FORTY MINUTES OF : The Extraordinary Life of Nolan Richardson by Rus Bradburd is the compelling story of the legendary African-American basketball coach and Title winner who was fired after a controversial public outburst. It is the first full-length portrait of Richardson’s celebrated, yet complicated—and unintentionally politicized—life and career.
In late February 2002, sports reporters gathered for what they assumed was a typical post-game Q&A with Nolan Richardson, coach of the University of Arkansas men’s basketball team. But what they got was a diatribe on Richardson’s pent up feelings about race and the lack of black coaches at the University, which ultimately led to his firing. Despite a storied career, this giant among basketball coaches was no longer considered hirable. What led to the infamous outburst?
Richardson was used to being a trailblazer and a pioneer. Born and raised in a Mexican-American neighborhood in El Paso, Texas, he inadvertently integrated the local high school soon after the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision. He was also the first black coach in the South to rise to national prominence when he coached his team, the University of Arkansas, to the 1994 men’s basketball championship. Playing at a fast and furious pace, a style nicknamed “40 Minutes of Hell,” Richardson took the University of Arkansas to the Final Four three times, and was named the National Coach of the Year in 1994.
But even after decades of as one of the top coaches in the , Richardson was still one of a handful of black coaches in college basketball. For a person who lived through the Jim Crow era, it was frustrating to see that not much had changed as America embarked on a new millennium. Written with sensitivity and empathy, FORTY MINUTES OF is an intensive exploration of the history of race and power in elite collegiate sports.
Rus Bradburd teaches at New Mexico State University and is the author of Paddy on the Hardwood: a Journey in Irish Hoops. He lives in Las Cruces, New Mexico.