A Black Final Four 2006? What Happened…

By Gary Norris Gray
Updated: March 15, 2006

Nolan Richardson and John Thompson then

Mike Davis and John Chaney, Educators now gone!
CALIFORNIA—The (NCAA) National Collegiate Athlete Association is putting its best foot forward with its annual March Madness Basketball Playoffs, African Americans must investigate how and why there are so many African American Coaches are on the hardwoods. Basketball seems to be the place where most Black coaches dominate the scene. But there is a dark side to this success story. America has lost four of the most promenade African American coaches in collegiate history.
This spring college basketball will be losing Mike Davis at Indiana University and John Chaney at Temple University. Both will resign after this season’s final game.
Four years ago an African American Coach N! olan Richardson, resigned from the University Of Arkansas at Little Rock and John Thompson at Georgetown.
When Coach Richardson held a news conference, it was described as one of the craziest news conferences since Coach Bobby Knight resigned from the University of Indiana at Bloomington campus. Coach Richardson told reporters that he was going to be fired by the University. Then he told the sports columnists who were predominately white; “do not ever call me or write to me again”. These words seemed strange because the University had not announced his being fired. Everyone in that room began looking at each other and questioning Richardson’s statement. No one really knew what he was talking about.
Coach Richardson molded a team that had been at the bottom of the conference. He took a team that just could not score, a team that nobody in the SouthEast respected, a rag tag team that was going nowhere and made it into one of the greatest basketball powers in the country. The Southeast Conference became the talk of America in the late 1970’s and the 1980’s, and the early 90’s with Richardson’s run and gun Razorbacks.
Before Coach Richardson’s arrival teams loved to come to Little Rock and play the sloppy HOGS. Even teams that were not in the (SEC) SouthEast Conference loved to pad their statistics and leave Little Rock with a victory.
But two years after Coach Richardson’s arrival the HOGS raised their South-East Conference title banners on the roof of Arkansas’s gym. So what happened four years ago? The NCAA has moved on and moved up without Coach Nolan Richardson.
Coach Richardson managed to get African Americans players to consider attending the campus of Little Rock; the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Campus. This was something the UA-LR administration never had tried to accomplish. The HOGS became SEC Conference winners. They won one NCAA title, three more Final Fours, and two Natio! nal Invitational Final Fours. Richardson is the only coach in history to win a Junior College Championship, NIT National Invitational Tourney and a NCCA title. Other national teams did not want to play in Little Rock anymore, and most of them were glad to leave when the games were over.
The University of Arkansas Razorbacks have not returned to the NCAA final four since the departure of Richardson four years ago. The Razorbacks will make another appearance in the Oakland Region this year.
So why did Nolan Richardson leave his basketball-coaching job? We all wonder what happen four years ago?
In December 2002 Richardson filed a discrimination lawsuit against the University, the Razorback Board of Trustees, and the University Foundation. This was dismissed two years later. Was this the reason?


Coach Thompson left Georgetown, a team that is considered a basketball powerhouse in the Big E! ast Conference. Thompson left because of the lack of control of student athletes by the university and the NCAA. Mike Davis will be leaving Indiana University mainly because of the lack of support from the school administration personnel. This has been a major complaint with many African American College basketball coaches. Winning or losing was not the issue and maybe it should be.
Coach John Chaney will resign at Temple University this year. Coach Chaney lead Cheyney State University to their first division one title in 1978. However Chaney’s recent history at Temple University has been stormy including a few run-ins with other coaches in the Atlantic Ten Conference. The Temple University administration withdrew its support for Coach Chaney after the incident at the Atlantic Ten Conference Playoffs last year. It has been reported that Coach Chaney sent a player into the game to beat up St Joseph’s best player, who played center for the Hawks. Coach Chaney thought! that the Hawks had used illegal screens. The Temple Owl player followed Coach Chaney’s directions and broke Bryant’s arm with a rough foul late in the game. That act may have cost St. Joe’s a NCAA tournament game a week later. Temple University suspended Coach Chaney and the support began to diminish.
Four years ago Coach Richardson had similar problems with the Razorback student athlete and a non-supportive University of Arkansas administration staff. Could this be the major reason for his departure from Little Rock?
Mr. Richardson was the only African American sports coach on the campus of Arkansas, so most of the African American athletes, both male and female, would seek him for advice. African American and other ethnic minority students-athletes also gravitated to him for advice. The pressure on him must have been tremendous for Richardson and the Razorback Black athletic community.
Coach Richardson had only two losing seasons: his first a! nd his last. Most of us who watch the college basketball game recognize that he is an advocate to all athletes, more importantly African American athletes.
Mike Davis took the Hoosiers to the NCAA championship game four years ago and they could be one of the final four teams this year. The Hoosiers are also in the Oakland Region this year.
John Thompson of Georgetown, John Chaney of Temple University, and Coach Richardson led the charge in 1986-87 against Proposition 48. The NCAA ruled that student athletes must maintain a passing GPA. If the Student failed he could not play basketball that season. All four coaches thought the NCAA was targeting young African American students and labeled it racist. These African American athletes did not receive the proper education in high school and now the NCAA wanted to punish them again. This was double jeopardy.
The NCAA law passed and many African American student athletes did not play the following six! seasons. But in the 1992-93 basketball season strange phenomena appeared. African American student athletes started signing contracts with the National Basketball Association in record numbers, Coach Thompson and Coach Chaney predicted that this would occur.
The trend has continued and maybe has even gotten worst. Carmello Anthony, Kobe Bryant, LaBron “King” James and many others have skipped college for the (NBA) National Basketball Association. The NBA has responded this year (2006) by imposing an age limited of 18. The American courts system will be hearing about this legal action very soon.
All four coaches Richardson, Thompson, Chaney, and Davis are now frustrated with this current system. These coaches wanted to teach young African Americans the value of an education. They wanted to teach the athlete how to stick to a four-year program and graduate. They wanted to teach them responsibilities, integrity, and commitment. All of these attributes seemed to! have been lost. African American college athletes will miss these four great coaches.
The NCAA must put the student back into student athletes. This is what Nolan Richardson and John Thompson stated four years ago. Could this be what was behind Coach Richardson’s crazy news conference four years ago?
So when you watch the games this Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoon think about what has transpired the last few years in the NCAA and NBA.