FAYETTEVILLE — When there was a problem with one of the nets in the Arkansas Razorbacks’ game against LSU last season in Walton Arena, Riley Hall stepped up — onto a ladder.
Hall quickly sprung into action with 9:57 left in the second half, jumped off the bench, climbed the ladder, fixed the net and got the University of Arkansas back on its way to a 99-90 victory.
Why was Hall the guy fixing the net?
“That’s just who Riley is, man,” Razorbacks coach Eric Musselman said. “He’s willing to do any job necessary. You turn around and he’s right there and he’s fixing something or making something better. That’s every day.”
Hall has the title of video coordinator for Arkansas, but his job entails much more than that.
“I don’t think there’s a job title broad enough to cover all of the different things that Riley does,” said Danyelle Musselman, Eric’s wife. “He’s amazing. Honestly, he’s the most important person in that office.
“We wouldn’t be able to operate without him. He’s so organized and he’s such a nice person on top of that.”
Said Hall, “The easiest way to put it with my job is just to make sure that Coach Muss has everything he needs to be successful.”
Hall, 25, is the only holdover from the staff of Mike Anderson, who was Musselman’s predecessor at Arkansas and is now St. John’s coach.
“Especially when it was just Coach Muss and me here, our heads were spinning,” Anthony Ruta, the Razorbacks’ director of basketball operations, said of April 2019. “Riley was pointing us in the right direction on everything.
“I don’t know if we would have survived that first month on the job without Riley being here. He just wears so many different hats, and he’s got great relationships throughout campus and in the community.”
Hall, who has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the UA and is a graduate of Bryant High School, is in his eighth year with the basketball program. He began as a manager and was a graduate assistant before Anderson added him to the full-time staff.
“I’m forever indebted to Coach Anderson for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime,” Hall said. “But Coach Muss has let me continue to have that opportunity of a lifetime.
“Coach Muss has treated me like family since the day he got here. He and his whole staff welcomed me with open arms.”
Hall said there were some anxious moments for he and his wife, London, when Anderson was fired after the 2018-19 season.
“That was a tough day, and it was one of the more stressful times in my life, because you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Hall said. “My wife’s a nurse at Washington Regional and she said she could get a job in a lot of places, because she’s got a pretty flexible career. She was like, ‘Whatever happens, I’m with you and we’ll make it work.’”
As it turned out, Hall didn’t need to change jobs because he quickly proved his value to Musselman and the new staff.
“Riley’s been incredibly helpful to all of us that are new to Arkansas, both from an institutional knowledge standpoint and also from a personal standpoint,” assistant coach Clay Moser said. “You’ll say, ‘Hey, Riley, I need to get this done.’ And he’ll know exactly what to do and who to talk to.
“I think he’s also growing as a professional because Muss is giving him a lot more responsibility here than what he had.”
Hall spends most of his day with Musselman, helping him stay on schedule and keeping track of what needs to be done next.
“Coach Muss and Riley have a special relationship,” assistant coach Corey Williams said. “Riley keeps Coach Muss and all of us organized. He’s so reliable.”
Musselman has come to rely on Hall.
“He’s kind of my right-hand guy,” Musselman said. “He’s the most valuable guy on our staff in many ways, because he’s a tireless worker. He’s been awesome.”
Musselman, 55, goes at a pace each day of a much younger man.
“His energy level is high and he’s hard to keep up with, but it’s what makes us better every day,” Hall said. “Being able to learn so much from him is what’s going to help me be a better coach, too.”
Musselman, who led Arkansas to a 20-12 record last season, had a 110-34 record at Nevada the previous four seasons. He also has extensive experience at the professional level, including NBA head coaching stints with Golden State and Sacramento.
“It’s really cool to see the way that Coach Muss runs a program and to hear his NBA stories,” Hall said. “He gives me full access to whatever I need, and whatever questions I have, he’s always there to answer them.
“He’s just been a great mentor, a great role model.”
Hall said Musselman asks for feedback from all of his staff members on a daily basis.
“Coach Muss wants to hear different opinions, he wants people to have a voice,” Hall said. “He wants everybody to be fully involved.”
Hall comes from a coaching family. His grandfather, Ron Marvel, won 489 games as the women’s coach at the University of Central Arkansas and was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame last spring. His parents, Tim and Rhonda Hall, both were high school coaches at Greenbrier and Benton. His mother, now retired, also coached at Bryant. His father is a sales manager at Everett Buick GMC in Bryant.
“I grew up in a gym and I’ve got a lot to live up to with a family full of coaches,” Hall said. “But at the same time, I’ve had great role models that have influenced my life to help guide me down the right path.
“It seems like they enjoy watching me do what I’m doing now. I’ve always wanted to coach. I would love to be a head coach some day. I love being involved in coaching and love the day-to-day grind of sports and everything that comes with it.”
Hall grew up going to Arkansas basketball, football and baseball games and said the UA was the only college to which he applied.
“Riley is very passionate about Arkansas,” Moser said. “He bleeds Razorback red. That’s why he’s been a real, real, real, real strong asset for our program and our staff.”
Hall said he’s living a dream working at Arkansas, which his father helps remind him of from time to time.
“I might call my dad and go, ‘This or that happened,’ or ‘It was a long day in the office,’” Hall said. “He’s like, ‘You work for the Razorbacks. There’s no bad day. You can’t have one.’
“It’s a really rewarding job. There’s a lot of hard work that goes with it, but being from Arkansas, it means a lot to be working for the Razorbacks and that Coach Muss kept me on the staff and respects what I do.”
Hall was the guy changing the net against LSU because it’s what he had trained for back in his days as a manager.
“We always had a plan, ‘Hey, if the net breaks during a game this is how we’re going to go about it. You grab the ladder, you grab the net and then I’m going to change it,’” Hall said. “I’m obviously not a manager anymore, but I was like, ‘I feel like I can change this net better than anybody else. I’m just going to get up here and change it myself.’
“I saw what happened, and I told one of the managers, ‘Hey go grab a ladder right now.’”
Hall said the net wasn’t torn, but a cord that holds it to the front side of the rim had been broken.
“We have extra nets, but we had never really planned for the cord to break,” he said. “So we ended up having to solve it with some tape that would hold it up for the time being.”
Another problem fixed by Hall.
“Riley’s a man of many talents,” Williams said. “We needed the net fixed, and he didn’t hesitate to step up. But that’s what he always does.
“He’s earned his position on Coach Musselman’s staff. He’s performed at a high level.”