On Tuesday, Little Rock (LR) Athletics announced the hiring of Darrell Walker as the men’s basketball program’s 23rd head coach. The announcement came about three weeks after the firing of former coach Wes Flanigan.
Walker, a former University of Arkansas, Fayetteville (U of A) basketball player, played 10 years in the NBA and brings some 20 years of professional coaching experience to Little Rock, having been head coach of two NBA franchises, as well as an assistant for four others.
Walker’s hiring follows the worst season in LR’s 88-year men’s basketball program history. The Trojans finished 7-25 and lost in the first round of the Sun Belt Tournament to Appalachian State.
In addition to his playing and coaching experience, Walker is a member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, as well as the U of A Hall of Honor.
This morning, university chancellor Andrew Rogerson and LR athletic director Chasse Conque formally introduced Walker to assembled fans and media in the Legends Room at the Jack Stephens Center.
“I’d like to congratulate Chasse and the athletics staff over the years for building the kind of program that has attracted coaches of the caliber of Porter Moser, Chris Beard, and Joe Foley,” Chancellor Rogerson said (all three coaches led their teams to NCAA tournament berths this season). “We selected Darrell Walker because we think his experience and dedication to our state and our city will extend that tradition of winning.”
“Today certainly marks a new day for this program,” Director Conque said. “It’s a day for hope and a day of optimism as we look towards the future,” Conque concluded before introducing Walker.
Walker, a Chicago native, was visibly moved and commented on all his friends and family in the audience.
“This is very humbling, I’m excited, I’m ready for the job,” Walker said. “This is what I know. I’ve been doing it since I was 10 or 11 years old,” Walker said.
In his remarks, Walker highlighted the importance of sustaining a basketball program and finding good basketball players that will fit the university’s values.
Previously, Walker worked for two years as head coach of Division-II (D-II) Clark Atlanta University where he led the Panthers to two D-II tournament appearances. He commented on the visible role he kept on their campus, something he plans to continue at Little Rock.
“I had a golf cart, I drove around every day to check the classes,” Walker said. “I plan on being very visible on campus, checking on the guys, hanging out with the students.”
Walker offered former Trojan basketball players an open invitation to remain involved with the program.
“Any former Trojan basketball player, you are welcomed at my practice, you are welcomed to come to games,” Walker said. “I think it’s very important that we go back and touch base with former players. Sometimes, former players get lost.”
Walker concluded his remarks with a rousing “Go Trojans” which caused the room to erupt in cheers.
In limited media availability, Walker hinted at the fast-paced style he plans to implement on the court. “The game has changed. It’s not 1980 anymore,” Walker said. “We have to get up and down the court,” Walker finished.
Walker, a state icon, brings name recognition to a program in need of a recognizable face. While some media organizations have questioned his lack of experience, Walker believes he’s prepared for the task ahead.
“We’re gonna win some basketball games and we’re gonna do it in a fun style,” Walker said. “We’ve got a great facility here. No reason why we can’t fill it up.”