FAYETTEVILLE -- In 2015, a banner was raised to the Walton Arena rafters in recognition of Nolan Richardson's accomplishments as the University of Arkansas men's basketball coach.
Now that banner will hang over a court that bears his name.
EXHIBITION BASKETBALL GAME
WHAT Arkansas men vs UALR
WHEN 3 p.m. today
WHERE Walton Arena, Fayetteville
ADMISSION The game is not part of Arkansas’ season ticket package. All tickets are $10.
DOORS OPEN 1:30 p.m.
NOTEWORTHY There will be a pregame ceremony in which Nolan Richardson Court will be unveiled.
LAST SEASON’S RECORDS Arkansas 18-16, UALR 10-21.
HOW TO LISTEN The game will be on the Arkansas Radio Network with Chuck Barrett and Matt Zimmerman on the call.
HOW TO WATCH The game will be streamed live on the SEC Network-Plus with Brett Dolan and Kikko Haydar on the call.
Richardson, 77, will have the Walton Arena court named in his honor today when the Razorbacks and University of Arkansas at Little Rock Trojans play an exhibition basketball game. "Nolan Richardson Court" will be unveiled in a ceremony before the tipoff scheduled for 3 p.m.
In March, the UA board of trustees voted unanimously in favor of naming the court to honor Richardson. Now it's time to make it official and show off the finished product.
"It's a great feeling, and it's been a great feeling for quite some time since they announced the fact the court would be named in my honor," Richardson said. "It gives me great memories of all the kids that played for me and coaches that worked with me and the great fans that were a big part of everything we did."
Arkansas Coach Eric Musselman said he has seen an artist's rendering of the court.
"I can't divulge anything because I'm under strict orders," Mussleman said with a laugh. "But I will say I think it looks awesome."
Richardson said today's ceremony will be the first time he has seen the floor's design.
"I've signed my name for the signature they're going to use on the floor," he said. "I'm excited to see it just like everyone else."
More than 40 of Richardson's assistant coaches, staff members and players at Arkansas are expected to attend today's game.
"You can have a lot of individual awards, but having a court named after you, that goes to everyone that made it possible for this to happen," Richardson said. "I go all the way back to the times I got started in my coaching career with seventh-grade and high school teams in El Paso. Those kids also had a lot to do with whatever my career turned into."
Musselman said since being hired as Arkansas' coach after last season, he's appreciated getting to know Richardson.
"From my perspective, Coach Richardson has been awesome," Musselman said. "He couldn't have been nicer to me and my family."
Richardson could have made it awkward for Musselman considering he replaced Mike Anderson, who was fired as the Razorbacks' coach. Anderson played for Richardson at Tulsa and was his longtime assistant at Arkansas.
But Richardson said Anderson's firing is no reason to have ill feelings toward Musselman.
"I'm a coach, and every coach that gets a job, he has nothing to do with the guy that left that job," Richardson said. "The new coach that's coming in like Eric, I'll do anything I can to help him. That's the bottom line with me.
"I think Eric will do a great job here. I certainly wish him the best."
UALR Coach Darrell Walker, an All-American guard for the Razorbacks and coach Eddie Sutton as a senior in 1983, said he's excited the Trojans will be part of today's game and celebration of Richardson's career.
"I'm really pumped up about it," Walker said. "I'm happy for Nolan. I'm happy that the board of trustees voted to do this for Nolan. He's one of the best coaches in history in any sport."
Walker showed his players 40 Minutes of Hell, the ESPN documentary about Richardson's career.
"I want to make sure they all know who Nolan Richardson is and what he accomplished," Walker said. "He's done so much."
Richardson, who was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2014, is the only coach to win a national junior college championship (Western Texas 1980), NIT title (Tulsa 1981) and NCAA championship (Arkansas 1994). He holds Arkansas' record for most victories with a 389-169 record in 17 seasons, which include 13 NCAA Tournament appearances and three trips to the Final Four.
Richardson also has been inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, UA Hall of Honor and College Basketball Hall of Fame. He also has been honored by Texas-El Paso, his alma mater, and by Tulsa, where he coached for five seasons before coming to Arkansas.
The gym at Bowie High School, where Richardson played and coached, also is named in his honor as well as a middle school in El Paso, his hometown.
Richardson was coach of the year in the Missouri Valley Conference, Southwest Conference and SEC. He won championships in all three conferences and was the national coach of the year.
"Every honor that I have received, it's always been one of the greatest things," Richardson said. "When we won the national junior college championship, I thought that was the ultimate. Then the next year we won the NIT. That became the ultimate. Then we got to our first Final Four in 1990, that became the ultimate. Then we won the national championship in 1994, and it was the ultimate.
"It just kept getting bigger and bigger. I'm a blessed guy in my coaching career. When I sit around in my little Hall of Fame room now and go back and get a chance to smell the roses, it's incredible because I didn't really realize all the accolades I've received and honors that I've won. It's amazing what has taken place, and then you put this court on top of that."
Arkansas' current players weren't alive when Richardson won the national championship, but they've gotten to meet him.
"Coach Richardson has come to some of our practices and talked to us about the tradition at Arkansas and what's expected," sophomore guard Desi Sills said. "We know he's a great man and a great coach.
"He did so much for Arkansas basketball and for the state. We're just trying to live up to his legacy now."
Sophomore guard Isaiah Joe said he's thankful to be on the first Arkansas team that will play on the court named in Richardson's honor.
"We know Coach Richardson brought a national championship to Arkansas, and that's a big thing," Joe said. "Hopefully, we can bring another one soon."
When Richardson was fired as Arkansas' coach with one game left in the 2001-2002 regular season, it was hard to imagine the Walton Arena court ever would bear his name.
Richardson sued the UA and its administrators for racial discrimination. The lawsuit was dismissed after a trial in Little Rock.
After staying away from the Arkansas campus for several years, Richardson had a reconciliation after the UA administration changed chancellors and athletic directors.
Mississippi State Coach Ben Howland said at SEC media days that he's happy Arkansas will name its home court after Richardson.
"That's as it should be with everything Nolan did at Arkansas," sad Howland, who led UCLA to three Final Four appearances. "I think that's really great for him -- and probably long overdue."
Richardson hasn't complained about the wait.
"Some things come at their own time," Richardson said. "I'm just happy that I'm here to enjoy it with my family and my friends and my players and the fans."
Sports on 10/20/2019
Print Headline: Hogs set to unveil new court for Nolan