Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
Nolan in, Eddie out at ‘big one’
Former University of Arkansas basketball coach Nolan Richardson shakes the hand of David Gearhart, University of Arkansas Chancellor, during a presentation of a painting of Richareson on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013 at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - Finally there’s a Razorback going in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Nolan Richardson, who in 17 seasons coached Arkansas to a school-record 389 victories and three Final Four appearances, including the 1994 national championship, is being inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in August, it was announced Monday. He is the first Arkansas player or coach to be inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame.
“I didn’t realize that, but I’m glad about it,” Richardson said. “Arkansas deserves to have some Hall of Famers.”
Eddie Sutton, who preceded Richardson as Arkansas’ coach and won 260games with the Razorbacks to rank second, was a finalist for the Hall of Fame, but isn’t among the inductees.
“I really thought he’d make make it,” Richardson said. “I have a lot of respect for Eddie for all that he’s done for the game of basketball and won at different places.
“He’s got a tremendous record. I thought he was shoo-in, but sometimes when you think you’ve got the shot, it turns out that you don’t. I hope he’ll make it in.”
Richardson, 72, is now in nine Hall of Fames, including the College Basketball Hall of Fame and Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.
“All of them have been wonderful, but this is the big one,” Richardson said of the Naismith Hall of Fame. “To be able to get into the granddaddy of them all is the ultimate achievement. You put yourself in the company of some of the most outstanding coaches, players, contributors that the sport has ever known. That makes me very proud.
“There’s no other honor I probably can receive higher than this. I was talking to a friend about it, and he said, ‘Well, Coach, the only thing bigger for you now is go into heaven. I said, ‘Let’s not do it right away, OK?’ “
Richardson had a 508-206 record in 22 seasons as a head coach at Tulsa and Arkansas. He’s the only coach to win NCAA, NIT (1981 Tulsa) and national junior college (1980 Western Texas) titles.
Sutton, 78, said he’s happy for Richardson to be inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame.
“I’m glad Nolan made it,” Sutton said. “He had a great career, and it’s certainly well deserved.”
Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson, who played for Richardson at Tulsa and was his assistant with the Razorbacks for 17 seasons, attended Monday’s announcement.
“I’m super elated and excited for Coach,” Anderson said. “For me to be there with him today is something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
“He’s been a mentor and a father figure to me. He’s someone I look up to with great admiration and respect. When you think about the road that he’s traveled, this is a crowning moment for him.”
This was the first year Richardson was a Hall of Fame nominee.
“Being nominated is one thing, but then to be selected the first time, I think it speaks volumes about Nolan Richardson as a coach and a person and what he’s accomplished in his career,” Anderson said. “I just think the Razorback Nation and the state of Arkansas should be proud that we have one of our own that has been recognized as one of the best in the history of basketball. We always talked about Nolan Richardson being a Hall of Fame coach, and to have it actually take place is very, very special.”
Richardson, who during his career beat nine coaches inducted into the Hall of Fame prior to this year, said it wasn’t frustrating as he waited to be nominated.
“I wasn’t sitting around going, ‘I wonder why I haven’t been put into the Hall of Fame?’ Maybe other people questioned it, but not me,” Richardson said. “I’ve never been that way. All the Hall of Fames that I’ve gotten into, I’ve been happy that they think my body of work deserved that.”
Sutton was a Hall of Fame nominee for the fourth time.He had a 804-329 record in 36 seasons at Creighton, Arkansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma State and San Francisco with 26 NCAA Tournament appearances and three Final Fours.
“Maybe next time I’ll get in,” Sutton said. “Whether I get in or not, I’ve had a great career and had a lot of fun. I’ve gotten to coach a lot of great wonderful young people.
“I’m OK. It’s not something I’m going to fret about.”
In the Hall
Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame class for 2014: NOLAN RICHARDSON College coach GARY WILLIAMS College coach ALONZO MOURNING NBA player MITCH RICHMOND NBA player DAVE STERN NBA commissioner BOB LEONARD ABA coach NAT CLIFTON NBA player SARUNAS MARCIULIONIS NBA and Lithuanian player GUY RODGERS NBA player IMMACULATA UNIVERSITY WOMEN’S TEAM 3 consecutive AIAW championships in 1972-1974
Sports, Pages 17 on 04/08/2014