Nolan Richardson

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Nolan Richardson
Nolan Richardson.jpg
Richardson in 2009
Biographical details
Born (1941-12-27) December 27, 1941 (age 77)
El Paso, Texas
Playing career
1961–1964Texas Western
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1968–1978Bowie HS
1978–1980Western Texas JC
2009–2011Tulsa Shock
Head coaching record
Overall508–206 (.711)
Tournaments26–14 (NCAA Division I)
9–4 (NIT)
Accomplishments and honors
NCAA Division I (1994)
3 NCAA Regional—Final Four (1990, 1994, 1995)
NIT (1981)
NJCAA Division I (1980)
2 MVC regular season (1984, 1985)
2 MVC Tournament (1982, 1984)
3 SWC regular season (1989–1991)
3 SWC Tournament (1989,[1] 1990,[2] 1991[3])
2 SEC regular season (1992, 1994)
4 SEC West Division (1992–1995)
SEC Tournament (2000)
NABC Coach of the Year (1994)[4]
Naismith College Coach of the Year (1994)
MVC Coach of the Year (1981, 1985)
3x SWC Coach of the Year (1989, 1990, 1991)
SEC Coach of the Year (1998)
USBWA Most Courageous Award (1995)
Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame (1998)[5][6]
Basketball Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2014
College Basketball Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2008

Nolan Richardson Jr. (born December 27, 1941) is a former American basketball head coach best known for his tenure at the University of Arkansas, where he won the 1994 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament. Elected to the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008 and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2014,[7] Richardson coached teams to winning a Division I Basketball National Championship, an NIT championship, and a Junior College National Championship, making him the only coach to win all three championships. During his 22 seasons of coaching in NCAA Division I, Richardson made a post-season tournament appearance 20 times.

Early life[edit]

Richardson was born in El Segundo Barrio in El Paso, Texas, United States to Nolan Richardson Sr. and Clareast Richardson. Clareast died from a mysterious disease in 1944, leaving behind three children: Shirley, age 5, Nolan Jr., three, and Helen, six months. Eventually they moved in with the children's grandmother, Rose Richardson or Ol' Mama. Ol' Mama had a profound impact on Nolan by helping instill the drive and determination to succeed. Nolan's father would visit, but often did not live with the family, battling alcoholism for much of his adult life.[8]

Nolan Richardson played college basketball at Eastern Arizona Junior College during the 1959-1960 season, he then returned home to play for Texas Western College (now the University of Texas at El Paso), playing his junior and senior years under Hall of Fame coach Don Haskins for the Miners.

Coaching career[edit]

Early years[edit]

Richardson began his coaching career at Bowie High School in El Paso, Texas, he then moved to Western Texas Junior College, where he won the National Junior College championship in 1980.

University of Tulsa[edit]

Richardson was the head coach at Tulsa from 1981 to 1985, leading Tulsa to the NIT championship in 1981; this was the first time an African American coach won an NIT championship.[citation needed] Nolan Richardson is credited with bringing the Tulsa program to national prominence when hired in 1980,[citation needed] and he led the school to the aforementioned 1981 NIT Championship as well as season conference championships in 1984 and 1985, along with conference tournament titles in 1982 and 1984. Nolan had a .763 winning percentage at the school. He became the first coach in NCAA history to win 50 games in his first two seasons. While coaching at Tulsa, Richardson became known for wearing an assortment of polka dot ties; this trademark eventually led Tulsa students to don polka dots during home games.

University of Arkansas[edit]

In 1985, Richardson became the head coach at the University of Arkansas after Eddie Sutton left for Kentucky. Richardson became the first African-American coach at a major university in the South,[citation needed] and the first African-American head coach of a men's program in the Southwest Conference.[citation needed] He inherited a team and program that was used to Sutton's halfcourt-oriented, walk-it-up-the-court style. Richardson's frenetic, up-tempo system was something new to Arkansas fans, and people questioned it after finishing 12-16 his first season. However, by year two he had Arkansas back in the post season with an NIT berth. By year three he had Arkansas in the NCAA Tournament; the Hogs would stay there for 13 of the next 15 seasons. In all, Arkansas under Richardson enjoyed 15 post season appearances during the 17 seasons of his tenure.

