NEW YORK-- Nolan Richardson is in preliminary talks with the investor group behind the WNBA's expansion franchise in Tulsa about becoming its new head coach, SI.com learned on Thursday. The former Arkansas men's basketball coach met with the group earlier this week and is scheduled to interview with them again early next week. "I'm guessing part of the reason they are interested is that they know not only my abilities as a coach but my capability of putting butts in the seats," Richardson says.
Last month the group led by Oklahoma City businessmen Bill Cameron and David Box unveiled exploratory plans of starting a WNBA franchise in Tulsa. League president Donna Orender gave the group a Sept. 1 deadline to get its house in order to begin play in 2010. "Just to be clear, the franchise itself isn't a done deal yet," says Russ Florence, a spokesman for the group. "We've got some milestones to hit, but we expect to know one way or another in early September."
In the 67-year-old Richardson, the group would gain a sideline veteran and proven, if controversial, winner. His resume includes stops at West Texas Junior College and Tulsa, where he won an NIT championship in 1981. But he is best known for his 17-year tenure at Arkansas, beginning in 1985. The winningest coach in school history with a 389-169 record, Richardson led the Razorbacks to three Final Four appearances, defeating Duke in the 1994 championship game for his only NCAA title. He left the school in 2002 under acrimonious circumstances.
Still, for all of his experience and considerable expertise -- he is known for his high-pressure, up-tempo style of play called "40 Minutes of Hell" -- he hasn't coached women on the college on the college or professional level. Richardson says he has followed the league in the past -- the Houston franchise in particular -- and consulted with its former head coach, Van Chancellor, whom Richardson counts as a friend. "I knew him from the days when we were at Ole Miss," Richardson says. "We've spent a lot of time talking in terms of Xs and Os."
Since leaving Arkansas, Richardson has served as coach of the Panamanian National Team and the Mexican National Team, which he had hoped to lead to its first Olympics berth since 1976.