the SEC Tournament. I think that year we played South Carolina in the first round, won that game and that kind of assured us that we would at least be in.
It’s funny because we were the 12th seed that year, and the Hogs have a 9th seed this year, but I would take that 12th seed over this 9th seed any time. When you play Indiana first round and then have North Carolina waiting in the second round, that’s about as bad as it gets.
On that note, what do you think is going to happen against Indiana?
Sonny Weems hurt his knee yesterday in practice. In my mind that's key because Eric Gordon for Indiana is a lottery pick...probably a top 10 pick, 6’3", a strong, strong point guard. To me, Sonny and Beverley were going to be the two guys that would probably switch off on him, ‘cause Ervin and Welsh aren't strong enough. Now, maybe it will fall on Beverley...I don’t know what Pelphrey’s going to do. But Sonny, I thought, was somebody who could maybe bother him just because he’s so long. Sonny is so key to the team. Gordon leads them in free throws, free throws taken, free throws made. The kid really attacks the basket. That’s huge.
But if guys keep stepping up the way they have...you know, Charles Thomas and Townes playing so well. Welsh doesn’t have to bust it out, but if he can make at least maybe one or two three’s that he shoots, that will help.
I just think that Indiana is in such a tailspin mentally. I know they’ve got a kid who’s an All-American, D.J. White, who’s an absolute beast. But, I’d put Townes up against anybody offensively. We know what Steven Hill can do defensively.
I think the Hogs — of course, there’s a lot of homer in me obviously — but looking at it from the outside in, it just seems like Indiana's superstars — those two guys, Gordon and White — I think they’re looking at the NBA right now and couldn't care less about the tournament.
So, you’re going with the Hogs?
Hoggies all the way, baby! But, then we’d run into North Carolina, so, really, what’s the difference?
I'm guessing you’re not optimistic about how that game would go?
Not really. What can they do? I’ll tell you the only reason why I’m optimistic: going into the SEC Tournament, I wanted to see how they would play against top teams — Vanderbilt on Friday, Tennessee on Saturday — how they would play against those two teams on a neutral floor. And they showed that they could. Tennessee’s a, what, top five team, six, seven, eight team, whatever you want to say. The SEC tournament showed me that the Hogs can compete with the best teams in the country on a neutral floor.
Obviously, they’re terrible on the road, and you can probably go crazy trying to figure out why that is. Whatever the reason is, thank God we don’t have any more actual road games. They can compete with any team in the country, we know that. You’ve gotta give ‘em a puncher’s chance, at least, in that North Carolina second round game.
The Hogs have been really inconsistent all year. Why do you think that is?
I remember a quote that Bill Parcells said on NFL Crunch Course. He was talking about guys who hit in the NFL. Basically, he said that you have guys who come up through Pop Warner football, and they can hit. In high school, they can hit. In college, they can hit. They come up to the NFL, and they continue that. They just know how to hit you in the mouth.
To win on the road...there are certain types of teams that win on the road. Obviously, you’ve got to be able to rebound, and you’ve got to be able to hit shots and make big plays when you’re on the road, because the home team is always going to have momentum and excitement on their side. So, you’ve got to be able to hit key shots.
There’s a little something you need to win on the road. I don’t want to use the word "toughness," because everyone throws that word around, and I don’t think anybody really knows exactly what it means or how to apply it. But, there’s just a certain thing that a team has — and a team is made up by a few of its strongest leaders — that allows them to win on the road. It’s just the confidence, the ability to play under pressure. You look at some of the best college teams that I can remember – I never really watched the Triplets and just a little bit of Todd and Oliver Miller and those guys — but talking about Scotty Thurman, Corey Beck and Corliss and those guys, they could perform under pressure as good as any team. They were strong, they could shoot. I think it’s just an attitude...you have it or you don’t have it.
