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[October 13, 2006]
Tubbs happy for Richardson: Q&A with Nolan Richardson
(Tulsa World (OK) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Oct. 13--Read selected questions and answers from a recent interview with former Arkansas and Tulsa coach Nolan Richardson at the end of this story.
Now that the Case Athletic Complex is taking shape beyond the north end zone at Skelly Stadium, perhaps the University of Tulsa can embark on a new construction project.
How about this one? Billy Tubbs joked that TU should build a statue of him.
In a roundabout way, Tubbs can claim responsibility for launching TU's basketball program to national prominence in the 1980s.
Tubbs, a former Oklahoma, Lamar and TCU coach, turned down the TU basketball job before it was offered to Nolan Richardson. Tubbs said TU should build the statue to thank him for not taking the job.
"If I had taken it, I don't know that they would have had the success that they had," Tubbs said during a telephone interview. "Nolan did a great, great job."
The Tubbs story is not a new one, but it became worth repeating when it was announced that Richardson was (finally) selected for induction in TU's Athletic Hall of Fame.
Richardson won an NIT championship in his first season at TU and, in his second season, guided the Golden Hurricane to its first NCAA Tournament since 1955.
Tubbs was the first choice of TU's selection committee.
He was an established head coach with local ties (he attended Central High School). Tubbs turned down the job to stay at Lamar, because he didn't think he could win with the players who were on TU's campus.
"I knew if I went there, I would really get drilled," he said.
That was not an issue for Richardson, who essentially brought a new team with him to Tulsa.
He coached Western Texas Junior College to a 37-0 national championship season and four of his players (including Paul Pressey) followed him to Tulsa.
After Tubbs declined the job, TU acting athletic director Emery Turner met with Tubbs once more to see if the coach would reconsider.
Tubbs said he told Turner, "If you hire Nolan Richardson, you are going to win a lot of games. If I was the athletic director, that's who I would hire."
Tubbs is pleased that Richardson is getting his due. Tubbs called Richardson "one of the great coaches in college basketball."
The road not taken: Richardson, during a recent interview, said he applied for jobs at SMU and Cal State-Fullerton before pursuing the Tulsa job. He said he initiated contact with TU by writing a short letter to Turner, but people on the search committee already knew about Richardson through word of mouth. Many people who interviewed for the job had talked about how they were going to recruit Richardson's Western Texas players.
Richardson recalled that he might have interviewed for the TU position the same day, or the day before, Mike Krzyzewski interviewed. Krzyzewski, through a Duke sports information official, denied ever interviewing for the TU job. It is known, however, that Bob Knight lobbied for TU to hire Krzyzewski in 1975.
Incentive clause: Six players who were on the Tulsa 66ers' NBA Development League roster last season began this season in NBA camps. D-League players will have extra motivation this season. For the first time, the league will stage an All-Star game, and it will be held in Las Vegas during the NBA's All-Star Weekend.
Bulletin board material: Kansas State freshman quarterback Josh Freeman guided the Wildcats to a come-from-behind victory over Oklahoma State in his first start. In Freeman's second start, he will face a Nebraska coach who once hinted the quarterback was a "drama queen."
The words came after Freeman backed out of a commitment to Nebraska and signed with K-State. NU coach Bill Callahan didn't mention Freeman by name, but said, "We want players who want us because we feel Nebraska's a special situation. If you're a prima donna, if you're a drama queen, then there's no room for you at Nebraska. You can go to Kansas State."
Georgia hot seat: New Union coach Kevin Wright caught heck after the Redskins began the season 0-3. He might have been subjected to a bigger firestorm if he had become the coach at tradition-rich Valdosta High School in Georgia.
Valdosta, touted as the nation's winningest high school football program, is 1-5 and is one defeat away from its first losing season since 1974. Wright interviewed for the Valdosta job last December, according to published reports.
Field trip: OSU will play a Saturday game at Kansas on newly dedicated Kivisto Field. The field was named in honor of Tom Kivisto, president and CEO of Tulsa-based SemGroup.
