FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — It is mid-February, and we are deep into SEC basketball, and whether you're a Hog fan or not, you can appreciate that new coach Eric Musselman brings fire to a talented young team.
While he's at work on the hardwood, his wife is getting settled in Fayetteville. It's been one of the biggest questions fans have been asking. Who is she?
We traveled to northwest Arkansas to find out who is real MVP is ― Danyelle.
The crowd at Bud Walton Arena is big and loud, and all eyes are on the new fired-up Head Hog Eric Musselman as he works to resurrect this Arkansas basketball program.
But not far behind him, just a few seats up sits his wife Danyelle.
Before she was first lady of Arkansas basketball, Danyelle was a sideline reporter for ESPN and the NFL Network. She met Eric at a sports and media conference.
"And I remember thinking he's really nice and I ended up giving him my phone number,” Danyelle said, “and it was really kind of instant. I think just over a year later we were married, so we knew," she laughed.
Danyelle is the general manager of the Musselman home.
Whether it's waiting in the carpool line with the family dog ― appropriately named 'Swish' ― to pick up their daughter Mariah from school each day or helping monitor Mariah's Twitter account (actually ran by Coach Musselman’s office), Danyelle is about as real as it gets.
But how does Danyelle feel like she best supports the coach?
“By keeping it real,” Daynelle said with a laugh.
There is no pretense ― what you see is what you get. She's that way with Eric too.
"I don't think there's too many people at the office who are gonna say, 'You know what, you're in a really bad mood and you need to snap out of it,” Danyelle said. “But I say that to him."
It's clear in this Musselman era ― the tempo is high. During games, Coach Mussleman typically paces and yells.
"He's nervous, he's terrible to be around,” Danyelle said while describing her husband. "He's full of nerves, it doesn't matter. We could go into a game and a be a 30-point favorite and he would be nervous on game day."
The intensity, nearly tangible, whether the team wins or loses. But if the team wins, Danyelle is not afraid to slide in on Coach’s moment of joy.
“I can ask for anything,” Danyelle said as describing her husband’s good mood after a win. “I have a 'we won' list and I just say ‘Okay hon, this is what I was thinking, we do need a new rug in the foyer up there, is that fine with you? Okay, good.'"
But what about if the team loses?
“We just stay out of his way,” she told us. “I pretend I'm asleep a lot of the times, if he comes home later than me.”
Danyelle credits her Georgia upbringing for keeping her "real." Her mother a nurse, her father worked for Ford and she, herself, also played basketball.
Later as a sports reporter, she traveled the nation covering games ― but ultimately hung up the mic for Eric.
Her focus is family with sons Michael and Matthew and daughter Mariah.
Never did she dream they'd end up in Arkansas.
Like any new Razorback fan, calling the Hogs might be a little strange for the first time. But the warm Razorback welcome outweighs any unusual feelings.
"It's like nothing I've ever seen before," she said. "It's been incredible. Walking into Bud Walton, seeing my first sellout. It gives me chills whenever I think about it."
But on the other side of that energy is something very ordinary. It’s how Danyelle keeps the balance in the household.
"I love cooking dinner for my family and having family dinner,” she said. “So just being able to have that away from basketball ― sense of family time and normalcy, it helps balance him out."
As a mom, in her box at Bud Walton, making sure Mariah and her friends are cheering loud and as a coach's wife, she is doing what she does best.
"He claims I calm him down," she said. "So when I travel with him, I don't know what I do, I'm just there!"
There for the three pointers, the bricks, all of it on Arkansas’s hardwood.
"I never want anyone to think it's easy just because that's what you see from the outside,” Danyelle said. “People say that some of the biggest stressors in a marriage are things like moving, changing jobs and I'm like boy did we make it ‘cause we've been through that 18 times! Life is an adventure; you never know really what's gonna happen. You just try to take a moment to enjoy everything because it all happens so fast.”
Fun facts about Danyelle:
Date/place of birth: May 7, 1977 in St. Louis, MO
Biggest pet peeve: “I can't stand lazy.”
Best character asset: “I think I have the ability to make most people feel comfortable.”
What Danyelle does to wind down: “Love jumping in bed with my husband and watching Netflix”
What Danyelle wants people to remember about her: “That I went through lots of different phases in life... lived different places, found different careers, etc... and was able to find joy in all of them.”
One word that best sums up Danyelle: “Adaptable”