John Pelphrey

John Pelphrey

John Pelphrey (born July 18, 1968 in Paintsville, Kentucky) is the 14th head men's basketball coach at the University of Arkansas (hired April 2007). After being named Kentucky's "Mr. Basketball" in 1987, he became a star college player at the University of Kentucky. Prior to coaching the Razorbacks, he served as head basketball coach for South Alabama. Pelphrey served as an assistant coach under Eddie Sutton at Oklahoma State and Billy Donovan at Marshall and Florida.

Playing career

High School

John Pelphrey attended Paintsville High School in Paintsville, Kentucky, where he was coached by Bill Mike Runyon. He would lead the Tigers to the Sweet Sixteen in the State Tournament, and make the Sweet Sixteen Fab 50. During his senior year as a Tiger (1987), the team's final record was 32-5. The team won Paintsville Invitational Championship, the Hillbrook Classic, the 57th District Championship, the 15th Region Championship, and made the KHSAA "Sweet Sixteen" Final Four. A two-sport athlete, Pelphrey also had a passion for baseball, he played during his high school years as a shortstop and a pitcher.


While a player at Kentucky from 1988-1992, Pelphrey led the Wildcats to the SEC Tournament Championship and an NCAA Tournament appearance, including the epic battle with Duke in the 1992 Elite Eight. Pelphrey was a two-time captain while at Kentucky and in 1989 was named the UK Student Athlete of the Year. During his collegiate career, Pelphrey started 90 of 114 games, and averaged 11 points per game over his career. In 2005, Pelphrey was inducted into the Kentucky Hall of Fame.

During his freshman year in 1988-89, the UK program was rocked by a major scandal. One player, Eric Manuel, was found by the NCAA to have received improper assistance on his college entrance exams. A second player, Chris Mills, received cash payments from a booster. The scandal led to the resignation of coach Eddie Sutton and athletic director Cliff Hagan, and led to major NCAA sanctions. Pelphrey and his fellow freshmen, Richie Farmer, Deron Feldhaus, and Sean Woods, stayed with the program despite the sanctions, and entered UK lore during their senior season in 1991-92.

That year, a relatively unheralded Kentucky team coached by Rick Pitino, in its first year after coming off NCAA probation, lost to Duke in the Elite Eight. This game is often considered one of the greatest in college basketball history, ending with the Blue Devils' Christian Laettner's buzzer-beating jumper in overtime, which is among the most famous finishes in a college basketball game. The four seniors, as undisputed team leaders who showed their loyalty to UK during some of the program's darkest hours, would forever be known by Wildcats fans as "The Unforgettables" (A name given to them by Coach Pitino). Pelphrey is one of only 29 former Kentucky players to have his jersey retired (#34).

Coaching career

Oklahoma State

After leaving Kentucky, Pelphrey spent a short time playing basketball overseas before joining his former coach Eddie Sutton's staff at Oklahoma State for the 1993-94 season.


Pelphrey joined Billy Donovan's staff at Marshall for two years and was instrumental in the resurgence of the Thundering Herd program.


In 1996, he followed Donovan from Marshall to Florida and coached as an assistant for 6 years. He helped the Gators garner a school record four straight NCAA Tournament appearances from 1999 to 2002. During the 1999-2000 season, the Gators made their first-ever appearance in the national championship game against Michigan State.

South Alabama

Pelphrey spent five seasons as head coach at the University of South Alabama. In his first season there in 2002-03, Pelphrey led the Jaguars from a 8-20 record the year before to a 14-14 record. In 2005-06 the Jaguars defeated Western Kentucky University in the Sun Belt Conference tournament championship game, earning USA's first NCAA tournament bid since 1998. The Jaguars lost to eventual tournament champions, Florida in the round of 64.

In 2007, Pelphrey led the Jags to a regular season title but they fell short in the Sun Belt Conference tournament quarterfinals. This led to an NIT berth and resulted in a loss to Syracuse in the first round 79-73. South Alabama finished the year with a 20-12 record, giving Pelphrey an overall record of 80-67 with the Jags.


Pelphrey was announced as the new head coach of the University of Arkansas basketball team at a press conference on Monday, April 9th in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Pelphrey replaced Dana Altman, who resigned after 26 hours as the head coach of Arkansas. The Razorbacks began the season ranked # 19, but fell out of the top 25 after losing their third game of the season to unranked Providence College. Arkansas went on to win six consecutive games to improve to 8-1, before losing to the Oklahoma Sooners. They finished the nonconference season 11-3, highlighted by wins over Missouri and Baylor.

The Hogs won their first two conference games against Auburn and Alabama, before losing their next two to South Carolina and Georgia. Pelphrey's Razorback team then responded with back-to-back home wins against two ranked opponents, defeating Mississippi State and also Florida, coached by one of his mentors and dear friends, Billy Donovan. The Razorbacks also handed a loss to ranked Vanderbilt along the way. Arkansas finished the SEC regular season with a 9-7 record.

The Hogs defeated Vanderbilt (then ranked 18th nationally) again in the 2008 SEC Tournament. They followed this up with arguably their biggest victory of the season, a 92-91 win over #4 Tennessee in the tourney semifinals. The Hogs lost in the championship game to underdog Georgia, but rebounded to defeat Indiana 86-72 in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. It was the Razorbacks' first NCAA tourney victory since 1999. The Razorbacks were eliminated by overall #1 seed North Carolina in the second round.

Personal life

He and his wife Tracy Lyon have two children, a son Jaxson, and a daughter Ann Marie. In 2003, the Pelphreys' infant son, John Patrick, died of a rare blood disorder. On June 10, 2008, Pelphrey and his wife launched the Pel’s Pals Foundation as a memorial to John Patrick. The foundation benefits children's charities, with a focus on neonatal care.

Head coaching record



  • 1987 Kentucky "Mr. Basketball"
  • 1990 Best Playmaker and Mr. Deflection Award
  • 1990 Academic All-SEC
  • 1990-92 Kentucky Team Captain
  • 1991 Kentucky Team MVP



External links

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