Column: "The Sports Trail": Nolan forgot he was just another expensive basketball coach

Wednesday, April 24, 2002

by David McNeal

Even with all the baseball, softball, soccer, and track district meets going on this week, I'm still going to find time to turn on HBO's Real Sports Monday night at 9 p.m. to hear the latest from your pal and mine, Nolan Richardson.

That's right. According to sports writers here in Arkansas (none of them black, by the by), Richardson will tell all in a 12-minute segment told to interviewer Bryant Gumbel (who is black, by the by).

According to what I read, Richardson isn't going to let all of us fans who appreciate his efforts over the years celebrate with him in retirement.

Nope. He's too big for that. Said so himself in that 12-minute interview ---- along with several other things.

What comes out, apparently, is what we've seen and heard for years ---- Nolan is on a crusade to right the wrongs to his people (that would be black people), and someone has to be accountable ---- except Nolan.

According to reports about the interview, when Gumbel asked Richardson if his comments about the 1957 desegregation crises at Little Rock Central High School were misrepresented, Nolan said he was taken out of context.

At the end of that quote he added, "I just told them, I don't want to see 1957 occur again. We don't need that any more, and it could happen because I'm not your average black coach. I am visible, and I'm high-profile."

And obviously full of it.

The only person I have heard consistently rant and rave about race is Nolan Richardson. Clearly, it's his problem, not ours.

And if his ego has told him he's important enough to carry this state back to 1957, he has forgotten one really important thing ---- he's just a basketball coach.

Actually, an ex-coach at this time. And after hearing what I've heard for the last month, I hope he stays that way.

Good grief! He was never hired to run a rehabilitation program for inner-city youths, or to champion his personal cause from a public pulpit.

He was hired to coach basketball at the University of Arkansas and win games. He doesn't teach classes, although he's a member of the faculty; he doesn't have any assignment, except teaching kids to play a game; but suddenly he's bigger than the university, athletics director Frank Broyles, and the rest of us.

Richardson has made it clear where all of us fans fit into the scheme of things ---- nowhere. It's Nolan or nothing, apparently.

As for his relationship with Coach Broyles, and Nolan's crying about giving 17 years of his life to the program and the people of Arkansas, excccuuuuse me!

Coach Broyles has been here 40 years or so. He's a Georgia boy, but has been completely loyal to this state and the school that employs him.

Whether you feel it is time for Broyles to step down, or don't like his hiring practices, or never did think he was a great coach, just remember ---- he's stood the test of time and is still contributing to the university.

Richardson appears to be contributing, but in all the wrong ways. He is still yelling about race at every turn, with the implication that everyone who isn't black is against him.

Well, it didn't start that way, but supporters are clearly dropping by the wayside quickly.

Richardson could receive as much as $6 million from the university over the next six years for doing nothing. Not a bad retirement for a fellow turning 60 soon.

He could enjoy, with us, the memories of the good times. The people of Arkansas would like that.

Instead, those who get HBO will tune in and be turned off once again while the rest of the nation watches and wonders.

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