Naming court after Richardson right thing to do

Published: Saturday, March 9, 2019
Former University of Arkansas head basketball coach Nolan Richardson speaks Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, at the Northwest Arkansas Touchdown Club at Mermaids Seafood Restaurant in Fayetteville.
Photo by David Gottschalk
Former University of Arkansas head basketball coach Nolan Richardson speaks Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, at the Northwest Arkansas Touchdown Club at Mermaids Seafood Restaurant in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Surely University of Arkansas Chancellor Joe Steinmetz and Razorbacks Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek know the UA Board of Trustees will approve the resolution naming the Walton Arena court after former Razorbacks Coach Nolan Richardson.

Little could make our state and its flagship university appear more bigoted and backward than proffering then rescinding honoring the first black man head coaching Division 1 college basketball in the South.

Beyond merely politically correct, this apparently done deal is the right thing to do. Building on the Barnhill Arena success that Hall of Fame predecessor Eddie Sutton achieved identifies Hall of Fame coach Richardson as Walton Arena's co-builder with the late Bud Walton himself.

Nolan's inspiration for Bud's $15 million donation proved instantly fortuitous. Nolan's Hogs won the UA's lone basketball national championship the first season calling Walton Arena home.

Things changed from 1994 to 2002. Richardson's relationship with Arkansas Athletic Director Frank Broyles deteriorated so much that Richardson was fired and subsequently sued the UA.

Time heals all wounds, they say.

Nolan has became a Walton Arena regular since being invited back in 2009 to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the national championship celebrated again on its 25th anniversary last Saturday.

Frank and Nolan had sufficiently reconciled for Nolan to attend Frank's 2017 funeral. He reminded all that Frank made his historic hire.

From this view of daily coverage, the Broyles-Richardson chasm never was racial but the butting heads of two proud Hall of Fame coaches of divergent backgrounds yet a common obsession to win. That obsession drove each to supreme success yet also at odds.

Nolan said much regrettable precipitating his firing.

But reviewing his first two Razorbacks seasons as his daughter was dying, Nolan experienced incidents of bigotry and stress nigh unforgivable.

Nigh but hopefully not irrevocable.

For if we learn anything from this ongoing reconciliation, it's empathy that most evolve with experiences and should not remain time warped imprisoned to mistakes of our past.

Nolan never stopped living in the Fayetteville area he loves. He doesn't just live here but is a giver here. From my wife Nancy's past on the board of the Yvonne Richardson Community Center serving an economically challenged part of Fayetteville, I saw Nolan's generous time and money involvement, which Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson and wife Marcheita continue.

As emcee of two YRCC banquets, I vouch Nolan can take a joke and crack one, too.

But I long knew that. The angry Nolan press conferences were far outnumbered by those bantering with Bob Holt, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette legend never lacking for a question. Nolan's practices were always open, his phone number in the book, his obliging interviews unwavering and his posing-for-pictures patience with fans unending.

The same could be said for Frank Broyles.

So paraphrasing a source's astute off-the-record observation, if blacks and whites in South Africa can reconcile from Apartheid, surely Arkansas and Nolan Richardson can reconcile from a lawsuit.

Seems most already have. Now officially they will.

Sports on 03/09/2019

Discussion

Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.