NAISMITH MEMORIAL BASKETBALL HALL OF FAME:

Too bad former LSU coach doesn’t get to vote

By: Bob Holt
Published: Sunday, April 6, 2014
Eddie Sutton, left, former President Bill Clinton, center, and Nolan Richardson, right, call the "Hogs" during halftime of an NCAA college basketball game between Arkansas and LSU on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Gareth Patterson)
Eddie Sutton, left, former President Bill Clinton, center, and Nolan Richardson, right, call the "Hogs" during halftime of an NCAA college basketball game between Arkansas and LSU on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Gareth Patterson)

FAYETTEVILLE - The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame has inducted 326 individuals since it opened in 1959, but none of them played or coached for Arkansas.

That could change in a big way Monday, when the Hall of Fame’s 2014 induction class will be announced.

Eddie Sutton and Nolan Richardson - who coached the Razorbacks to a combined 649 victories, 22 NCAA Tournament appearances and 4 Final Four appearances in 28 seasons from 1974-2002 - are among 10 finalists for this year’s class.

Peers of Richardson and Sutton believe they belong, but none more so than former LSU Coach Dale Brown.

“Should Jesus be in heaven?” Brown asked. “There’s your answer about Nolan and the Hall of Fame.”

And Sutton?

“Eddie Sutton has been a Hall of Famer from the time he started wearing a whistle,” Brown said.

Richardson said it would be great for Arkansas if he and Sutton got voted in the same class.

“Eddie is certainly as deserving as anyone that’s already in the Hall of Fame.,” Richardson said. “He’s a coaching legend.”

Sutton, 78, was the first coach to lead four programs to the NCAA Tournament- Creighton, Arkansas, Kentucky and Oklahoma State. Richardson, 72, is the only coach to win NCAA, NIT and national junior college championships.

Sutton, likewise, said Richardson should be among this year’s inductees.

“Nolan did something that no one else ever has, winning three different national tournaments,” Sutton said. “He’s got a resume that is certainly deserving.”

This is the fourth time Sutton has been nominated for the Naismith Hall of Fame.

“Maybe this will the the right time,” Sutton said. “But it’s a very difficult place to get into.”

The two coaches Richardson defeated at the 1994 Final Four - Arizona’s Lute Olson and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski - are in the Naismith Hall of Fame. So are seven other coaches Richardson defeated: Dean Smith, John Thompson, Larry Brown, Jim Boeheim, Rick Pitino, Jerry Tarkanian and Guy Lewis.

Richardson and Sutton are both in numerous Halls of Fame, including the National College Basketball Hall of Fame and the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.

“It’s great to be in those Halls of Fame, but the Naismith is really the pinnacle,” Sutton said. “That’s the one every basketball coach wants to be in.”

One coach who knows plenty about both Richardson and Sutton, former Ole Miss and Arizona State head coach Rob Evans, recalled that when he was an assistant at Texas Tech, Sutton’s Arkansas teams beat the Red Raiders on the road three consecutive years on last-second shots.

“I used to always say, ‘Man, he’s got to be the luckiest guy in the world’ - until I went to work with him,” Evans said. “Then I realized, ‘That’s not luck, that’s preparation,’ because Coach Sutton prepared for everything.”

Evans noted that when Richardson was hired at Arkansas, he became the first black head basketball coach at a major university in the South.

“Nolan was an unbelievable trailblazer and made it possible for people like myself to have opportunities with the success that he had,” Evans said. “He was always very, very direct. You always knew where you stood with Nolan.”

Richardson and Sutton are among three former college coaches on the Naismith Hall of Fame finalists list along with Gary Williams. Last year Pitino, Tarkanian and Lewis were inducted to the Springfield, Mass., shrine.

“There were three college coaches voted in last year,” Sutton said. “I hope that’s a good sign for Nolan and myself this year.”

Sports, Pages 28 on 04/06/2014

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