The Arkansas-Pine Bluff women's basketball coaching job is not one of the most desirable NCAA Division I opportunities out there.
The Arkansas-Pine Bluff women’s basketball coaching job is not one of the most desirable NCAA Division I opportunities out there.
In fact, after winning just two games in the past two years, it is probably toward the bottom of the barrel. There might even be high-level Division II jobs above.
However, that has not stopped the impressive list of candidates UAPB athletic director Lonza Hardy has received who want to turn around the woeful program.
With apologies to former UAPB women’s coach Danny Evans, there are two candidates that stick out more than the rest — Tim Eatman and Nate Kilbert.
Eatman was the associate head coach for the Arkansas women’s basketball program under Tom Collen from 2007-11. He also was an assistant coach under Hall of Fame coaches Vivian Stringer and Marian Washington.
UAPB fans are familiar with Kilbert, who has been the women’s basketball coach at Mississippi Valley State since 2001. The Devilettes won the SWAC regular season title this past year. Kilbert might have an inside track since Hardy, who used to be the athletic director at MVSU, hired him as the Devilettes’ head coach.
Evans also applied for his old job and is currently the head boys basketball coach at Ridgway Christian. He previously said he has “unfinished business” at UAPB since he won 10 games in each of his last two years with the Lady Lions before being unceremoniously let go by the athletic director before Hardy.
While Evans does have unfinished business at UAPB, he is behind the eight-ball because of the two stellar candidates to lead the Lady Lions out of the cellar of the SWAC.
Eatman, who is currently an assistant women’s coach at Boston College, knows the coaches and talent Arkansas has to build a competitive team and he still has those contacts.
Plus, the amount of basketball knowledge Eatman soaked up under Stringer, Washington and Collen cannot be underestimated.
Eatman even has head coaching experience at Illinois-Chicago from 1998-2002 in which he turned around the program. The program achieved the most wins it had in seven years and Eatman put together two top 20 recruiting classes at a mid-major.
That is exactly the kind of coach UAPB needs — one with experience in turning around a program. There is talent to recruit in Arkansas that can come in and contribute immediately for the Lady Lions, and Eatman obviously knows a D-I player when he sees one.
Eatman seems like the perfect candidate and genuinely wants the job.
But he is up against a candidate that knows the SWAC and knows Hardy very well. Kilbert is coming off a SWAC title and SWAC Coach of the Year award. In 2005, MVSU was the SWAC tournament runner-up.
Then from 1991-2001, Kilbert was an assistant coach for the Alcorn State women’s team, which won seven SWAC regular season titles during that time.
Hardy is very familiar with Kilbert since he hired him, so he may go that route for the Lady Lions.
Hardy has two obvious choices that could potentially lead UAPB from the bottom of the SWAC to the top of it. With the resumes Eatman and Kilbert have, it is tough to pass on either one.
While I think Eatman is a little ahead of Kilbert, the only way Hardy could go wrong on this hire is if neither one of them end up on the Lady Lions bench next season.
Justin Rust is a sports writer at The Commercial. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.