He led Arkansas to three Final Fours—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. Richardson's Arkansas teams averaged 27 wins per season during the decade of the 1990s, they were the winningest team of the decade until 1997, and their 270 wins from 1990 to 1999 were more than all but four programs in the NCAA. Nolan's Arkansas teams recorded a 20 win season twelve times as well as four 30 win seasons during his 17 years.

His teams typically played an up tempo game with intense pressure defense - a style that was known as "40 Minutes of Hell." In 2012 his coaching philosophy was featured in the documentary "40 Minutes of Hell" on ESPN as part of the network's SEC Storied series. He is the winningest Basketball coach in Arkansas history, compiling a 389-169 (.697) record in 17 seasons. He is the only head coach to win a Junior College National Championship, the NIT Championship, and the NCAA Championship. Nolan Richardson is also among an elite group including Roy Williams, Denny Crum, Jim Boeheim, and Tubby Smith as the only head coaches to win 365 games in 15 seasons or less.

While Richardson was coaching at Arkansas, analyst Bill Raftery once called him Nolan Ryan.

University of Arkansas controversy[edit]

Richardson frequently spoke out about the negative stereotypes that he and other black coaches faced while coaching at Arkansas, it came to a head in February 2002, when he spoke out against the administration at the University of Arkansas and its fans. He claimed that he was being mistreated because of his race, and challenged Athletic Director Frank Broyles to ruffle feathers by declaring "if they go ahead and pay me my money, they can take my job tomorrow." [9] Shortly thereafter, Arkansas dismissed Richardson as head coach. In December 2002, Richardson filed a lawsuit against the University, the Board of Trustees, and the Razorback Foundation, citing a racially discriminatory environment; the lawsuit was dismissed in July 2004.

Richardson's former long time assistant, Mike Anderson, was hired as Arkansas' head coach in March 2011. Anderson led Arkansas to 3 NCAA Tournament appearances. Richardson attended numerous Arkansas home games during Anderson's tenure. On March 26, 2019, Mike Anderson was terminated as head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks.

Nolan Richardson Court[edit]

On March 28, 2019, two days after the termination of Nolan Richardson's protege Mike Anderson, the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees voted unanimously to name the court in Arkansas's Bud Walton Arena in honor of Nolan Richardson and his contributions to the University of Arkansas, State of Arkansas, and the United States of America;[10] the honor became official in the wake of growing public support to honor Richardson in this way, including a resolution proposed during the 2019 regular session of the Arkansas General Assembly.[11]


From 2005 to 2007, Richardson, (who speaks fluent Spanish) served as the head coach of the Panama national team. In March 2007, Richardson was named as the head coach of the Mexico national basketball team.


In the middle of 2009, Richardson was named as head coach and general manager of a prospective WNBA expansion team in Tulsa. While it seemed unusual to hire a coach before securing an actual berth in the league, the investors behind the expansion effort claimed this proved they were serious about wanting a team. On October 20, 2009, the Tulsa group bought the Detroit Shock and moved it to Tulsa as the Tulsa Shock, it was Richardson's first time as a professional head coach, as well as his first time coaching women.

Richardson's tenure with the Shock was far from successful, his first season ended before it began when key players who had led the Shock to three WNBA titles opted, for various reasons, not to make the move to Tulsa. This forced Richardson to try to build the team around disgraced Olympic track star Marion Jones, who hadn't played a meaningful basketball game since her college days 13 years earlier; the players also found it difficult to adjust to Richardson's frantic style. A lack of continuity plagued the team as well; all of the players who had come from Detroit had left the team by the middle of the season, and Richardson seemingly juggled the roster on a game-by-game basis; the final result was a dreadful 6-28 record, dead last in the league. Richardson tried to rebuild the team by coaxing Sheryl Swoopes out of retirement, but after a 1-10 start, Richardson resigned on July 8, 2011.[12]

