One evening last year I spent the trip home flipping between “The Sports Animals” and “Drive Time Sports” to catch whatever tidbits I could. When I stopped on “Drive Time Sports” the occasion for me was about as memorable as hearing Bobby Petrino’s name come up for the first time for the Arkansas Football vacancy. Randy Rainwater asked Nolan Richardson something along the lines of (paraphrasing), “Coach, is there a circumstance in which you would return to coaching college basketball?”
Coach Richardson responded that there would have to be a really special situation. He said some other things but the part I remember was along the lines of (paraphrasing again)
it would have to be a situation like coach who took a university to the national championship, was fired and comes back to lead them to the national championship again.
I don’t get home and jump on the computer. I wanted to look to my side and ask someone, “Did you hear that? Did I just hear what I thought I heard?” The audio is not on 103.7 The Buzz’s site or elsewhere.
It wasn’t simply an auditory hallucination at the end of a long day. Nolan Richardson has always been someone who speaks from his heart, whether good or bad. Some measure of truth, some measure of Nolan Richardson is always present in what he says, even when he has a big smile or shows anger and his comments seem extreme. When I recently reconsidered the comments, I tried to find them quoted somewhere.
This is a different interview but here’s what Nolan said:
Q Would you ever like to coach full time again?
A My desire to coach will always be there. If an opportunity were to come with a school that is interested in winning a national championship, I would be interested. If a school fit my fantasy to do that again, I would. And if a professional team thought that I might be able to help them, I would be interested in something like that.
El Paso Times
Nolan knows the lay of the land and knows who he was speaking to in his interview with Randy Rainwater. It was said once and not to be said again. Nolan tends to respect other coaches too much to do that to John Pelphrey.
It’s my gut instinct that John Pelphrey is being a team player, almost as Houston Nutt was given a two-year pass by Frank Broyles in consideration of problems arising which Nutt didn’t create (or so the story goes). Pelphrey has had some opportunity but never a clean shot at trying to make his coaching tenure work. All indications are that Federal Privacy laws have prevented any further explanation of what’s been happening off-the-court regardless of how much or little that Jeff Long or John Pelphrey may want to say.
Listening to Nolan Richardson on the radio, I really felt he was half-way serious about returning to the University of Arkansas when he could be elsewhere. Nolan is revered in El Paso. How many coaches have a public grade school named after them? Nolan Richardson Middle School Tulsa has never forgotten Nolan. If you follow sports in detail, you know that he recently took on coaching the Tulsa Shock of the WNBA.
At the end of the day, Nolan still hangs his hat in Fayetteville. He had the money to go elsewhere. He would be welcomed with open arms elsewhere, but he stayed in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
I’ve felt for years that “40 Minutes of Hell” ought to be Arkansas’s style of ball, like a motion offense is Princeton’s style or scoring a 140 points a game was Loyola Marymount’s style back in the day. It’s like there ought to be a “College of 40 Minutes of Hell of Basketball” at the University of Arkansas just to produce the next coach.
But we’ve moved on, right?
John Pelphrey deserves a full opportunity like Nolan Richardson had a full opportunity. Pelphrey, the players, and University of Arkansas need to try lest we look like Dana Altman. That’s the way it should be.
If it doesn’t work out, there is a high-profile coach who loves Arkansas and its fans and who doesn’t have to visit the campus or move who would be available.
Meanwhile, the highly-touted recruiting class of 2011 will be ready to visit and sign, but where? For his last recruiting class, John Pelphrey did alright. His first couple of classes haven’t panned out. John Pelphrey will try hard to land as many players from that class as he can at the University of Arkansas.
Mark my words, the numbers will be damned if he can land more than 3.
But the Class of 2011 isn’t an accident and brings with it Nolan Richardson’s long shadow.
It’s no mistake that these kids were born, within a year either way, in 1994.