A return to glory
When I was a boy, one of the most effective punishments my mom usedó when it was necessary, as it frequently was ó was grounding me from watching University of Arkansas basketball games.
That was in the early 1980s, after the ďTripletsĒ days of Sidney Moncrief, Ron Brewer and Marvin Delph. My parents werenít sports fans and so I became a fan a little later than some of my peers. But once I discovered the Razorbacks in the days of Darrell Walker and Scott Hastings, I was hooked.
In those days, most of Arkansasí games were broadcast on tape-delay in the Little Rock area. The games would play on Channel 7 after the 10 p.m. news. If it wasnít a school night, Mom would let me stay up and watch.
Those Arkansas teams were really good. Iíll never forget the day the Razorbacks beat No. 1-ranked North Carolina ó and Michael Jordan ó at the Pine Bluff Convention Center. I was in the ninth grade but I still vividly remember watching the game in the den of my auntís house in Stuttgart. The Razorbacks had played SMU in Dallas the night before and their plane was late getting to Pine Bluff. But they were still able to get one of the biggest wins in program history, thanks to a late basket from Charles Balentine.
Of course, the real glory days of Arkansas basketball were in the early and mid-90s under Nolan Richardson. Nolan was ahead of his time in terms of his coaching philosophy and mentality, and his teams were so much fun to watch. No Arkansas fan will ever forget the 1994 national championship. I was turned off a bit by the way Richardson carried himself away from the court, though. Now that Iím a little older, Iím somewhat more sympathetic to his position, but I still believe he could have handled things much better.
As an aside, I once opened the door to the Razorback locker room in the middle of Nolanís postgame talk. It was a mistake, of course. It was my first experience covering an Arkansas game and Iím not sure where I thought I was going. That door didnít stay open long once I realized my mistake.
Over the past 20 years or so, I developed a sense of apathy regarding the UA basketball program although Iíve watched a few games in the past few years. The Razorbacks had a nice team a few years ago led by Daryl Macon and Jaylen Barford, but that team wasnít nearly as good as this yearís group.
Eric Musselman has brought Arkansas basketball back to national prominence. As I write this on Monday afternoon, itís just a few hours before the Razorbacks face Baylor with a chance to advance to the Final Four.
This is Arkansasí deepest NCAA Tournament run since 1995, when Corliss Williamson and Scotty Thurman led the defending national champions back to the title game before losing to UCLA.
Iím not sure if Arkansas will get past Baylor tonight. The Bears were a pushover back in the old Southwest Conference days when I was first becoming a fan. But now Baylor has one of the best programs in the country. Itís going to be a battle.
Iím not sure, either, if Musselman will be able to sustain his success at Arkansas.
If I had to guess, I would expect him to get a contract extension and a big raise very quickly.
If that happens, the future could be very bright for Arkansas basketball.
One thingís for sure: Iíll be watching.