State of the Hogs: '94 Reunion

The 1994 national champions return to Bud Walton on Sunday. It's about time.

Anytime you wait too long to tell someone you love them, it's a bad deal. But as Nolan Richardson said this week in a teleconference, better late than never.

Richardson was asked by the media on Tuesday what he remembered about the celebration just minutes after the final horn of the victory over Duke in the national championship game in 1994. I knew his answer and misted up before he could answer.

Yvonne.

"This one's for you, baby," Richardson said. I've heard that many times and I know that was his feelings. His daughter died of cancer early in his time at Arkansas.

Of course, if there was anyone who Richardson would like to have walking beside him to center court Sunday when Arkansas fans celebrate the reunion of that championship team, it would be Yvonne. Nolan and wife Rose think about Yvonne every day.

There are others that should be there, but will not except in spirit. My two fathers, as I call them, loved Richardson. My real father thought the world of Nolan. He passed away from pancreatic cancer just after Nolan was fired.

Also gone is Ed Beshara, the Tulsa clothier who was extremely close to Nolan. Most Arkansas fans knew my father and understood the relationship he had with Richardson. Ed, my buddy from my Tulsa World days, was maybe closer to Nolan than that.

Orville Henry came to see Nolan often when Yvonne was dying and Nolan was there for the sportswriter when he was fighting cancer. I can recall the phone conversations I'd have after games with my father, giving him an update when he was too sick to see on TV or listen on the radio. I'd tell him something about the game.

He'd say, "That's what Nolan told me was going to happen about five minutes before the game." Nolan had called him from his dressing room before the game.

As always, my father knew more about what happened than I did and he didn't even hear or see the game. Typical.

Beshara was the little man with the red tam hat sitting behind the bench at home games. Ed and Nolan had a special relationship. They didn't talk basketball. They talked love, although each could needle the other in a way that no one else would dare.

Nolan liked to refer to Ed as "Black Cloud." That goes back to the Vegas trip when Nolan and Ed's wife, Laura, were playing black jack. Laura spotted Ed headed to their table. She said, "Oh, no. Here comes Black Cloud. Pick up your chips." From then on, that was Ed's nickname for Nolan.

I wouldn't be surprised if Nolan was wearing a Beshara suit Sunday. I also expect to see the black and red polka dot face towel that Nolan often carried to the bench. It had been given to him as a good luck charm by Yvonne when she was sick.

It's been 15 years since the Hogs took down Duke for the first and still only basketball national championship. Was it wrong not to honor this team at the 10-year mark? Probably, but there were still too many open sores at that time.

Corliss Williamson mentioned those sores when he participated in a teleconference with the media early this week. That there had not been a reunion for that team was a common theme in many conversations as he traveled the country in the NBA and in his time back home. He said it was like a sore that kept getting bumped and wouldn't heal. Good analysis.

It appears healed now. That's great news.

I just wish Yvonne, OH and Ed would be here to see that the wound is gone. All three would want to be there.

Sportswriters don't stand and clap. I know my father would this time.

Ed would weep from that one good eye. He'd be waving his little red tam.

Yvonne would be at her father's side.

It's time. Let it happen. Let the love return. Let the roars begin.


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