That’s not to say anything about these Hogs, but there are certain ingredients that you need to win on the road, and if you have that, you’re gonna have that from your freshman year. It’s tough to develop that this late in your career, mentally, if you don’t already have it as a young kid.
I don’t know if that even answers the question!
What do you think John Pelphrey’s impact has been on the team this year?
It’s been huge. We get a lot of e-mails, a lot of people call in and say, "The record has been the same. They went to the SEC Tournament championship game last year with Stan Heath. 20 wins with Stan Heath, yada, yada, yada. This team still isn’t great on the road. What’s the difference with Pelphrey?"
Sometimes, it’s not a coaching change where this guy’s better than that guy. Sometimes, they just need a breath of fresh air, and the state needed a breath of fresh air. Not that there’s anything wrong with Stan Heath. He’s definitely, I think, going to learn from his experiences at Arkansas, and he’s going to do great. But sometimes, you just need that change to get things back focused again.
And of course, Pelphrey’s the perfect guy for it, because not only did he play in the SEC, but he’s a throwback kind of coach. He knows what to say, and he’s learned from the best, and he plays a style that everyone is accustomed to, an uptempo kind of thing.
The whole state was really spoiled when they had Coach Richardson. Not only did he win, he was an entertaining guy. All eyes were on him. He was a show all on his own. And then the product that he put on the floor, win or lose, it was exciting. So, you get spoiled after all of those years.
It’s tough to be the man that follows The Man. It’s a little bit easier to be the man who follows the man who followed The Man. Pelphrey’s got some substance to him. He’s highly intelligent, and he’s passionate. Razorback fans are passionate, and the coaches have been passionate over the years.
Speaking of Nolan, do you think he'll coach again at the D-I level?
It’s tough because he needs to have a job where he’s got enough resources, in terms of money. And not only that, he’s a guy who doesn’t want to go to just any job...it doesn’t even have to be taking a high-level Division I job, but he has to be in a position where the job has got a chance to have some success.
In the situation where he is now, he demands enough respect to go into a job and not have to dig it out of a grave. He doesn’t need a graveyard job just to coach. And it might not be a major D-I. It could be a mid-major like ASU was.
I know that he wants to coach, but it’s going to have to be the right situation. Somewhere where he can still get back and check on all the farm animals in Fayetteville occasionally when he wants to, because he loves doing that.
He doesn’t need to coach, but he still has the desire, and he’s still a great coach. I don’t know why any school wouldn’t want him to coach. Let’s be honest: the style he coaches, he gets the most out of his players, so he doesn’t have to wait for the recruiting class to come in. He gets the most of those guys right now.
He’s priceless in terms of being able to get a program. I’ll just throw it out there – I’m not saying that I think he’s going to get the Indiana job or anything like that — but Indiana obviously needs a coach to come in there and just revitalize the program. And there are a lot of programs like that around the country.
If I’m an AD or a president or a chancellor, I’m looking at him to just come in and give that shot of B-12 that any program needs. And that’s the kind of guy who can do it. But, it’s gotta be the right fit. ASU, I thought, would have been a great fit for him. But, it didn’t work out, so we’ll just have to wait and see.
Changing gears for a sec, we wanted to ask you a few questions about your playing days. It might be impossible to narrow this down to just one answer, but do you have a favorite memory from your college career?
The more seasons go by, the more you want people to remember your team. I see Scotty Thurman around all the time, I talk to Corey Beck, and you know the success that they had. You want people to remember your team.
Going to the Sweet 16 in 1996, I think that’s probably my favorite moment because the expectations were low for us at that time, and we were able to exceed the expectations. When you play at a program where they go Final Four, Elite Eight, Sweet 16, and then back-to-back Final Fours, you’ve got to continue to go to at least the Sweet 16 every year.
So every year after that Sweet 16, I felt was a disappointment. For me, it’s tough to pick a better moment than that. Of course, it’s tournament time, so I’m getting a little nostalgic about the tourney!
