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Richardson reflects again on subpar season

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) _ Arkansas basketball coach Nolan Richardson said Monday that he has earned the right to have a season considered subpar by Razorback standards.

Richardson said after a loss to then-No. 12 Kentucky on Saturday that, if Arkansas would buy out his contract, ``they can take the job tomorrow.''

Arkansas is 13-13, 5-9 in the Southeastern Conference. This year's results are atypical for Richardson, who has taken the Razorbacks to the NCAA 14 of the last 15 years and to a postseason tournament for 16 years straight.

``I've earned the right to have the season I've had,'' Richardson said at a news conference looking ahead to Wednesday's game at Mississippi State.

Arkansas Chancellor John White said Sunday that he believed Richardson's comments about having his seven-year contract bought out stemmed from the coach's competitiveness. He said he expected Nolan to complete his contract.

Richardson opened his news conference Monday by asking an aide to read a note from the family of a recruit praising the coach. Richardson then said the reason good players come to Arkansas is because he is coach.

``The No. 1 thing that's talked in our deal is that the greatest thing going for the University of Arkansas is Nolan Richardson. Secondly, all the key football players talk to Nolan Richardson. Why?,'' Richardson asked rhetorically.

The coach lashed out at criticism and said he would make himself less available.

``My practices will be closed to the media from this day until I decide when I'll open it again, if I ever open it again while I am still the basketball coach here,'' he said.

Richardson said he is eager for Athletic Director Frank Broyles and top university officials to know his stand. ``But I will not answer to the media, I will not answer to the fans or anybody else. No talk show hosts, no anybody can do anything to me.''

The coach went on, saying reporters should not try to reach him on their own.

``Do not call me ever on my phone, none of you, at my home ever again. Those lines are no longer for communications with me,'' Richardson said.

Short of winning the Southeastern Conference tournament, Arkansas likely must defeat Mississippi State on the road and Vanderbilt at home _ then advance well into the SEC tournament to have any shot at an NCAA berth. The Razorbacks lost to LSU twice, but do have victories over No. 6 Alabama and No. 8 Florida.

Arkansas defeated Mississippi State 75-64 last month when the Bulldogs were ranked No. 22.

``We were fortunate to do a good job against them the last time,'' Richardson said. ``Once again, if we can put it in the hole, we have a chance.

``I've never guaranteed a victory in my life, but I always think we can win. That's how I feel,'' Richardson said. ``I think we can win out and I think we can win the tournament. That's just how I am.''
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