The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference
The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference

SEC Storied: 40 Minutes of Hell

Jun 25, 2014

In the early 1990's, Arkansas enjoyed unprecedented attention and success. Former Governor Bill Clinton was sworn in as President of the United States while the University of Arkansas became one of the top men's college basketball programs in America. The man behind the Razorbacks' rise to prominence was head coach Nolan Richardson and his "40 minutes of hell" playing style - turn up the pressure for an entire game and the opponent will eventually break down. It was an approach that embodied Richardson's personality.

Growing up in El Paso, Texas, the coach endured segregation that he carried with him into adulthood. When Richardson became a coach after his playing days at Texas Western University, he looked for players who could execute his intense full court system. After a successful run at Tulsa, in 1985 Richardson became the first African-American head coach in the Southwest Conference when he took over the Arkansas men's team. By the early 90's, as Arkansas moved to the Southeastern Conference, the coach had turned the Razorbacks into a powerhouse, culminating in the 1994 National Championship. But what happens when the pressure becomes too great even for the one creating it?

As Richardson struggled to keep winning at the level achieved in the early-to-mid 90's, he was under scrutiny. By 2002, his anger over criticism was palpable and he was dismissed. He fired back with a wrongful termination lawsuit. In 2009, after years of division, Richardson and his players were invited back to celebrate the 15-year anniversary of their championship run. The hiring of Richardson's former assistant coach Mike Anderson has only further strengthened the once severed bond between the coach and his school as both work towards a path of healing.

The film, produced by NASCAR Media Group and directed by Kenan Harris-Holley, includes interviews with Clinton, Richardson himself, former Arkansas Chancellor John White and current Arkansas coach Mike Anderson. Players Corliss Williamson, Scotty Thurman, Corey Beck, Al Dillard, Ken Biley and John Engskov contribute to the film, as well as radio announcer Mike Nail, author Rus Bradburd and ESPN's Dick Vitale and Ryan McGee.