L.P. Kivisto is a former KU basketball team captain whose financial contributions are sparking a facilities upgrade at the school. SemGroup will become the title sponsor of Tulsa's LPGA Tour stop next year.
Catching up: Vanderbilt redshirt freshman quarterback Mackenzi Adams, formerly of Union and Metro Christian, played two-plus quarters in place of injured starter Chris Nickson in a loss to Mississippi last weekend.
Adams hit 10-of-20 passes for 176 yards and was the Commodores' leading rusher, with 51 yards.
Army freshman running back Tony Moore, formerly of Union and Sand Springs, is his team's second-leading rusher (227 yards) and shares the lead in touchdowns with four.
Dealing with adversity: During Thursday's Conference USA women's basketball media day at TU, coaches at Tulane and Southern Miss talked about how their respective teams were affected by Hurricane Katrina last season.
Players lost homes and their families were uprooted, but basketball was put in a proper perspective. Southern Miss players cleaned up yards. Tulane players are still doing community service.
Southern Miss coach Joye Lee-McNelis said her players stayed at her home after the hurricane.
"We used water from a swimming pool to bathe with," she said. "We made an outdoor toilet. We had a lot of fun. I had never boiled corn on the grill or made macaroni and cheese on the grill, but we did a lot of cooking on the grill.
"I think that was all part of our success that we had down the stretch last year, how we kind of leaned on each other and went through some tough times together."
Online: Read Jimmie Tramel's blog at www.tulsaworld.com/sportsextra.
Q&A with Nolan Richardson
Following are selected questions and answers from a recent interview with former Arkansas and Tulsa coach Nolan Richardson. The interview was conducted at one of Richardson's residences in Fayetteville, Ark.
Tulsa World: You were selected for TU's Athletic Hall of Fame. You put TU basketball on the map. What are your feelings?
Richardson: I came at the right time. Sometimes timing is everything. It just so happened in 1980, when they gave me the opportunity to coach at the university, it was during a period of years that they were way down and I was able to bring some kids with me and, along with Bob Stevenson, who was already there, really we just took off. The people, the fans, just kind of crowded around us and we just went on from there and just thought, I had, a phenomenal first year that started everything rolling.
Tulsa World: In hindsight, you've got to be proud about what you and other coaches accomplished there, right?
Richardson: You are always looking back at the things you hope that you created and sometimes you create a monster and sometimes you can't feed that monster once you create it. I thought that happened at the University of Tulsa as far as coaches coming in and moving on. I didn't think that was a bad deal because most of the time you would say, well, why can't they stay? The reason they don't stay is because they are good enough to move on to greener pastures. That's not a knock on the University of Tulsa. That means that each year that brings in a person who either maintains or took the program a little bit further, and then that guy moves on. I'm very proud. I think maybe of the coaches who have been there, I stayed (as long as anybody). I stayed five years. I'm not sure anyone stayed more than maybe J.D. (Barnett), who stayed five or six years. Tubby (Smith) stayed four. (Bill) Self (stayed) three. Steve (Robinson) was there two years. The other guy (Buzz Peterson) didn't make 95 or 100 days. But the program really got moving. There is no question. You feel real good about that. I will never forget. Bob Patterson, he was a TU grad who played back in 1955 when they had their first 20-win season. I think they might have won the conference, or a share of it. But he was with Coca Cola and I remember him saying that if you can win a conference championship, we are going to build a gym. So the first year we were close to winning it. The second year we were even closer. We got beat at Bradley for the championship that year. Then we went on to win two conference championships when I was there. When we won our conference championship, I asked him if the NIT counted. No. He told me that before the NIT. No, it had to be a conference championship. When we (did it), I gave him a call that we won the championship. His daughter became the basketball coach over at Oral Roberts and he said he was doing a lot of stuff with Oral now and I guess we will have to put that on hold for a while.
Tulsa World: You were the head coach at Texas Western Junior College and you brought four of your junior college players with you to Tulsa.
