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.
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).
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.
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.
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.