Other than that, to be honest with you, the time that you get to spend in the locker room with the guys and traveling with the guys, that’s what you really remember. Twice a week you play a game, two hours each time. There aren't really that many memories from that. The memories are from when you’re traveling together, the locker rooms. Most players would probably say that their best memories come from just hanging around with the guys.
On that 1996 Sweet 16 team, who was the locker room guy that kept everyone laughing and kept the mood light?
We had a different collection of guys, guys from all over the place. Of course, me being from right outside of Boston and Kareem being from New York and a collection of southern guys.
Ali Thompson was a jokester. He enjoyed having a good time. It was unfortunate: he could have helped us big-time if he didn’t leave the team after his junior year. You would put him in the clown category.
Kareem was just a stirrer. I used to call him the straw that stirred the drink, like they used to call Reggie Jackson back in the day. That was Kareem. He was the guy that just liked to stir things up in the locker room, on the court. Those were definitely two guys that got it going in the locker room.
Ok, this is one of those time machine questions. If you could take your 1996 Hogs and play the 2008 team, who wins?
We started four freshmen and a junior that year. So, on paper, there is no doubt that we would get smashed, absolutely smashed.
Like I said, in the NCAA Tournament, it’s about match-ups. We played Penn State and then we played Marquette. If these Hogs had those two match-ups, they’d probably have a Sweet 16 berth as well.
But, I gotta go with us! The reason why, we were too young to realize what in the heck was going on. We were just running and gunning. We had no rhyme or reason to what we were doing. We were just having fun. We felt no pressure in the world. We felt honestly like we were supposed to be winning every game. A lot of players put that unnecessary pressure on themselves. And, we had a point guard in Kareem that nobody could stop. I’m going with us.
Good...I would have been worried if you'd picked the other team!
You know what our best team was, though? Our best team was in ’98. I truly believe we had a Final Four team in ’98. Our last two losses in that year were to Kentucky, who won the national championship, and Utah, who played Kentucky in the national championship game. We beat Nebraska in the first round, and then we had to play Utah in the second round.
We were right there and had the opportunities to beat Utah at the end.
That was the best team when I was up there. We were just a collection of misfits, but everyone did their job. That was the best team we've had since ’95...since they lost to UCLA.
Who was the best Razorback player that you played with? Not necessarily the guy with the best stats, but the guy who consistently amazed you?
We had guys like a Jesse Pate, for instance. He was the top junior college guy. He was an absolute beast. He was about 6’4". He could shoot it. He could attack the basket. He could play defense. He was strong. He was quick. Unfortunately, he only played half a season with us.
In terms of a guy that just wowed you with what he could do, he was on his way. It’s just a shame that the NCAA just basically screwed him...he never got back into college to play. But you talk about a kid who had all of the talent in the world, Jesse Pate was one of those guys.
I know this is probably an obvious answer, but for a 5’10" kid with no great jump shot, to be able to do the things on the court that he did, Kareem was phenomenal. The way he finished in the lane...I still challenge anybody to find a better 6' or under player that can finish, besides maybe Allen Iverson, that can finish inside the lane the way he can. It was just phenomenal.
Ok, we have to ask this: right now, in 2008, a three-point shooting contest between you and Scotty Thurman...who’s going to win it?
I’d take Thurman all day! All day!
You know what his problem is? He’d probably be talking so much that he’d probably distract himself. He’d be trying to talk me out of my shot, and he’d be distracting himself.
But, I will say this, on a serious note: I’ll give it up to Scotty all day long. Because his arms are so long, all he’s gotta do is basically flick his wrists, and it’s like a lay-up for him. So, he’s at a little bit of an advantage.
But, between you and me, I’ve got him beat. Guaranteed fact!
In all seriousness, I’ll take Scotty. He was the greatest clutch shooter. In game situations, nobody is better than him. He’s so long, and he can get his shot off.
Without defense, me. With defense on the court, him.