Richardson: I always felt that the guys I had, there was no question that wherever I was going to go, they were going to be a part of it. The only question was which four was I going to take out of the seven. The fifth guy who was a starter ended up at Georgia Tech. And then one of them went to where I had a chance to go, Cal State-Fullerton. And one went to Georgia State. All seven of them got Division I scholarships. Four were with me. Again, the fifth player, I had saw some things in (returning TU player) Bob Stevenson. Bob was going to be a senior and knew the league and it would have been very difficult to bring in five and he not get to play. So, to keep all that down, I said I am just going to take four.
Tulsa World: What were your initial expectations at Tulsa?
Richardson: Coming out of junior college undefeated, and the year before we had only lost three games and the year before that we lost seven, so in a total of those three years in junior college, I didn't know what losing was. We won the conference every time. We always were at the junior college tournament. We were in the Final Four my second year. We were in the top 10 my first year and we win it all my last year. When you come out of there, and the funny part is I had scrimmaged a couple of Division I schools in the area and had beat the crap out of them. And they were winning Southwest Conferences or finishing second or third. I was saying, hell, we were better than those guys. The only thing I didn't know about was the Missouri Valley. I knew the Southwest. We probably would have dominated that. I think our junior college team would have been in the top three every year that I was there because I had seen most of those kids in the Southwest Conference play. A lot of them were from Texas and of course I was in there and recruiting. One of the best players, and I thought I was going to get him, was the guy at Houston, Clyde Drexler. He didn't have grades at first. He was the last guy to sign for Houston. I thought we had a shot at getting him with my first team. So, those are the kind of players (I wanted). When we come to the Missouri Valley and you see guys like (Antoine) Carr and (Cliff) Levingston and Ozell Jones and X-Man. They were loaded. Then you go over to Bradley and they had all of their guys and they had been dominating. Then of course I got to the league right after (Larry) Bird had graduated from Indiana State. I played against one or two of those guys off that team that finished second. To be coming into that league, they weren't lying. It was the Valley of Death. Even Creighton was good. They are still good. Drake had Lewis Lloyd. I had played against his teams at New Mexico Military. He was up at Drake. We had just finished playing him. We knew he could get 30 or 40 every night. So the league was dynamite. God almighty. Every game, there were no gimmes.
Tulsa World: You got mad when someone told you before your first season at TU that you should be national coach of the year if you won seven or eight games, correct?
Richardson: The lady that was a newspaper reporter at Hutchinson was the one that told me about it. She loved junior college basketball and she kept up with our players. She said I knew when you got those kids to go to school with you and what you could bring and your style of play, you were going to be successful because nobody has seen basically how you get after people. (The person who made the comment) used to be the coach at K-State or KU. He was the guy who said it to her. He said if Nolan can take those JC players and win seven or eight of those games, he ought to be national coach of the year. She told me about that prior to the season. I said we will see. We won 26. We got six all right, but it was 20 in front of that. That guy is a pro coach today, an assistant. I saw him on the bench.
As time went on, Paul Pressey, David Brown, the first game they ever lost after they won 37 in a row (at junior college), we win about four or five more after we come to Tulsa. We are like 42-0 with that group. Dominique Wilkins hit a shot to beat us when we played Georgia. (My daughter) Yvonne cried. She was a little girl. She had never seen us lose. So she cried all night long.
I will never forget even (TU assistant) coach (Andy) Stoglin. He said you might win 20. And I'm averaging 30 wins. I'm saying 20? That's got to be a drop for me. And that's the problem. I think sometimes -- It's kind of like we did here at Arkansas. We won 27 or 28 games a year through the middle of the 1990s and when you drop off you are winning 20, what everybody else is trying to win. Well, that's no good. That's the thing I get a kick out of. Well, maybe not, but I set that bar too high. That bar is up there. But I set it for me. I set the same kind of bar for us at Tulsa.
Tulsa World: I had heard that your daughter was the one who convinced you to wear polka dots at TU. Is that true?
