Indeed, it wasn't easy for a homegrown basketball talent and Kentucky's 1988 Mr. Basketball to walk into the same arena he played in wearing a red tie with a black suit.
Surrounded by a sea of blue, including many fans from his hometown of Paintsville, Pelphrey and the Razorbacks left Lexington with a 63-58 loss to Kentucky in the first of what's expected to be many encounters against his alma mater.
He received an impressive ovation from the crowd prior to the contest, similar to the one Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie received when his time came to be introduced.
Unlike the days when Nolan Richardson coached at Arkansas, the Kentucky contingent was warm toward the current Razorback coach and wasn't hostile.
Following the hype, Pelphrey didn't allow the past to become a distraction. Once the ball was tipped, he returned to reality, which is coaching Arkansas.
"It (the sentiment) doesn't get in the way of the job I am trying to get done," he said. "I loved this place when I played, and I have a deep affection for it. It means so much to me. I really wanted to win this game."
As for Kentucky, Pelphrey offered nothing but praise for Gillispie and his staff.
"I think that Billy Gillispie has his guys playing well," he said. "They are a major factor in the SEC. Ramel Bradley, Joe Crawford and Patrick Patterson are performing at a very high level. Kentucky has good coaching and great players. When Kentucky needed them the most, they all made plays.
"I give full credit to Kentucky; they played better than us and deserved to win."
Late surge by Cats
It was a late surge by the Wildcats that prevented Pelphrey from notching his first win at Rupp. Arkansas led by seven points early in the second half, but Kentucky overcome an 11-2 run by the Razorbacks to open the period, and Bradley made a clutch basket and four free throws down the stretch to preserve the win.
"Kentucky was very tough down the stretch and scored when they needed to," Pelphrey said. "Those guys made plays down the stretch. We couldn't sustain our defense when we needed to."
Another downfall for Pelphrey's squad was rebounding. Kentucky held a 38-23 edge and limited the Razorbacks to just three offensive rebounds.
"Everyone talked about our advantage up front, but you didn't see it today," Pelphrey said. "I'm still waiting for this great front court to show up, and it hasn't."