March 28, 2002 at 8:22 PM EST - Updated July 3 at 5:00 PM
KENT, Ohio (AP) - Stan Heath resigned at Kent State on Thursday to coach Arkansas after leading the Golden Flashes to the final eight of the NCAA tournament.
Heath (pictured, right) was not at the news conference at which Kent State athletic director Laing Kennedy announced the resignation.
"I love Stan Heath, I love what he stands for," Kennedy said. "I personally will miss him."
Heath was in his first year at Kent State and had a five-year contract. Kennedy said he felt complimented that Heath was taking the Arkansas job.
"You do not want to have coaches nobody else wants," Kennedy said. "In my opinion, Arkansas is one of the top five jobs in America."
Arkansas scheduled a news conference for later in the day to announce its replacement for fired coach Nolan Richardson.
The 10th-seeded Golden Flashes (30-6) fell one victory shy of a Final Four berth, losing to Indiana 81-69 in the NCAA South Regional final.
Kennedy said Heath told him Wednesday night during an emotional meeting at the athletic director's home that he was leaving.
Kennedy said he already has talked with three people about replacing Heath. He declined to name them.
Heath was among a half-dozen coaches interviewed by the Arkansas search committee. He also traveled to West Virginia to inquire about the job that opened when Gale Catlett retired.
Heath was in Fayetteville, Ark., on Tuesday and was the only candidate given a personal tour of Walton Arena by Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles. In addition, university officials held a reception for Heath and his wife.
Arkansas fired Richardson on March 1, four days after he said for a second time he wanted to be bought out, criticized fans and reporters and said he was treated differently because he is black.
Heath, too, is black. He will replace the only coach to lead the Razorbacks to an NCAA basketball title. Richardson's team was 13-14 when he was dismissed for comments athletic director Frank Broyles and chancellor John White believed hurt the program. The Arkansas system president last week upheld the dismissal.
Richardson said publicly he wanted the university to buy out the last six years of his seven-year, $1.03 million annual contract.
Heath signed a contract at Kent State with an annual base salary of $120,000 and incentives that could add $25,000 a year to the deal.
Heath was named coach at Kent State in 2001 after helping Michigan State win a national title and reach the Final Four during his three years as an assistant.
Heath also was an assistant at Bowling Green, Wayne State, Albion and Hillsdale.
During their tournament run, the Golden Flashes beat Oklahoma State, Alabama and Pittsburgh.
Kent State's success had special meaning for the Mid-American Conference. The only other time the MAC had a team in an NCAA regional final was in 1964 with Ohio University.
Kent State's 30 wins marked a single-season record for any MAC team, as was the team's 21-game winning streak.
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)