Coaching legend Nolan Richardson was honored at the Tulsa men's basketball game Wednesday night during halftime, in which TU finished with a 73-55 win over Memphis.
The former TU coach (1980-1985) is already an NCAA basketball Hall of Famer (2008), but was recognized for his induction into the Naismith Hall of Fame this past August.
While at Tulsa, Richardson led the program to an NIT Championship in 1981. This was the first time an African-American coach won the title. Richardson became the first coach in NCAA history to win 50 games in his first two seasons. He also led TU to season conference championships in 1984 and 1985, along with conference tournament titles in 1982 and 1984. He ended his career at TU with a 119-37 record.
Coaching at Tulsa was a special experience for Nolan. “Tulsa gave me my first opportunity. That's why it's engrained in me more than any other place,” said Richardson. “That sticks with me. It always will.”
The legendary coach not only loved Tulsa, but he loved the people. “They ask me why you like Tulsa so much, [and] I said the people. The people make whatever you are going to be. The people in this whole community [were] very good to Nolan Richardson and his family. That's why it is a very dear program to me,” he elaborated.
Richardson was known for creating excitement on the court, whether it was from his polka dot ties or the way his team performed. “On the basketball court, I'm a different animal. It's all about let's go to work and do these things. I wore red. I wore polka dots. It seemed to me that I was choreographing what I needed done. I had guys in the polka dots going up and down riding bicycles, getting away from the old tradition of just walk out and play basketball. We had to create some excitement, and I felt that I had to be the guy that created this excitement and have some winning on top of it.”
The great coach wanted to leave a legacy that encouraged those with coaching aspirations. “You go in as a coach and you want to do the best job that you can do. You think in terms of what Martin Luther King has said: ‘Judge me not by the color of my skin, but the contents of my character,'” stated Richardson. “I did the best that I could to do the best job that I could, so there could be guys that could follow me.”
Richardson is the only coach to win a championship at every college level. Those titles include: The National Junior College Tournament (1980), The National Invitational Tournament (1981), and The NCAA Tournament (1994).
In the present, Richardson spends his time as an experienced basketball clinician. He's also a radio and TV commentator, but more importantly, he devotes a lot of his time to various charities.