Richardson: Once I started, she wanted me to keep going. At one time I was getting ready to stop and she said, no dad, you've got to keep going. It became something. I remember the first game we played, they had a straw deal, a hurricane guy, couldn't hardly move and was about to fall over. I went in and talked to (TU's president), Dr. (Paschal) Twyman (about creating some excitement) That's why my uniforms were colorful, you know. To me, the university was such a little conservative place that everything had to be in place and in order. Fans (clap softly). They started going in wild in there. I brought in guys with a unicycle. They were riding a unicycle up and down the stairs and around the building and all that stuff. It changed. That's what it was all about. Not only did I have to be the basketball coach, but I had to (generate some excitement).
I will never forget. We lost a game on the road and I didn't wear polka dots on the road much. And I will never forget. When I got home, the next morning the phone is ringing. And I've still got my phone unlisted in the phone book. And it was a lady and she said "you know why you lost." No, I don't. Can you help me. "You didn't wear your polka dots" and hung up. Pow. My wife said what was that all about? I said this lady told me I lost because I didn't wear polka dots. I said I thought we weren't worth a damn.
Tulsa World: So the polka dots were about entertainment value?
Richardson: Yes. A piece of conversation. What color is he going to wear tonight? We even had polka dot night. You had to wear a polka dot shirt to get in there. Ed Beshara, my man, Ed and I sat down and talked and he said I'm going to help you with your TV show. I saw all these shirts he had lined up and they were polka dots. I said, Ed, do you ever sell any of those? Ah, those are no good. I said let me have about five or six of them. He said what are you going to do with them? I said just let me have five or six of them and I will show you. So I started wearing them. The next thing I know, I started asking can you order this color/ Then the store had nothing but polka dot shirts in there. He was selling them like hotcakes. It's something to talk about and that's all I wanted to do was to have something to say about the night, the game, the excitement, to get it going.
Tulsa World: Attendance shot way up in your first season.
Richardson: We opened up against Canada in an exhibition game. Then word starts spreading from people who watched those guys. We were throwing alley oops to Pressey and he was wrapping behind his back. We are doing some different things and giving them some excitement. I always thought that you needed to win, but you are entertaining. So you not only have to entertain, you have to win and entertain. A lot of coaches are so in control. We did that in junior college. We ran the floor. We trapped. We made it an exciting game. By the time we got to playing Louisville, we beat them and it was like the national championship minus one starter against a junior college national champion minus one starter. After that, Purdue came along. I will never forget. I bet you I had about 200 tickets to give away at least. (The president) gave me about 200 or 225 tickets. Here coach. As many as you want. You could go to the store and buy a carton of milk and get a ticket to the TU game. I will never forget. When we beat Louisville and Purdue, he called me back in and said "coach, we are going to need those tickets." He asked for them. I used to go to the north side and the west side and just give tickets away. Come to the game. It was that way. It didn't cost anything to watch TU play now.
Tulsa World: The stats say you forced Louisville into 35 turnovers.
Richardson: And that was the defending national champions against a bunch of junior college players. That just goes to show that the style was totally unorthodox. It really was. It was so sad. It was sad when I came over to Arkansas because I didn't have those kind of players, but I still tried to work it and I will never forget one of the newspaper guys said "are you guys going to continue to run that hully gully (stuff). Streetball." That n-word always would come in there, too. These people have no clue. They think that basketball has to be A go to B and B go to C. I played like that myself as a college player. I played for coach (Don) Haskins, who played for Mr. Iba and everything was by (the book). No bounce passes. No throwing it over the top. Nothing behind your back. You couldn't do none of that because the coaches thought they had complete control of the players and complete control of the game. I loved the game, but, hell, I didn't have no freedom to be who I am. When I decided to be a coach, I wanted to try to bring out the best in an individual that the good lord had given him. You freed them up. You freed them up and you are able to trap and rotate and things like that. It's beautiful. It's like an art. The fans, I see it more today than I've ever seen it. There hardly ever used to be a trap in the middle of the floor. Shoot, we may trap your butt any direction. And you couldn't scout us because we didn't know when we were going to trap. The key was you trap with opportunity. You teach that. You teach concepts. There are not any rules. Concepts and rules are different. The only rule that we had is if it ever went in the corner, there better be two guys on him. That's a rule. The rest of it is concepts. To teach concepts, it's hard for a coach to let go of the strings. When you are teaching concepts, you can't have all them strings on a kid. That's why I thought. I knew that (35 turnovers) for a national championship team is a ton. That's why I think right now that Mike Anderson's teams, at UAB, he came with a little different approach and you have to learn to adjust to that.