Head coaching record[edit]


Season Team Overall Conference Standing Postseason
Tulsa Golden Hurricane (Missouri Valley Conference) (1980–1985)
1980–81 Tulsa 26–7 15–0 T–2nd NIT Champion
1981–82 Tulsa 24–6 12–4 T–2nd NCAA Division I First Round
1982–83 Tulsa 19–12 11–7 T–3rd NIT First Round
1983–84 Tulsa 27–4 13–3 T–1st NCAA Division I First Round
1984–85 Tulsa 23–8 12–4 1st NCAA Division I First Round
Tulsa: 119–37 (.763) 63–18 (.778)
Arkansas Razorbacks (Southwest Conference) (1985–1991)
1985–86 Arkansas 12–16 4–12 7th
1986–87 Arkansas 19–14 8–8 5th NIT Second Round
1987–88 Arkansas 21–9 11–5 T–2nd NCAA Division I First Round
1988–89 Arkansas 25–7 13–3 1st NCAA Division I Second Round
1989–90 Arkansas 30–5 14–2 1st NCAA Division I Final Four
1990–91 Arkansas 34–4 15–1 1st NCAA Division I Elite Eight
Arkansas Razorbacks (Southeastern Conference) (1991–2002)
1991–92 Arkansas 26–8 13–3 1st NCAA Division I Second Round
1992–93 Arkansas 22–9 10–6 1st (West) NCAA Division I Sweet 16
1993–94 Arkansas 31–3 14–2 1st (West) NCAA Division I Champion
1994–95 Arkansas 32–7 12–4 T–1st (West) NCAA Division I Runner-up
1995–96 Arkansas 20–13 9–7 T–2nd (West) NCAA Division I Sweet 16
1996–97 Arkansas 18–14 8–8 2nd (West) NIT Semifinal
1997–98 Arkansas 24–9 11–5 2nd (West) NCAA Division I Second Round
1998–99 Arkansas 23–11 9–7 2nd (West) NCAA Division I Second Round
1999–00 Arkansas 19–15 7–9 3rd (West) NCAA Division I First Round
2000–01 Arkansas 20–11 10–6 2nd (West) NCAA Division I First Round
2001–02 Arkansas 13–14† 5–10† T–4th (West)
Arkansas: 389–169 (.697) 173–98 (.638)
Total: 508–206 (.711)

      National champion         Postseason invitational champion  
      Conference regular season champion         Conference regular season and conference tournament champion
      Division regular season champion       Division regular season and conference tournament champion
      Conference tournament champion

†Nolan was replaced by interim coach Mike Anderson before end of season.


Regular season G Games coached W Games won L Games lost W–L % Win–loss %
Playoffs PG Playoff games PW Playoff wins PL Playoff losses PW–L % Playoff win–loss %
Team Year G W L W–L% Finish PG PW PL PW–L% Result
Tulsa 2010 34 6 28 .176 5th in Western
Tulsa 2011 11 1 10 .091 (resigned)
Career 45 7 38 .156

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Coaching Awards
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on April 17, 2016. Retrieved November 12, 2012.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^
  7. ^ Winderman, Ira (April 7, 2014). "It's official: Mourning, Richmond to enter Hall; Zo: 'I'm humbled'". South Florida Sun Sentinel. Archived from the original on April 7, 2014.
  8. ^ Bradburd, Rus. Forty Minutes of Hell: The Extraordinary Life of Nolan Richardson. New York: Amistad, 2010.
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Nolan Richardson Court: Home To Razorback Basketball". Retrieved March 29, 2019.
  11. ^ "Legislator proposes resolution to name Razorbacks' basketball court after Nolan Richardson". Retrieved March 29, 2019.
  12. ^ Longman, Jere. Leaving Detroit for Tulsa, the Shock Lost Their Way. New York Times, September 5, 2011.

External links[edit]