Stan Heath is a wealthy and happy man. After just one week after being let go by the University of Arkansas Heath was hired by the University of South Florida to try and resurrect a dormant program which has lacked a winning record since they were coached by Seth Greenberg (now at Virginia Tech) and led on the floor by B.B. Waldon. It can be said that Heath is a wealthy man because he just accepted a buyout agreement from the Razorback Administration for $900,000 per year over the next three years. This is on top of the 4.25 million dollars he could potentially earn with South Florida over the next five years. Heath takes over for Bob McCullum who despite his valiant efforts just couldn’t quite anything going within the Big East and went 40-76 over his four years at the school so athletic director John Gerdes knew there had to be a change.
Heath was known as a dynamite recruiter having landed several McDonald’s All Americans at Arkansas in his somewhat brief tenure there. He always seemed to be one player away from leading Arkansas deep into the NCAA Tournament, but given the fact that Al Jefferson decided to go to the NBA straight out of high school to go to the Boston Celtics eventually instead of heading to Fayetteville was a real blow for Heath and his program.
Heath takes over a program that since moving from Conference USA has basically been the guaranteed win on everyone’s schedule within the Big East, which is not really a negative because South Florida is still getting their feet wet within a major conference power and were sort of a throw-in because of all the conference realignment that went on a couple of years ago as sort of a domino effect due to Boston College both winding their way to the ACC in order to get a bigger payday in football. In his five years at Arkansas Heath compiled an 82-71 reaching postseason eligibility three times, but only going two due to the fact that Arkansas declined a bid to the NIT back in 2004. Heath is expected to be able to handle the pressure and recruit a little better due to his experience of coaching in the Southeastern Conference at Arkansas, along with his time in the Big Ten as an assistant with the Michigan State Spartans in the Big Ten under coach Tom Izzo. Before being at Arkansas though Heath also gained notoriety as the “Cinderella Story” of the 2002 NCAA Tournament after leading the Kent State Golden Flashes to the Elite 8 as a head coach with the help of future San Diego Chargers pro-bowl tight end Antonio Gates and sharp shooter from the outside Steve Huffman. For Heath this offers a new opportunity given the fact that he can now still remain in a power conference and shake off the stigma of being a one-hit wonder within the NCAA Tournament with that run to the Elite 8 with a “mid-major” like Kent State. The question still lingers over him as to whether he can get out of the first round of the Big Dance due to Arkansas losing to Bucknell and the University of Southern California most recently. Heath stated in his introductory press conference at South Florida “One thing about me, I didn’t have to coach,” Heath added. “But it’s in my blood to coach, and I’m really excited about being here.”
The search for a new head coach at South Florida included conversations with Withrop’s Gregg Marshall and former UVA coach Pete Gillien. Arkansas may or may not be regretting their decision to let Heath go, given the Dana Altman-Creighton stay or go game that Altman played with Razorback and Blue Jay fans.