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Richardson lashes out at critics

(LITTLE ROCK, Ark.) - A day after Nolan Richardson complained about unfair treatment by his critics, a university official said the school would ``work its way through this matter'' with the coach.

Richardson on Monday angrily told reporters he was closing practices and would not take their calls at home, saying he was answerable only to university officials _ not fans or the media.

University spokeswoman Rebecca Wood said Tuesday that Chancellor John White would meet with the coach to ``find out where he is coming from.''

Later in the day, however, another school spokesman, Roger Williams, and White's administrative assistant, Gail Moore, said no meeting was scheduled. They said Richardson's remarks would be addressed somehow, but would not elaborate.

``The university will work its way through this matter in the appropriate way and in the appropriate time,'' Williams said.

Richardson, who won the national championship in 1994 and took Arkansas to the title game the next year, has led the Razorbacks into the postseason 15 of the last 16 seasons. This year, however, they are 13-13, and could miss the postseason for the first time since his first year at Arkansas in 1985.

His frustration boiled over Monday, when he complained about news coverage and noted that only white reporters were at the news conference in Fayetteville.

``When I look at all of you people in this room, I see no one look like me, talk like me or act like me,'' he said. ``Now, why don't you recruit? Why don't the editors recruit like I'm recruiting?''

Richardson, the only black among the Fayetteville campus' 17 head coaches, also said he doesn't expect to be treated differently just because of his race.

``See, my great-great-grandfather came over on the ship, I didn't,'' he said. ``And I don't think you understand what I'm saying. My great-great-grandfather came over on the ship. Not Nolan Richardson.

``I did not come over on that ship, so I expect to be treated a little bit different,'' he said. ``Because I know for a fact that I do not play on the same level as the other coaches around this school play on. I know that. You know it. And people of my color know that. And that angers me.''

He said Tuesday in an interview with the host of his television show that social life ``is not that good for a black athlete'' in Fayetteville. He said the characterization might not sound right, but that Arkansas is a ``place that they come to play basketball or come to play football.''

Often, athletes choose a school because of a coach, he said.

``That's the part that I think fans and people and media don't really understand, that get caught up with this utopia-type thing that everything is so great up here,'' he said.

Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said he understood Richardson's anger.

``I feel I'm close to Coach Richardson. He's my mentor and has been for a number of years,'' Smith said. ``Being black and being in a place where they expect you to win every game, I probably understand his frustration better than anybody. If you don't win every game, there has to be a reason. ... You have to have a reason.''

Rick Schaeffer, a longtime Richardson friend and the university's former sports information director, said he did not believe the coach's statements were intended to offend fans.

``He didn't mean that he does not appreciate the fans, he just meant that they did not have any control over his job security,'' Schaeffer said.

Richardson has long been known for saying what he thinks.

``He is intensely honest and if he's thinking something he's going to say it, and what he says does make people uncomfortable at times,'' Schaeffer said. ``I think he feels there have been white coaches who have not been criticized as severely as he has.''

Richardson was miffed after his team's 1994 national championship victory over Duke because some reporters had portrayed the game as a matchup of an athletic Arkansas team against an intelligent Duke team.

``He made a lot of people uncomfortable that year because he addressed some of those issues,'' Schaeffer said.

Richardson said he had earned the right to have a season considered subpar by Razorback standards. He had said after losing to Kentucky on Saturday that if Arkansas would buy out his contract, ``they can take the job tomorrow.''

Smith said he didn't believe Richardson puts any stock in what others say or write about him, but found it necessary to bring it up Monday.

``Nolan's a very respected man and one who says what's on his mind. He's been a trailblazer in that regard. I don't think he worries too much about what people think,'' Smith said. ``He's at a point in his coaching career where he has something to say. I just think he said what he felt he had to say.''
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