SINCE LEAVING Arkansas in 2002, basketball coach Nolan Richardson has kept busy, but a man can only play in so many charity golf tournaments and deliver so many motivational speeches. "I never retired, they retired me," says Richardson, who was fired by the university after 17 years, a 389-169 record and the 1994 national title. "I knew eventually something was going to come around to give me an opportunity to get out and do some coaching."
That opportunity came last month when Richardson, 63, got a call from 25-year-old Dionisio Gómez--a former Razorbacks forward now playing for Panama's national team--who was looking to recruit his old coach. Before long Richardson had volunteered to spend August coaching the team as it tries to qualify for the 2006 world championship. (He'll have his expenses paid but won't draw a salary.) Panama, ranked 35th in the world, last qualified for the tournament in 1970, but Richardson isn't fazed. "I've always had underdogs," says Richardson. "This is another opportunity to prove something to myself." And is he trying to prove something to anyone else? "I've never lost my ambition," says Richardson. "If the opportunity [to return to college coaching] presents itself, then Nolan Richardson's going to be available to take advantage of it." --Amanda Cherrin