Tulsa World: How old are you?
Tulsa World: So out of 64 years of life, how important were those five years in Tulsa?
Richardson: As I took that job from the junior college, it was the most important movement for me to get into major college in my lifetime. In other words, the junior college provided me an opportunity to get on the college level, but not the major college level. Tulsa University provided me that opportunity that I dreamed so much of, being a major college coach. You can't replace that. We won a national championship (at Arkansas) and there is no question that is what every coach wants to win. But to win that NIT and see how the fans were there, to come in on an airplane and it is freezing to see that many people (1,500) at the airport, it is incredible to this day. We won the national championship and came home and they had a little bit, but it was nothing like what we had the next morning (in Tulsa). It was nothing like the weeks to come. It was the most incredible feeling I've ever had as a basketball coach of seeing how much the city and community appreciated the fact of what we had accomplished. It was unbelievable. Nothing has come close to that.
Tulsa World: You once said that you thought racial relations got better in Tulsa during your time there.
Richardson: All my life as I grew up, trailblazing, I guess, has just been a part of it for me. I remember sitting in the barber shops, black barber shops on the north side, listening to these guys talk about how they wouldn't even walk on the campus of TU because it was lily white. Now all of a sudden they've got this black dude -- they called me a dude -- over there and some of them guys who were talking didn't know who I was. I am sitting in a chair and all of a sudden, they are talking about how they don't mind going over to watch them play now. One guy was telling me that he and his people that he worked with, they never talked. He said we would just go to lunch and I would go my way and they would go theirs. But when basketball started, they would ask questions "what do you think about the game tonight?" So there was conversation. Do you think we can win? It was "we." Do you think we can win? Those were the kind of things that changed a lot of thought patterns. I noticed that when I first was there, there were very few blacks that came to the game. Very few. Then as days began to progress more and more, they started attending games. To me that's getting people through the common bond of basketball games to be just like the players. When the players win or lose, they cry together, whether they are black, white, Mexican, it doesn't matter. When they win, they are all so happy and hugging each other and loving each other. It's amazing what the sports world has done. It is. It's an amazing feat. For me to be a part of that and to think I had a hand in that is more important to me than how many games I won. That's important. I saw that happen.
You had some interaction because you had something to talk about and the common goal was your team, but it's both of your teams. That makes a big difference. You had some pride, and let's face it, the blacks had pride because I came in. Now they always had some black players. But to have the pride and here this black man has come to Tulsa and no one else has been able to do what he has done, so, this is our team. That's what I saw.
Tulsa World: Do you think you had a lasting effect?
Richardson: Yes, I think so. I think TU became, which I always loved the fact that TU, to me, belonged to Tulsa. They were Tulsa's team. I think there have been some coaches there who thought it was their team. One of them took place right after me. It was like this is my team. I never looked at it that way. I always thought this is Tulsa's team and I want all of Tulsa to be proud of this team and I want to try to put out a product that they can be proud of. It's theirs. I am their coach. I have always thought that way.
Tulsa World: Do you remember the picture of 10,000 people showing up at Bartlett Square to celebrate the NIT championship?
Richardson: When you showed me that picture, I've got that picture on my wall. I've got what you call a Hall of Fame room. Any time I want to really go back, I've got (pictures and memorabilia) everywhere. Any time I run across that one, it's like "wow." It was sensational. I have never had a feeling like that.
Tulsa World: You were 119-37 at Tulsa. That's not bad.
