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The Daily Call – Feb. 15, 2014

BY ANDRES FOCIL
The Daily Call – Feb. 15, 2014

Coach Nolan Richardson Q&A — What are some of your best memories as head of the Arkansas basketball program? I have some very beautiful memories and some painful ones, but the biggest and brightest would have to be winning a national championship. I think there were several other wonderful times, such as when we were able to advance to the Final Fours. I think joining the SEC and winning the conference the first year we played there was something very special. One of the most exciting moments for me was when we played UNLV. We may not have won but No. 1 playing No. 2 felt like the game of the century. It had been a long time since the top two teams in the country had faced each other during the regular season. Students camped out for weeks to get tickets for the first official game in Bud Walton Arena. It was special to see that kind of excitement for our program and players. Talk about your relationship with Coach Anderson and how it feels to have him starting his own legacy at the University of Arkansas. Coach Anderson just so happens to be one of my first recruits at the University of Tulsa so we’ve had a relationship since then. He was my point guard on my first NIT national championship team. The next 22 years he was either a player or an assistant coach. I don’t think I’ve ever worked with a player or an assistant for as long or as close as Mike Anderson. We’ve spent a lot of very serious and intense time with each other. He was a young guy that dreamed of being a coach and we were able to get him into this field within our own program. From that point on he was my right hand. Anything and everything I did worked with both of us. I’m very proud of the fact that he came back to Fayetteville. I know it will be a difficult task for him because of the way the program was headed when he arrived, as well as the fact that you can’t turn a program around overnight. That was my biggest fear for him, how long it would take to build his team his way. He’s started to build something wonderful here and it has made me really excited to watch him and this program rise again. How impressed were you with the strength and pride of Razorback basketball fans during your time at Arkansas? When I was coaching I thought, and I still think, that we have the greatest fans in America. You walked into that building, whether it was Barnhill or Bud Walton Arena, and when they played William Tell I got goosebumps every time. It was an amazing, amazing atmosphere. The greatest atmosphere in college basketball. Better than Cameron Indoor and Duke or Rupp Arena and Kentucky, nothing compares to Razorback fans and Bud Walton Arena. Every single aspect was intense and incredible. I think the band directors were wonderful, Jim Robken was here during my time and he was an incredible motivator of fans. Every director since has transformed the pep band and really gotten the fans involved with the game. I played in the band as a high school student and know about their functions so I knew how big of an impact they could be. I really enjoyed what a neat part they played in our success in those arenas. The fans are just the biggest of all the entertainers we had. They were something I always enjoyed and admired and other schools envied. What does it mean to you to be able to come back to Bud Walton Arena and watch coach Anderson coach the Razorbacks? I followed Mike’s teams when I could at UAB and Missouri but I had not been to an Arkansas game with the exception of the National Championship team reunion in ’09. I was not even watching the games, really, until Mike came back. We visited early on after he left Arkansas and I told him it didn’t matter where he coached, that was where I was going to be loyal and be a fan. I felt like, by bringing him back, it was time for me to come back and enjoy what he was building again. He is building something strong here and him getting the opportunity to do this was a reason for me to give my full support. You recently returned to Bud Walton Arena to celebrate the 20th anniversary of both the Arena and the 1994 National Championship. What are some of your fondest memories of your early years in the new arena? The first few years were fantastic, I reminisce about Mr. Bud Walton often and how generous he was. I remember after beating Arizona in the 1994 Final Four he was with me and we were scouting the game while driving back to the hotel. I said, “Mr. Walton, we’ll win it all with one more, I think we will.” He looked at me and said, “I know we can, Coach.” Being able to do that with him was something that was great. It was perfect timing and our players worked their hearts out the whole season. The coaching staff worked doublet time and it paid off with the National Champinship. We didn’t lose a game in our home arena that year, it was just magical. It all fell into place and I was proud of every single aspect and person that was a part of it. How special is it to be able to reunite with your former student-athletes as often as you’ve been able to? It makes me very happy. I’m glad they’re a big part of Coach Anderson’s teams and I’m glad they’re so supportive of his coaching staff. I think it’s important for the administration to reach out to the past players to connect with the current and future players. The former players are the one who help bring in the youngsters. It’s a great feeling to see the former players and bring it all back to Fayetteville; they’ll help get the program back to what it used to be. I’m very proud of all of my former athletes. It just tickles me to be able to share time with them when I can. @RazorbackBSB Wins Season Opener The No. 25 Arkansas baseball team won its 20th consecutive season opener with a 12-2 defeat of Appalachian State yesterday in front of an announced attendance of 7,203. The win also was the program’s 400th victory inside Baum Stadium. Starting pitcher Jalen Beeks threw six shutout innings, allowing just three hits, to earn the win in his first start as a Razorback. The junior team captain from Prairie Grove, Ark., threw 72 pitches, 50 for strikes, in an efficient six-inning effort. Juniors Brian Anderson, Krisjon Wilkerson and Joe Serrano led the way offensively for Arkansas. Anderson was 3-for-5 at the plate with two doubles and three RBI, all of which came on a bases-clearing double in the 4th inning that chased Appalachian State starter Jamie Nunn. Wilkerson was also 3-for-5 and hit a two-run homer in the 3rd inning to give Arkansas a 5-0 lead. Serrano was 3-for-3 with two runs scored and also registered an RBI on a sacrifice fly in the 5th to push the Razorback advantage to 9-0. For the complete recap, click here. Arkansas returns to action Saturday at 12:05 p.m. for the middle game of the season-opening, three-game series with Appalachian State. The teams conclude the series Sunday at 1:05 p.m. For tickets, click here .

Too ambiguous? Know exactly what coverage we’re missing? Have a general question for the athletic department? Tell us. Shout atarkmr@uark.eduwith suggestions of what you would like to see covered and what the column is missing. Interaction is good. Think of this as your portal to all things Arkansas.



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