University of Arkansas appears headed toward naming Bud Walton Arena floor ‘Nolan Richardson Court’

by Paul Gatling (pgatling@nwabj.com) 731 views 

Naming the basketball court at Bud Walton Arena for former University of Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson has been a popular topic among Razorback fans this season, 25 years after the Hall of Fame coach led the school to its first and only NCAA basketball championship.

The idea took its first formal step toward becoming reality Wednesday (March 6) when the school announced Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz has submitted a resolution for consideration by the University of Arkansas System Board of Trustees to name the court in Richardson’s honor.

The resolution will be considered at the board’s next meeting March 27-28 at the Arkansas School for Math, Sciences and the Arts in Hot Springs.

“Coach Nolan Richardson is not only a true Razorback legend, he is one of the most impactful coaches in the history of college basketball,” Steinmetz said in a statement distributed by the UA.

Richardson, who will turn 78 in December, coached the Razorbacks for 17 seasons (1985-2002) and he is the winningest basketball coach in the school’s history with a record of 389-169. Richardson led the Hogs to the NCAA Final Four three times (1990, 1994 and 1995) and a victory in the 1994 national championship game in Charlotte, N.C., against the Duke Blue Devils.

His teams were lauded for their frenetic style of play with unrelenting, full-court pressure defense — a style that was dubbed as “Forty Minutes of Hell” to describe what Arkansas opponents would endure for an entire basketball game. The phrase was so closely associated with Richardson’s success in Fayetteville that the coach filed to trademark the phrase in June 2016.

The 1994 championship team was honored in Fayetteville this past weekend and was recognized at halftime of the Razorbacks’ game Saturday against Ole Miss.

“I had the opportunity to witness the tremendous passion, excitement and affection Coach Richardson engenders among our former players, coaches and fans,” University of Arkansas Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek said in a statement. “And while I know many anticipated that we would utilize the anniversary of that championship to recognize Coach Richardson, his legacy is much larger than a single team or a single championship. We wanted all of his players, assistant coaches, staff members and Razorback fans to have an opportunity to join us next season as we formally dedicate Nolan Richardson Court.”

The decision by the current group of leaders at the UA will finally put to rest any lingering hard feelings between the school and its former basketball coach. Then-Chancellor John White fired Richardson in March 2002 after the coach complained he was being treated differently because of his race. Nine months later, Richardson sued the school in federal court claiming White and then-athletic director Frank Broyles violated his free-speech rights and discriminated against him because he is black.

A federal judge dismissed the race discrimination lawsuit in July 2004. Richardson has since been elected to the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2014, the University of Arkansas Sports Hall of Honor in 1996 and the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 1998.

In Richardson’s 22 combined years as a head coach at the collegiate level — at Western Texas Junior College, the University of Tulsa and the University of Arkansas — he compiled a record of 508-206 (.711) and became the only head coach in college basketball history to win a National Junior College Championship, NIT Championship and NCAA Championship.

Richardson was also honored with a banner in Bud Walton Arena in 2015, the most recent example of the two sides making amends. Richardson has also been a spectator in recent years at Bud Walton Arena, watching his former assistant coach and player Mike Anderson coach the Hogs since 2011.

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