Nolan Richardson, the pride of Segundo Barrio neighborhood who went on to star at Texas Western College (now UTEP) and coached Arkansas to a national championship, will be inducted as a coach into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday.
"This is great. My cup runneth over," Richardson said in April when the Class of 2014 was announced. "(when you think" this little town I came out of in El Paso, Texas. And you're a little 8-9 year old boy playing and here you are, hopefully getting ready to be inducted into the hall of fame - which is the big one."
“It’s a well-deserved honor for Nolan and I think that most of the inductees into the basketball hall of fame are here for basketball,” said Rus Bradburd, a former UTEP and New Mexico State University assistant coach who wrote Richardson’s biography, “Forty Minutes of Hell.”
“And of course, Nolan deserves to be here for basketball, he’s a great, great coach and everybody knows his accomplishments. But I see Nolan as a historical figure because he’s a pioneering, trailblazing coach of color. He’s one of America’s first great coaches of color to be successful,” Bradburd told ABC-7 on Wednesday afternoon.
Bradburd will be attending the enshrinement ceremony in Massachusetts on Friday. Nate “Tiny” Archibald, a former Miner, NBA star, and hall of famer himself, will present Richardson for induction.
The way Bradburd sees it, Richardson’s importance goes beyond wins and losses and comparisons to other coaches.
“In my view, he’s the most important black coach that’s ever coached in college basketball. He opened a lot of doors for a lot of people and he changed the world for the better,” Bradburd said. “So regardless of whether he’s a better coach than Rick Pitino or Don Haskins or Mike Krzyzewski, that’s all debatable. What’s not debatable is his place in history and the historical importance of Nolan Richardson cannot be overstated.”
Although Richardson’s coaching career took him to Tulsa, Arkansas, the WNBA, and even head of the Panamanian and Mexican national teams, he never forgot where he came from.
“I think there’s no one who’s prouder of their El Paso roots than Nolan Richardson,” Bradburd said. “I don’t think there’s ever been more than three or four months that he hasn’t come home to El Paso. He always talks about El Paso. He talks about Bowie High School all the time. And I think he very much considers himself an El Pasoan first and foremost. So I think as proud Nolan is of El Paso, I would hope El Paso would be just as proud of Nolan Richardson.”
Richardson visited El Paso a few weeks ago for his annual charity golf tournament.
During the awards dinner he told the crowd that his life isn't measured by how many wins he had but how many lives he touched and he reminded the audience that they need to touch lives, too.
Richardson told everyone the importance of education and that it's the one thing no one can take away from a person.
But don't think Richardson is always serious because he also knows how to have fun.
During the auction portion of the awards dinner he made sure to chide old friends from his days at Bowie in perfect Spanish.
Bradburd believes Richardson shares a certain trait with the legendary Don Haskins that shaped their respective characters.
“I think in many ways Nolan Richardson was a troublemaker in the same way that Don Haskins was,” Bradburd said. “I think he shook the world and it rattled people and he didn’t always make people comfortable and happy. But I think the world is a better place because of Nolan Richardson. “
And you have to go beyond basketball to understand Richardson’s impact on the world.
"What I tell people is, if you really want to understand Nolan Richardson’s impact on college sports don’t look at college basketball where a third of the coaches are now African American, but look at college football where we’re still waiting for our Nolan Richardson in college football. It hasn’t happened yet,” Bradburd said. “No one has come in and won big like Nolan Richardson and been outspoken and stood up for right and wrong and made clear divisions politically the way Nolan Richardson did. It hasn’t happened in football yet. “
Nolan Richardson's Career Accomplishments
Coach Richardson began his coaching career at Bowie High School in El Paso, Texas. He then moved to Western Texas College, where he won the National Junior College championship in 1980. He was the head coach at Tulsa from 1981 to 1985, leading Tulsa to the NIT championship in 1981. In 1985 Richardson became the head coach at the University of Arkansas, where he gained national recognition.
Richardson took the University of Arkansas to the Final Four three times, losing to Duke in the semifinals in 1990, winning the National Championship in 1994 against Duke, and losing in the Championship game to UCLA in 1995. He was named the National Coach of the Year in 1994. His teams typically played an up tempo game with intense pressure defense - a style that was known as "40 Minutes of Hell." He is the winningest coach in Arkansas history, compiling a 389-169 record in 17 seasons. Coach Richardson is the only head coach to win a Junior College National Championship, the NIT, and the NCAA Tournament.
From 2005 to 2007, Richardson served as the head coach of the Panamanian National Team. In March 2007, Richardson was named as the head coach of the Mexican National Team. In 2009 Coach Richardson assumed the head coaching position for the WNBA Tulsa Shock.
Career accomplishments from nolanrichardson.org