Nolan Richardson, Adios

Posted: Mar 11, 2002 12:00 AM
Nolan Richardson, the former University of Arkansas basketball coach, burned a hole in op-ed pages across the country when he recently accused local editors, reporters and school officials of discriminating against him. Richardson, who gained admiration as the first prominent Southern college basketball coach to recruit black athletes, has watched his team limp to a .500 record this year, prompting members of the local media to scrutinize the 60-year-old's ability to recruit and relate to young players. Then, at a recent press conference, Richardson went supernova: "I've earned the right to have the type of season I've had ... when I look at all your people in this room, I see no one who looks like me, talks like me, acts like me. Now why don't you recruit (more minorities). Why don't the editors recruit? ... My great-grandfather came over on that ship, not Nolan Richardson. ... I know for a fact that I do not play on the same level as the other coaches at this school. I know it, you know it, and people of my color know it. My practices are closed to the media...." The University of Arkansas promptly fired Richardson. The rapid dismissal led several people to cry racism. Not least among them being Judge Wendell Griffin of the Arkansas Court of Appeals. "Nolan Richardson isn't being fired because he has engaged in some kind of NCAA impropriety," said Judge Griffin. "He's basically being fired because folks basically don't like how he came across...." Judge Griffin has a point, he simply misses it: The school administration didn't like how Richardson came across because his remarks were plainly racist. Substitute black for white and the point becomes clear. I mean, can you imagine the outrage that would occur if a white basketball coach calmly surveyed the reporters in attendance at his press conference, then demanded that the local newspapers hire more whites? Sharpton, Jackson and the lot would be falling over themselves to picket the university. Though they may yet break out their Radio Shack megaphones. Judge Griffin is at least half right: Richardson was treated differently. For his racist remarks he received a cool buyout, paying him up to $500,000 per year over the next six years. That's a far cry better than, say, former television football commentator Jimmy the Greek was treated for insinuating that slavery effectively bred black Americans to be better athletes. As for Richardson's rousing contribution to black culture, it should be noted with equal weight that he both: 1) opened up college basketball in the South to black scholarship athletes and 2) failed to graduate even one single black scholarship athlete between the years 1990 and 1994. Get it? Richardson made racist remarks, failed to graduate his athletes and now his program is falling by the wayside. Still, his supporters maintain that he is being victimized because he is black. There is no talk of character or personal responsibility. Just the color of his skin. It is precisely this sort of culture of victimization that conditions blacks to regard themselves as inferior. Surely not all of us are victims. Right?