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Nolan Richardson inducted into NJCAA Foundation Hall of Fame

by Bob Holt | June 9, 2023 at 2:21 a.m.
Coach Nolan Richardson, center, holds the trophy as the Arkansas team celebrates its victory, Monday, April 4, 1994, Charlotte, N.C. Arkansas beat Duke 76-72 to win the NCAA Final Four National Championship. The rest of the group is unidentified. (AP Photo/Bob Jordan)

FAYETTEVILLE -- Nolan Richardson returned to Charlotte, N.C., Thursday for the first time since leading the University of Arkansas to its only NCAA basketball championship April 4, 1994, when the Razorbacks beat Duke 76-72.

Another championship team -- the 1980 Western Texas College Westerners -- brought Richardson back to Charlotte 29 years after the Razorbacks beat the Blue Devils and Coach Mike Krzyzewski in front of a crowd of 23,674 at the Charlotte Coliseum that included President Bill Clinton.

Richardson's latest trip to Charlotte was to be inducted into the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Foundation Hall of Fame.

Western Texas won the 1980 NJCAA national championship with Richardson as its coach and finished 37-0.

"Being back in fabulous Charlotte, North Carolina, brings back some great memories," Richardson said. "I get to brag about the national championship we won here at Arkansas, and also brag about my junior college national championship team."

The Westerners' 85-72 victory in Hutchinson, Kan., over Jefferson (Ala.) State Community College -- which featured future Richardson player and assistant coach Mike Anderson as its point guard -- in the 1980 NJCAA championship game improved Western Texas to 101-13 in Richardson's three seasons.

"Hey, we're like a time bomb," Richardson told a reporter in Hutchinson before the championship game with his team averaging 101 points. "You make one mistake and we'll explode on you."

After Richardson coached at El Paso (Texas) Bowie High School for 10 years, he was hired at Western Texas -- located in Snyder, Texas -- by Athletic Director Sid Simpson, a Pine Bluff native.

Richardson led the Westerners to records of 30-8 and 34-5 before the national championship season.

"We kept getting stronger and stronger, and we went from the [NJCAA] top 10 my first year at Western Texas to the Final Four my second year, then won the national championship my third year," Richardson said. "To accumulate those kinds of numbers in three years, it shows we had tremendous teams.

"So what else could I do in junior college?"

Richardson applied for three college jobs -- Cal State-Fullerton, SMU and Tulsa.

Tulsa, a combined 37-71 the previous four seasons, hired Richardson on the hopes he could turn around the program.

Richardson brought along four of his players at Western Texas -- led by Paul Pressey, who became a standout NBA player -- and added Anderson after being impressed with how he played in the 1980 NJCAA Tournament.

Anderson later became an assistant for Richardson at Tulsa and Arkansas and was the Razorbacks' head coach for eight seasons from 2011-19.

Richardson's first Tulsa team won the NIT, beating Syracuse 86-84 in overtime in Madison Square Garden in New York, and finished 26-7.

Tulsa's 119-37 record in Richardson's five seasons helped him land the Arkansas job when Eddie Sutton left for Kentucky.

Richardson led the Razorbacks to 13 NCAA Tournament appearances in 17 seasons, including the Final Four in 1990, 1994 and 1995, and had a 389-169 record for the most victories by an Arkansas coach.

Richardson, 81, is the only coach to lead teams to NJCAA, NIT and NCAA championships.

Being inducted into the NJCAA Hall of Fame, Richardson said, is significant because it recognizes his roots as a college coach.

"It's a great honor in many respects, because junior college basketball is where it all began for me as a college coach," Richardson said. "Getting the Western Texas job helped me get the Tulsa job, and what we did at Tulsa helped me get the Arkansas job."

Richardson, who starred at Bowie High School in basketball, baseball and football, played basketball at Eastern Arizona Junior College during the 1959-60 season, then transferred to Texas-El Paso, where he played for Coach Don Haskins.

"I played in junior college, then I coached in junior college," Richardson said. "So I had junior college written all over me all those years ago.

"Now here it is 2023, and I'm being inducted into the Junior College Hall of Fame. It's just an amazing deal."

Richardson is one of five inductees this year including Florida State Coach Leonard Hamilton, who played basketball at Gaston (N.C.) Community College; the late Kirby Puckett, a Baseball Hall of Fame outfielder for the Minnesota Twins, who played at Triton (Ill.) Junior College; Brittney Reese, a track and field star who competed at Mississippi Gulf Coast College and Ole Miss and won an Olympic gold medal in the long jump in 2012 and silver medal in 2016; and New England Revolution Coach Bruce Arena, who competed in lacrosse and soccer at Nassau (N.Y.) Community College and is the all-time winningest Major League Soccer coach.

Previously Richardson has been inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, the Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame, the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, the UA Sports Hall of Honor, the Southwest Conference Hall of Fame, the University of Tulsa Sports Hall of Fame, the UTEP Sports Hall of Fame and the El Paso Athletic Hall of Fame. The court at Bud Walton Arena is named in his honor and he also has a banner hanging from the rafters.

"I've been blessed to have so many good kids and good coaches to help make all these honors possible," Richardson said. "And I feel fortunate that I'm still around to be to enjoy them all."

Print Headline: Former UA coach inducted into Hall


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