The Morning Dish – Saturday, March 2nd, 2002
by Andrew Flynn
Nolan Richardson’s Out
The University of Arkansas has decided to buy out head coach Nolan Richardson’s contract effective immediately, due to racially-based comments made by Richardson after last weekend’s Kentucky game. The buyout, half of Richardson’s six-year contract, tallies a cool $500,000 per year, terminating if Richardson takes a position at another NCAA institution. Assistant Mike Anderson will be interim head coach, and will coach the Razorbacks against Vandy today, and through the SEC Tournament, and the NIT, which is still a possibility. Remember when Steve Fisher, with the “Interim” tag, replaced Michigan legend Bill Frieder right before the Tournament? Hmmm.
Richardson defeated Fisher (and 4/5ths of the Fab Five) in 1994’s Great Eight game, en route to Arkansas’ only National Championship and a Coach of the Year award. Richardson leaves the program as the only coach in history to have won an NCAA (with 3 Final Fours), NIT, and junior college national championship. He still is a class act, and should be recognized as one of the best coaches in College Hoops, regardless of ethnicity.
Record Crowd: No. 9 Marquette set Wisconsin college hoops attendance records last night as they halted an early DePaul run 72-53, and thus finished the season undefeated at home. In all fairness, only 35 fewer fans were at the Louisville game two weeks ago, and the difference was probably the additional ESPN crew.
DePaul, by the way, is horrid. Their fans staged a walk-out in protest over the Blue Demons’ 2-14 C-USA record. It’s been a long time since Ray Meyer had Mark Aguirre running around. Even more since George Mikan patrolled the lane. Was there even a lane then, or just a peach basket?
Farewell Shark? Reports have come out of Fresno that Bulldog coach Jerry Tarkanian is going to call it quits after this season. After 31 years (7 at Fresno State), Tark indicated that he’s planning on chilling with friends and family. No word on a possible “Honeymoon in Vegas” sequel, however.
High Point? The Big South Championship has an outbreak of Cindarella fever, as 7-seed High Point continues their march in Roanoke, downing 3-seed Radford 72-70 in OT, the day after squeaking past 2-seed NC Asheville 72-71. Clearly, as long as High Point scores 72, they’re aces. Today it’s against defending champ Winthrop. All this for the opportunity to lose to Kansas in the NCAA’s. For the record, High Point is 5-9 in conference, 11-18 overall. You can bet the selection committee is chanting “Croatoan” over and over, hoping the Panthers disappear this weekend.
Farewell to an Old Friend: The old fieldhouse has seen better days, but it holds quite the home court advantage over some of its newer and fancier bretheren. But this season, surprisingly, a conference title may just be hung from the rafters one last time. No, we’re not talking about Maryland’s Cole Field House. Try 5 hours west. Pitt’s Fitzgerald Field House will host its last game tonight, when West Virginia comes calling. This is the arena where Bill Raftery shouted “Send it in Jerome!” as Jerome Lane shattered the backboard. The Mountaineers opened the $1 illion field house in 1951, which gets replaced by the $65 million Petersen Events Center next season.
Some good season finale-type matchups. We’ve got No. 10 Florida at No. 11 Kentucky, a solid NC State at No. 24 Wake Forest, and No. 25 Cal in the desert against No.14 Arizona.
Also, for conference bragging rights, we’ve got Hawaii at Fresno State (perhaps a Shark Farewell?), along with Utah at Wyoming, plus the classic gridiron matchup on the court as Ohio State tries to get their quarter-slice of the Big Ten title against Michigan.
The Atlantic Sun Conference Finals pits the 3-seed Florida Atlantic Owls against Lefty and the 1-seed Georgia State Panthers.
As previously mentioned, High Point tries to knock off Number 1 (after beating 2 and 3) against Winthrop in the Big South Conference Finals.
1-seed Tennessee Tech goes to the post against 3-seed Murray State in the Ohio Valley Conference Final.