CONWAY, Ark — "We're just all keeping in mind that we have a job to do," said Anthony Boone after Central Arkansas' Monday morning practice.

The job that Boone has to do is one he didn't expect to have. At least, not like this. Thrust into the role of Interim Head Coach after Russ Pennell announced he was taking an indefinite leave of absence on December 16.

He stepped down, effective immediately, a little more than three weeks later on January 7.

"It was a surprise, certainly for all of us," Boone said of the decision.

"It was just very unexpected," junior point guard DeAndre Jones agreed. "I don't think anyone came into the season expecting that was going to happen."

Since taking over, Boone has guided the Bears to a 4-2 conference record, including an 89-82 upset win over the top seed in the Southland, Sam Houston State.

"What we do is focus on playing to our standards," said Boone. "And if playing to our standard isn't good enough, then we know were not good enough. We feel that if we do that though, we'll have a chance in every game that we play.

Untimely adversity threatened to derail the Bears' season before it had barely begun. Instead of tearing them apart, ultimately, it's brought them together.

"I love how well this team gels and gets along," said Jones. "Not every team is like that that I've seen, that guys can get along so well off and on the court.

"Most coaches and most teams will say they're a family," Boone said. "And I believe that most coaches intend that. But it really is one here."