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Eric Musselman on history in professional ranks, comfort coaching in transfer portal era

Chandler Vesselsby:Chandler Vessels07/08/24


Eric Musselman believes his experience working in professional basketball prepared him to navigate the transfer portal. The first-year USC coach got his start in the Continental Basketball Association (CBA) in 1989 and later worked in the NBA for 11 seasons, including as a head coach for both the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings.

Musselman also has worked on the international circuit with China, USA, Dominican Republic and Venezuela.

He posted a 108-138 record in three seasons as an NBA coach, but learned valuable lessons about roster management at his various pro stops. Little did he know those same lessons would translate to the college game nearly 20 years later.

“I think when you’ve coached in the minor leagues, whether it’s the two leagues that you mentioned or it could be the G-League, changing rosters is part of your every day life,” Musselman explained on College Hoops Today with Jon Rothstein. “You’ve got to adapt very, very quickly when you coach national teams, whether it be Venezuela or Dominican Republic. You go back for a second year and often times there’s five new players on a national team from the year before. So you’ve got to be able to adapt. You’ve got to be able to put your system in as quickly as possible.”

Musselman comes to USC after spending the past five season coaching Arkansas. The Trojans saw six players transfer out and even more exhaust eligibility or declare for the NBA Draft. That being the case, he has a brand new roster to work with in 2024-25.

Overall, there are 16 new players for USC this season with 11 of those being transfers. That includes a few players who are using their extra year of eligibility provided by the COVID-19 season. This season will officially mark four years since then, meaning the number of graduate transfers will soon decrease.

Eric Musselman acknowledged that will cause him to adjust his approach beginning next offseason in how he uses the transfer portal. The coach took the Razorbacks to three NCAA Tournament and will hope to find similar success in Los Angeles.

“It becomes challenging, for sure, and I do think when you add in not just the portal, but next year’s gonna be different as the COVID (class), that whole group of guys gets phased out,” he said. “Now your recruiting becomes a lot different as well. There’s not going to be as many grad transfers. We still see changes almost daily in how all of us operate.”