New Arkansas AD Long wants to reach out to Richardson

Updated: January 31, 2008, 2:59 PM ET
Associated Press

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Nolan Richardson might be hearing from Arkansas' new athletic director.

"I look forward to sitting down with him and talking with him and getting to know him," said Jeff Long, who replaced Frank Broyles on Jan. 1. "I think it says a lot about how he feels about the Razorbacks that he stayed here in Fayetteville. Time heals, and hopefully time will heal those wounds on both sides and that we can move forward from that."

Richardson coached Arkansas to a national championship in 1994, but he was fired in 2002 and later lost a discrimination lawsuit against the school. Richardson has stayed in the Fayetteville area since then and has been supportive of Stan Heath and John Pelphrey, the two men who have coached Arkansas' basketball team since he left.

"I don't know the details of his departure from here, and at one level, really, it is not something that I choose to delve into," Long said Thursday. "He was our basketball coach for a long time, had a tremendous record. He is respected across the country for what he did with our program."

Richardson indicated he'd be open to meeting with Long. The former coach says although he felt mistreated by some at the school, he doesn't have any ill will toward the university as a whole or the Arkansas fans.

"How can I hate 20,000 fans?" he said.

Mike Anderson, a former assistant at Arkansas under Richardson, received a warm ovation from the crowd when he returned to Fayetteville for a game this season as Missouri's head coach.

Arkansas has undergone plenty of changes recently. Long replaced Broyles, and chancellor John White -- who was also involved in Richardson's firing -- is stepping down.

"The troops are changing," Richardson said. "Hopefully it'll be a good change."

What doesn't seem to be changing is Richardson's passion for basketball. He sounded proud when he talked about the Razorbacks, who beat Mississippi State by 20 points on Wednesday night before a happy crowd at Bud Walton Arena.

"Don't let them think for one minute that the mystique isn't still around," Richardson said. "It's there."

Long said he planned to attend a recent luncheon where Richardson spoke but was in Little Rock on business that day.

"I know people within our department have great love and respect for him. I had planned to reach out before now but haven't had the chance," Long said. "I look forward to sitting down with Coach Richardson and meeting him. Again, I have respected him as a basketball coach from afar."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press