Richardson: Those were some great times. I felt good, winning 74-75 percent of games and knowing the gym we were playing in was going to have a good crowd every night. One of the hardest things for me to have done was to come from there to (Arkansas). That was really hard for me. As a matter of fact, I had called and turned down the job. When they offered it to me, I had turned it down because my daughter's doctor was there. Everybody, all of our friends, everybody that cared about us, were there. Yvonne, I had always told her I said if we had a gym, I could win a national championship. Where you have that built-in audience. They had one at Barnhill. I brought her up to a football game, TU played a football game here, and she could see all the Hogs yelling and screaming and it was exciting to her. She said if you could coach and win in that little old gym, you might be able to win one. That always stuck in her mind. So I said I was going to stay here. She said no. I said well you are sick (with leukemia) honey and your doctor is here. But she said it is only a two hour drive or an hour and 45 minute drive. And they got a gym. She said you will probably win one (championship). She kind of encouraged me to come up here.
Tulsa World: So she convinced you to take the Arkansas job?
Richardson: She really did. I told Andy Stoglin I was going to take him with me. At the time, he was at Oklahoma State and came with me over here. He said I don't know. I don't feel right. I said I really don't feel right because of my daughter. Everything is here for her. Her friends are here. She doesn't know anybody over here. She never did get to know anybody, really. She met one girl I think that became her friend. When you think about that, going back over things, you often ask yourself if you had it to do over again, would you do that? I would have probably not done it. The national championship was great. That's good because that's what I wanted to do. But no one was more important than my girl. That was a selfish (decision). That was what I wanted. But what I really wanted was her. If I had to make her happy and not have her driving back and forth -- we did that almost a year and a half, driving back and forth to Tulsa. Sometimes every other (day). I kept my house over there for four years while I was here because she got so sick she couldn't come back and they would stay at 71st and Memorial in that house over there.
Tulsa World: Did she drive over for chemotherapy?
Richardson: Chemo and all that. That's why Mike Anderson is so close to me. When I couldn't make it, he was the guy who did all the driving. At that time, he was a volunteer assistant. His daughter is named Yvonne. That's how close we got because he was everything.
Tulsa World: So why do you say that if you had it to do over again that you might not leave Tulsa?
Richardson: Just so Yvonne could have her days of her life be happy with her friends. They weren't here (in Arkansas). We had a house there so she could be with her friends.
Tulsa World: Compared to your kids, winning and championships don't mean anything.
Richardson: Not at all. As a matter of fact, I state that and I do a lot of speaking. If I leave this earth, I don't think the good Lord is going to ask me how many games I won. But I think he might ask me how many lives I have touched and that's important to me. How many lives have I touched? That is the biggest key. You touch lives in a positive manner and try to make boys into men. And since I taught on every level, boys and girls, and if I made them better people, I have done my job. For example, this (Nolan Richardson Middle School) shirt, when a school is named after you. How many coaches that are still alive -- usually they give you things when you are dead -- have a school named after you? That, to me is better than being a Hall of Famer. Because a Hall of Fame, you are in and they forget about you. But how many little kids are going to go to Nolan Richardson Middle School for all your lifetime and when you are gone. Your grandkids, your great grandkids and everybody else. There is a school there. That's what I mean by touching lives. Or be their hero. They could have just honored me by saying "Nolan, congratulations, here's a trophy." I have already had the key to the city three times at least. The highest award that can already be won, I've already got that twice. At the university I've already been the man of the year at the university I went to. I've gotten all the accolades that a person can get. The only thing missing from my repertoire is Hall of Fame coach in Springfield, Massachusetts. That's what's left.
I'm just very proud and very honored to be able to be inducted into the Hall of Fame at Tulsa University. I've already been in Arkansas, their Hall of Fame. They have a Hall of Honor too. One of them is for the state and the other is for the university. Both of those have already been inducted, so it's a great honor to be able to be inducted in Tulsa University's Hall of Fame because that's where it all started.
Tulsa World: It's still amazing that Tulsa was able to recruit to the Convention Center and Mabee Gym.
