- Associated Press - Monday, March 14, 2011

FAYETTEVILLE, ARK. (AP) - John Pelphrey made his feelings clear on his way out at Arkansas.

The former Razorbacks coach, speaking for the first time since being fired by athletic director Jeff Long on Sunday, said Monday that he didn’t feel he was given enough time to complete a turnaround at the school.

“I do not agree with the decision yesterday to make a change,” Pelphrey said. “I do not. I absolutely do not. Obviously, I would have liked more time. It takes time to build stability in a program. Every situation is different. This situation was different.

“I know we were really close to reaping some of the rewards of all our hard work.”

Pelphrey inherited a senior-laden team when he arrived at the school and took over for Stan Heath. That team finished 23-12 in Pelphrey’s first season of 2007-08, advancing to the NCAA tournament and defeating Indiana in the first round before losing to North Carolina.

Arkansas never returned to the tournament under Pelphrey, finishing with 14 wins in the next two seasons. The Razorbacks finished 18-13 this season and lost in the first round of the Southeastern Conference tournament to Tennessee, their third straight first-round exit and third straight year of missing the NCAAs.

Pelphrey finished 69-59 in four seasons at Arkansas, but he insisted Monday that the program was nearing a turnaround regardless of who was the coach. The Razorbacks have signed one of the top incoming recruiting classes in the country, and Pelphrey said he has told each of the signees that Arkansas was still the best school for them.

“I absolutely, without question, know where it’s going to be tomorrow and that’s having repeat success of the past,” Pelphrey said.

Florida coach Billy Donovan, who Pelphrey worked for as an assistant with the Gators, also said Pelphrey wasn’t given enough time to fully put his mark on the program.

“He’s in his third year with his entire team returning with a top five recruiting class, that doesn’t make sense to me,” Donovan said. “The unfortunate part is they’re going to get a good coach, and it’s a good program, and it’s a good situation. But at some point they’re going to have to let whoever is in there be able to do the job.”

Pelphrey said he hasn’t thought about future coaching possibilities or opportunities. He said Monday was a time for him to complete his responsibilities as the Razorbacks’ coach, even if that meant answering uncomfortable questions about his firing.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Pelphrey said. “I do know that I’m a basketball coach, and after I walk out of here today I’ll have to make some of those decisions.”

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