FAYETTEVILLE - Nearly 7,000 fans joined former Arkansas head basketball coach Nolan Richardson, 19 former players and coaches and the current Razorback basketball team for the world premiere of the ESPN Film 40 Minutes of Hell at Bud Walton Arena on Saturday.
The third installment of the SEC Storied series was shown for the first time following Arkansas' basketball game against South Carolina on the scoreboard video boards. The 48 minute film featured the life of Richardson, including the ups and downs of 17-year tenure at the University of Arkansas. Richardson led the Razorbacks to 389 wins, three Final Fours and the 1994 NCAA Championship.
"We came to 40 Minutes of Hell and the Nolan Richardson Era pretty quick," John Dahl, Executive Producer of ESPN Films, said. "We thought it was really a rich story, a great story to tell. It was about a time when Arkansas was really at the forefront in American culture, politics and sports and that wasn't even just on paper. Coach (Nolan Richardson) and President (Bill) Clinton had an actual relationship. I just thought it was a wonderful story to tell. It's is just a really important story for everyone to see."
The film was produced by the NASCAR Media Group including director Kenan Harris-Holley. Harris-Holley said it didn't take long for him to get a feel for the passion for the Razorbacks when he arrived to start working on the film.
"The most striking thing about doing this film was the spirit we ran into in Arkansas," Harris-Holley said. "We were in Little Rock for a little while talking to Corliss (Williamson), we were here talking to the people associated with the University, it was amazing the amount of spirit the state of Arkansas has for the program and is invested in the history of the program. We tried to capture that along with the story of Coach (Nolan) Richardson's life and career and put that into the film. That was really our goal."
Prior to the film premiere, a long list of former players were introduced to the adoring crowd as they walked the red carpet on the Bud Walton Arena floor. Former players attending included Sunday Adebayo, Corey Beck, Pat Bradley, Carter Clark, T.J. Cleveland, Shawn Davis, Blake Eddins, Clyde Fletcher, Allie Freeman, Warren Linn, Clint McDaniel, Elmer Martin, Reggie Merritt, Isaiah "Butch" Morris and Scotty Thurman.
Richardson received a standing ovation when he was introduced and later addressed the crowd thanking them for their support throughout the years. He also had praise for those involved in making the film.
"I am very appreciative to the fact that these guys (the producers of the film) who made me and my family and a lot of my players and fans very, very proud to do this," Richardson said. "That being said, I have always said that everything you see sometimes doesn't sit well with some people. The truth of the matter is that you were able to investigate and come up with a lot of things that I'd even forgotten. I am very honored, very proud and very satisfied with what I saw (the film)."
Following the premiere, Anderson spoke to the crowd thanking Richardson for his mentorship in his own life and thanking the Razorback fans for their support. Anderson told his players it was now their time to hang some banners in the rafters.
Later Saturday night, 40 Minutes of Hell premiered nationally on ESPNU. The documentary is scheduled to re-air on a variety of ESPN platforms in the coming weeks and months.