Richardson: We were fortunate to be able to come in and bring it and get it started. I think once you get something started, kids want to be a part of a winner. I think (some it was due to) the way Scotty Edgar and Mike along with Andy Stoglin and how hard we recruited back in those times. And the rules were different. Very different. We could talk to a kid every day. You could talk to them on the phone every day. Not anymore. You had to work. Now you don't work. You sit around. You can't outwork anybody. Like Carlton McKinney. We beat Arkansas and Kentucky on Carlton McKinney. Then it was being able to see talent progress like Byron Boudreaux. When he came in, he wasn't even recruited in college. For him to come and be able to see. David Moss, a kid like that. We knew a kid like Tracy Moore (could play). A blind man could tell that he was going to be a player.
What makes me feel good was when we got there and started playing basketball, I saw more basketball being played. I saw goals being built in backyards. The style of play changed. It was unbelievable. You know what, the guy (John Starks) that used to play for the New York Knickerbockers, he used to come to the gym and they wouldn't even let him play. Starks was a little kid coming into the gym when I was there. They were choosing. He would just sit on the sideline. Then he started growing. And I remember, man, here's a kid that used to come in the gym and they wouldn't even pick him. He wasn't even that good. But playing that style and opening up, boy, a lot of kids started playing. I think what we were accomplishing in that area, it just blossomed.
Tulsa World: Because of your era at TU, it's hard to hear songs like "Celebration," "Rubber Band Man" and "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now" without thinking of TU basketball.
Richardson: I will never forget that "Ain't No Stopping Us Now" was a thing that we started in junior college toward the end because we had went the year before, Three Rivers beat us in triple overtime and took it from us. The official just took that game from those kids. We were coming back and I will never forget. We had this kid named (Bill) Patterson. Patterson was my other kid. He was my fifth guy that I wanted to bring. He said coach, I want to tell you something. We were all in the dressing room. He said ain't nobody going to stop us next year. That was right then. He said have you heard that song "Ain't No Stopping Us Now." I said, yeah, a little bit. Because it was just coming out. He said you listen to it. Going through the season, I still hear that. All of a sudden he comes to practice and he said can I play this song while we work, while we start practice? So "Ain't No Stopping Us Now." And at that time, we were like 18-0. Then all of a sudden it was 20-0, 25-0. Maybe nobody is going to stop us. They believed that. So when we left, Pressey and Phil and all of them guys said, hey coach, this is our theme song. We've got to take it on with us. And that's how it all just kept on going. It's amazing what some kids believe in. That song, they really believed nobody was going to stop us. And in reality, when they won the NIT, they ended up winning kind of another national championship back to back.
Tulsa World: Former Notre Dame coach Digger Phelps caught a lot of flak from Tulsans because of things he said about TU before or during the NIT championship game against Syracuse. Did Digger apologize to you?
