Nolan: Hawg Ball is Back

Nolan Richardson was beaming about the return of Hawg Ball more than the banner that was hoisted in his honor. The Hall of Fame coach was enjoying the moment.

It was banner night again at Bud Walton Arena, but the honoree wanted to talk more about his pupil's brilliant team. Nolan Richardson doesn't think the rule changes will keep Mike Anderson from playing Hawg Ball. In fact, when the experts say it's not possible any more, Richardson smiles.

"I love it when they say that," said Richardson, the Hall of Fame coach with the national championship ring. "I want them to say that. You can still press. You don't have to press, though. It's about being unpredictable.

"We didn't always press. We didn't always run. But everyone thought we were going to press and run and they practiced against it. What we did do and what Mike does, he gets after you on defense. You can shoot horrible and still win when you get after the other team on defense."

Richardson, sporting a ring given to him with all three of his national titles listed, met with the media before the Arkansas-Texas A&M game, before a banner was dropped in his honor during a halftime ceremony.

Richardson's remarks at halftime were brief. He thanked his family, his players and called the Arkansas fans "the greatest in the world." He challenged them to help the Hogs in the second half.

"Hawg ball is back," he said. "That's what I love. When the team comes back out here, tell them this is Hawg Ball Dynasty."

Before the ceremony he was asked what the honor meant.

"Anytime you receive an honor, any kind of reward, it's a great situation," Richardson said. "I appreciate it more than when you are coaching. This is one of the highlights of my career -- like going into the 12 (hall of fames). It's a chance to smell the roses that you didn't do when you coached."

It means more that Anderson, his former player and assistant, is leading the Hogs now.

"It's amazing," Richardson said of watching Anderson rebuild the program with a No. 16 ranking and 21 victories this season. "Mike, I'm so proud of him. And, it didn't just happen here. It was at UAB, at Missouri. The program here was in disarray. I'm so happy because Hawg Ball is back. The people love it. I hear that everywhere I go, at the store, and he's ahead of schedule."

Nolan was asked why he stayed in Fayetteville after the termination and what helped the healing process.

"I think the healing process (began) years ago," Richardson said. "I think it begins when you have new people take over positions. It changes the atmosphere. I think the changing of the atmosphere helped me to b ecome a more attractive to being part of the University of Arkansas.

"I know I didn't leave here under the great circumstances, but when I think about it, I think when I left this room one night and was leaving, going home after being terminated and fired, I was in van with Mike Anderson driving, me in the backseat, benched over. Little Mike, which is Mike his son, was with us. I told Rose, I said I want you to paint this picture. I came in with my head high and I left out with my head low.

"Now, whether we stay here or leave is up to you. And she's a firm believer, because I had said this will be my last college job that I'll be here. So therefore it was a little bit easier to say take what you have to, do what you have to do. You're your own man. Stay. And that's what I did."

Richardson was asked about the growth of Bobby Portis.

"I saw Bobby grow," Richardson said. "Somebody asked me that question, I said 'he don't demand the ball. you've got to demand the basketball.' It ain't "give me the ball" or something like that. You're big enough, strong enough, man enough, you demand it. And I see him doing that now. And the more he starts to work at demanding things then he's going to become an even better basketball player.

"He's certainly got the talent. We may not be talking to him next year. That's the sad part sometimes. But Bobby, he's got a unique talent. It's a gift that the good Lord gave him, blessed him with. And now that gift that he has, with Mike working and pushing him, he's going to be awfully good. He's awfully hard to beat. I don't like to compare players, like Corliss and him, they're different kinds of basketball players all together. Portis is not a center. Not at all. But he is a player. Joe Johnson could have been point guard, two-guard, forward, center, but he's a player. I think that's what Portis will end up being, a player."

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