I get nostalgic this time every year for Razorback basketball—real Razorback basketball—NCAA Tournament Razorback basketball. Oh, for the good old days! Even though many people are too young to remember, Razorback basketball used to be big-time. My freshman year at the University was Eddie Sutton’s first year as head coach. Nolan Richardson followed him. And from Eddie’s first year to Nolan’s last (1974-2002) the Razorbacks made 22 NCAA Tournaments (many of those were years when only 48 teams were invited). We appeared in 9 Sweet 16s, 5 Elite 8s, 4 Final Fours, back to back Championship Games in ’94 and ‘95, and won the National Championship in 1994. Altogether the Razorbacks have participated in 29 NCAA Tournaments (ninth in NCAA history) and 6 Final Fours. But the Eddie and Nolan years were the best and most consistent. And there was a stretch from 1990 through 1995 when the Razorbacks won more games than any other team in the NCAA. That’s right—more than North Carolina, more than Kentucky, more than Kansas, more than Duke.
And talk about fun. Eddie Sutton had the triplets (Moncrief, Brewer, and Delph). Nolan Richardson had the “40 Minutes of Hell” intimidating, in your face, press ‘em off the bus, race up the court, run and execute, teams that won and won big. Nolan had players like Day and Mayberry and Miller, Williamson and Thurman and Beck. Dang, I miss players like that. I miss teams like that! How I long for the good old days.
But an NCAA investigation, infighting between Nolan and Frank Broyles, and inept intervention in the whole mess by the Chancellor at the time, ended in Nolan’s angry resignation/firing, and a subsequent lawsuit Nolan filed against the University. It was ugly.
And the basketball that followed was even uglier—nine years in the great basketball abyss—no division or conference championships, only three NCAA appearances adding up to only one NCAA win, two coaching changes that took us pretty much nowhere, and finally we descended to what NCAA Tournament observers dubbed “a bad loss” for a potential tournament team. Oh, for the good old days!
And maybe those days are on the way. Mike Anderson has come home to be our coach. Mike coached as Nolan’s top assistant for 17 years at the University. Most of the banners that hang from Bud Walton are there in part because of Mike. Here’s hoping he can bring us some more. And with his hiring, Razorback Nation has moved from clinical depression to Razor-mania. There’s every reason to believe Mike will be successful. He’s been successful in head coaching stints at UAB and Mizzou. And he knows that it can be done here, and he knows what it takes to get it done here. After nine years of darkness and oblivion, it feels like the sun is shining on Arkansas basketball once again. Or at least, I can see the dawn of a better day. Can I get a “Hog-elujah!”?
Anyway, since tonight is the National Championship game, I was just feeling a little nostalgic. And for you Razorback fans out there, here are the highlights of that great game against the Dukies in 1994—back in the good old days, back when the Hogs were feared, when the Hogs won tons of games, when Arkansas basketball ruled. May those days return soon!
Just click on the link to join in my nostalgia: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fXu76OtpgEw