Richardson: You know, he came to the school. Digger is not going to say he is ever wrong. But he came to the school and they made a big deal out of it. And he got out on the floor and started showing us some stuff. I have had conversations with Digger. I said, you know, Digger, I am totally different than the way you guys -- I call them you guys -- play. You all have your rules and mine are different. I let my kids play a different brand of basketball. I did not expect for you to be rooting for us. Like, for example, I told him I am listening to the tape. You said watch these guys, it doesn't take them more than five or six seconds to shoot the ball. You know what happened one time. Paul Pressey took the ball out of bounds one time after a basket was made and he threw it the length of the floor to a guy with another layup. And you said "see what I mean. That only took one pass." I said are you telling me that when that guy was open and he threw the ball down there and he made a layup, that was a bad (play) and it should have been passed 12 times? He said "I said that?" I said you guys get caught up in saying things and when something happened, like for example, every time you said one pass, the guy made a shot. What is wrong with that? Now if we were running down the floor and taking shot after shot after one pass, then maybe you can say, hey, maybe they should pass it around a while. But we are making shots. Am I supposed to say timeout? Pass the ball guys? The difference is it is more unorthodox. For instance, we had a play called "back at you." Don't let the ball hit the floor. If the ball goes through that net, get that ball out of bounds and go down the floor. If you've got a man down there, get it to him. OK. I said that's coaching. Because they did what I asked them to do. Not coaching is to sit there and when you go to practice, you don't work that way. We do that every day in practice. So therefore, to me, a coach, it's what he does every day in practice to try to get prepared. If the kids are trying to do that, then he is coaching. I said since mine is uptempo and I'm trapping, but we do it every day in practice. Do you not think that is good coaching? It's difficult for you to understand that. It really is. It was probably really difficult for me to understand why coach Haskins, who I played for, wouldn't let me shoot when I was open. Here it is. I have a wide open shot. I'm a pretty good shooter. But I've got to pass it because the rule was you had to pass 12 times before you take a shot. And then I take the same shot where I was wide open before. I love coach Haskins, but he helped me become a very good basketball coach because I loved the way he made us play defense. So I do that, only I do it more fullcourt than he did. When it came to offense, I give my kids more freedom. Then, you can recruit. Because kids don't want to come to school and pass it 15 times before they shoot. That's why I think we were able to recruit in Tulsa because they came in there. It wasn't run and gun. We called it run and execute.
Tulsa World: If I remember correctly, back when you were taking Yvonne from Arkansas to Tulsa on a regular basis, the turnpike didn't exist and you had to drive on windy old highway 33. Get stuck behind a truck on that road and it could be an all-day drive.
Richardson: Yes, through Rose and Leach. But one time she was so sick and I will never forget. I had a Mercedes. I put her in the back. She was throwing up and had dry heaves and everything and I'm trying to get her to the hospital. And I was trying to find a policeman to chase me. I was going around those corners and saying I wish there was cop here so I could say I've got to get my daughter to the hospital, so you can turn the lights on. And that happened several times. ... That road was treacherous. That was a good two hours and 45 minute drive. Especially back then. The speed limit was 55 miles per hour, but you couldn't go 55 on those curves. But when they shot that baby straight through, it really made a difference.
Tulsa World: I don't mean to play psychologist, but do you think your Tulsa experience was really that special or do you think maybe you remember it as more special since your daughter and everybody was with you at the time?
Richardson: Tulsa, if you look at it, it was very special. It was kind of a combination of everybody there. You've got to remember, my daughter wasn't sick until the year I left Tulsa. We were getting ready to play in the NCAA Tournament. The day before they announced who we were playing, the next morning we found out she had leukemia. ... Even though I came over here, she would stay three or four days in the house there in Tulsa. But when you say was it because of my daughter, my daughter actually spent her sick time over here. She got sick, February, March, April, I took the job over here in April. Bang, bang. Over here, she maybe only got to go to school for a semester. She was a freshman when we got here. So she went to school at Skelly Junior High and places like that over there. We used to live right off 31st and Memorial when we first moved to Tulsa. It's funny. I bought a home, it was my dream home and we loved that home, on 71st between Memorial and Sheridan. We moved in there in December, at Christmastime of that year. I only got to stay in that house for three months myself. Four years later we sold it. Yvonne survived for two years. Like I said, the times that we were there were very special. Tulsa was a very special time in our lives.
Tulsa World: Can you elaborate on how you feel about being in TU's Hall of Fame?
Richardson: There is no question that when they told me about it, they didn't have a date or anything. To me, I was very proud of the fact. To be honest with you, I didn't know about Tulsa having a Hall of Fame really. I don't think about those things really. When they said I was going to be in the Hall of Fame, that was a magical moment then. Like UTEP, UTEP has only had one for three years. A lot of schools don't have a Hall of Fame. Now the town and the community or the state may have it. They just started theirs three years ago, I think. This past year was their third class at UTEP as a player. I went into their Hall of Fame. It's just one of those things where you know that you have given your best and given your all and if they are willing to honor you for that, it just makes you feel so much better for the fact that you are being honored for something you love to do. That's how I feel.
Copyright (c) 2006, Tulsa World, Okla.
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