Updated November 19, 2013
Eddie Sutton has a court named after him and Nolan Richardson doesn’t? That’s not right, people. Not right at all.
Nolan Richardson led the Razorback Basketball team to a NCAA National Championship in 1993-94.
Nolan led the Hogs to an NCAA Runner Up in 94-95, a Final Four appearance in 89-90, an Elite Eight in 90-91 and a Sweet 16 in 92-93.
Nolan’s Razorback teams won Southwest Conference Regular Season Championships in 89, 90 and 91; SWC Tournament Championships in 89, 90, and 91; Southeastern Conference Regular Season Championships in 92 and 94; SEC Western Division Championships in 92, 93, 94 and 95; SEC Tournament Championship in 2000.
To put it in raw numbers, as Head Coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks, Nolan Richardson had:
- 1 National Championship
- 1 National Championship Runner Up
- 3 Final Fours
- 4 Elite Eights
- 5 Sweet Sixteens
- 5 Conference Championships
- 4 Conference Tournament Championships
- 4 Divisional Conference Championships
- 15 post-season appearances in 17 seasons
Nolan is the only coach in history to win a Division I Basketball National Championship, an NIT championship, and a Junior College National Championship.
Nolan became the first coach in NCAA history to win 50 games in his first two seasons as Head Coach while at the University of Tulsa.
Nolan Richardson is in an elite group of only 5 college basketball coaches to win 365 games in 15 seasons or less.
Nolan’s Razorback teams recorded 20 win seasons 12 times, and recorded 30 win seasons four times.
Nolan’s Arkansas teams averaged 27 wins per season during the 1990s.
The Razorbacks were the winningest team of the decade until 1997, and their 270 wins from 1990-99 were more than all but four programs in the NCAA.
Nolan is a member of the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame, and the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame. He was SEC Coach of the Year in 1998, NABC National Coach of the Year in 1994, and the Naismith Coach of the Year in 1994.
Nolan’s successes were responsible for the still amazing Bud Walton Arena being built. The beat-down the Hogs put on Missouri for the official opening of The Bud is burned into my memory.
Nolan ran a clean program, his kids largely stayed out of trouble, and he did it all without a lot of NBA caliber talent.
Everyone, it seems, has recognized Nolan’s accomplishments as Head Coach at Arkansas, and his contributions to the game of basketball. Everyone except the University where he toiled for the majority of his career.
There is no statue or bust. There is no building or arena named after him. There is, finally, a painting.
There isn’t much of anything to mark the incredible run of success Nolan Richardson brought to the University of Arkansas. A tiny theater inside of Bud Walton Arena with his name on it? Did you know there was a theater there? Did you know it was named for Richardson?
It’s time to change that. It is time to name the basketball court in Bud Walton Arena Nolan Richardson Court.
My very favorite Nolan story – and I can’t remember where I heard it – is that when he was a young coach at Bowie High School in El Paso, Texas, he was also a coach on the football team, responsible for defense of the junior varsity team. His favored tactic on defense was to blitz all 11 players on every single down.
Is that not the most Nolan thing you’ve ever heard?
It is, I think, indicative of his personality. All In. Fully Committed. Unorthodox. Aggressive. In Your Face. And that’s how his teams played. They backed down to no one. They were fearless, challenging, difficult, unorthodox and committed.
Yes, he could be polarizing, antagonizing and challenging. Yes, the details of his departure from the university were ugly, but no uglier than the issues he faced down from a lifetime of overcoming obstacles both real and imagined. Yes, his anger was sometimes misdirected. Yes, he loved to tweak the people who had doubted him, and yes, he did so in-artfully at times.
Yes, there are some who cannot or will not forgive for reasons of their own.
But it is time to drop old animosity, the old prejudice, the old anger. It is time to bring Nolan home and honor the remarkable legacy he left, while he is still alive.
The man was a trailblazer in the truest sense of the word. He kicked down doors so that others could walk through them. He was a lightning rod, taking the full brunt of hostility to change so others wouldn’t have to. He railed against injustice. He fought to give opportunities to others. He took chances on kids that others wrote off.
For all his anger, he was, and is, a big-hearted guy. That is the paradox of Nolan Richardson.
He was wildly successful at the University of Arkansas. It’s time we remember that, and insure that future generations do as well.
The late John Robert Starr, editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, went on a one-man crusade against Nolan, aiming to get him fired. He wrote dozens of mean-spirited columns demanding just that, ending each one with “It’s time.”
Sporting Life Arkansas is taking up that call – in reverse.
Nolan Richardson Court At Bud Walton Arena. It’s time.
p.s. And while we’re at it, let’s bring back the Slobberin’ Hog at half-court, because let’s face it, Razorback Basketball has been a whole lot of not much since we abandoned it.
Back in the day when the message boards ruled the world, Patrick Houston defended Nolan to the bitter end.
Patrick lives in Little Rock with his wife Kyran, their three sons and Rosco the dog. You can follow Patrick on the Twitters.