Forty Minutes of Hell
Forty Minutes of Hell
The Extraordinary Life of Nolan Richardson
By Rus Bradburd
Amistad, Hardcover, 9780061690464, 336pp.
Publication Date: February 1, 2010
An exploration of the racial politics of American sports, from the Jim Crow era to the present day, witnessed through the life of legendary African-American basketball coach and NCAA title winner Nolan Richardson
Born in El Paso's Segundo Barrio, or Second Ward, pioneering basketball coach Nolan Richardson grew up in the only black family in a Mexican neighborhood and attended desegregated Bowie High School in 1955. Richardson went on to play at Texas Western College, now the University of Texas at El Paso, as the first black star player for legendary coach Don Haskins. Richardson eventually rose to national prominence as a coach in his own right. He became the first black coach at a predominately white school in the Old South to win the NCAA Championship in 1994 at the University of Arkansas. With Richardson's Razorbacks playing at a high-pressure, electrifying pacea style he called "Forty Minutes of Hell," which became a nationally known trademarkArkansas made three appearances in the Final Four, and Richardson was named NABC Coach of the Year in 1994.
Richardson's gradual political awakening, and his subsequent refusal to keep quiet about overt or subtle racial injustices, marked his rise. Regardless of his staggering win totals, tensions in Arkansas culminated in an infamous 2002 press conference in which he accused the University of Arkansas of discriminating against him, bringing about an abrupt end to his college coaching career. The only coach in history to win a Junior College National Championship, the NIT, and the NCAA tournament, Richardson went on to coach internationally and in the WNBA.
Rus Bradburd, a former college basketball coach who also worked with Don Haskins, highlights Richardson's trailblazing career with empathy and intimacy, revealing a man whose hard-won successes were matched by deeply felt losses. An intensive inside look at elite collegiate athletics and a chronicle of the transition away from the segregated era of American sport, Forty Minutes of Hell is the first full-length biography of Nolan Richardson, setting his complicated story against the backdrop of a decisive time in American history.
“This is a great story about America and its hidden histories. . . Every black college coach with a good job today owes Nolan Richardson a measure of respect for the fearless way he kicked down doors. Every American should thank him for showing us it was possible.”
-Charles Barkley, basketball legend
“Suggestion: Place a note pad nearby . . . in order to keep score of the ‘wow’ moments, as in ‘Wow, did that really happen? . . . Thanks to Bradburd’s book, you can walk in Richardson’s shoes, one page at a time.’”
“I’ve never read a sports book I would describe as operatic until now. Nolan Richardson’s story, both unique and universal, would challenge the most seasoned biographer, but Bradburd’s libretto is heartbreaking and inspiring. This is the finest sports biography I’ve read in years, hands down.”
-Dave Zirin, author, A People's History of Sports in the Unites States
“A combination career retrospective and racial history of Southern college basketball . . . Establishes Richardson as one of college basketball’s most compelling figures, both because of and in spite of his race.”
“[An] energetic biography. . . . Bradburd rounds out his story with humanizing detail.”
“There are so many amazing things to know and remember about Richardson, truly a sports hero and pioneer. . . . But Richardson’s life was about more than wins and losses, as Bradburd details in excellent and entertaining style.”
“[An] excellent, angry new biography.”
“Bradburd does an incredible job chronicling Richardson’s rise from a high school coach to getting a junior college job. . . . [His] copy shines in the well-researched chapters on the black coaches and the athletes who came before Richardson but never got the opportunity to elevate themselves.”
“What an incredible journey!”
-President Bill Clinton
“Highly provocative. . . . A sharp-elbowed biography.”
-New York Times