Examining Nolan Richardsonís past starts with new teams

If the past is any indication of the future, the Tulsa Shock has a very promising road ahead under the helm of head coach Nolan Richardson. Throughout the majority of his coaching career, Richardson has elevated basketball programs to the top of the heap and at times has done so almost immediately after arriving. Although the Shockís current record of 3-6 may seem a bit less impressive than the first ten gamesí record of Richardsonís past programs at the University of Tulsa (8-2) and the University of Arkansas (8-2), there is plenty of reason to believe that Coach Richardson is just warming up.

Richardson was plucked from his head coaching position at Western Texas Junior College to become head coach of the University of Tulsaís menís basketball program in 1980, after winning the National Junior College Championship that same year. He posted an impressive record during the first ten games of his first season in Tulsa, winning eight games and losing two. Richardson and the Golden Hurricane would go on to post an overall record of 26-7 and win the National Invitational Tournament that season. During the next four seasons in Tulsa he would post two MVC championships and have a strong winning record in every season.

Richardsonís strong record in Tulsa was noticed and in 1985 the University of Arkansas signed him as head coach of their menís basketball team. His first 10 games leading the Razorbacks resulted in a record identical to his first 10 games at the University of Tulsa, eight wins and two losses. However, his extremely rapid rise to the top during his first season at the University of Tulsa was not replicated and the Razorbacksí overall record that year was 12 wins and 16 losses, with the majority of wins being in the first half of the season.

This was not a sign of things to come as Richardson would go on to post a winning season the next year and eventually become one of the greatest coaches in Arkansas history. He reached the Final Four for the first of three times in 1990 and led the team to become NCAA national champions in 1994, becoming National Coach of the Year in the process. The very next year the Razorbacks again made it to the championship game, this time losing to UCLA.

A look at Nolan Richardsonís past career records assures that the first ten games of a season donít necessarily indicate what the outcome of the season will be. The outcome can be better determined by the fact that every time Richardson has been brought in to coach a basketball team, that team will sooner (Golden Hurricane) or later (Razorbacks) become a championship team. With all of the shuffling of the Shockís roster and lineup changes this season so far, it appears that Richardson could be merely setting the stage for the next phase of a remarkable career.