Third SEC “Storied” Film Explores the Coach Behind the Arkansas Men’s Basketball Dynasty of the Early 1990s, including his Bond with Former President Bill Clinton
On Saturday, Feb. 11, at 9 p.m. ET, ESPNU will debut 40 Minutes of Hell, the latest installment in the new SEC “Storied” documentary series. The film explores the rise, fall and re-birth of a legendary coach and a time when the state of Arkansas was at the epicenter of American culture.
About the Film
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.
SEC on ESPN
ESPN, Inc., and the Southeastern Conference entered into a landmark 15-year agreement for extensive football, men’s and women’s basketball, Olympic sports and conference championship content across multiple ESPN entities beginning with the 2009-10 academic year. As a result, ESPN Regional Television became the over the-air syndication home for Southeastern Conference programming and the largest college sports syndication television package in the country. In 2010, SEC Network basketball games were distributed in 71 local television markets, representing 39.0 million homes; SEC Network football games were distributed in 97 local television markets, representing 81.2 million homes, which is 70% of the U.S.
The 24-hour college sports television network airs more than 650 live events annually and offers over 600 original studio shows. ESPNU has seen a steady increase since its inception on March 4, 2005 and is now in over 73 million households. The brand is also available in high definition on ESPNUHD, now in over 20 million homes. The network has long-term carriage agreements with all 10 of the top multichannel TV providers – Cablevision, Charter, Comcast, Cox, DirecTV (Channel 208), DISH Network (Channel 141), Mediacom, Time Warner Cable, Verizon FiOS TV and AT&T U-verse.