When he was hired by Arkansas 10 years ago, Nolan Richardson said he doubted he would ever replace his predecessor, Eddie Sutton, in the hearts of Razorbacks fans.
The fact that their paths could cross in the NCAA championship game at the Seattle Kingdome on Monday -- Richardson and Arkansas must first beat North Carolina and Sutton's Oklahoma State team must upset UCLA in Saturday's semifinals -- raises some touchy subjects for both.
"Eddie did a tremendous job making basketball what it is [at Arkansas]," Richardson said during a teleconference yesterday. "But you've got to realize that sometimes, when you take over another guy's job, it's hard to do, especially for a black guy in the South."
Sutton, meanwhile, took exception to a questioner who hinted that Arkansans felt he might have deserted them when he left for Kentucky.
"I've got a lot of affection for the state," Sutton said. "My great-grandfather was a colonel in the Union forces during the Civil War, and he was stationed in Fayetteville for some time. I thought I'd retire there, and I've still got a great many friends in Arkansas. They support the Razorbacks first, but then they'll be rooting for the Cowboys. We'll have more fans than the Bruins."
Tar Heels injury report
The disparity in depth between Arkansas and North Carolina was highlighted when Tar Heels coach Dean Smith reported that two of his starters haven't practiced since they beat Kentucky in the Southeast Regional final.
An old case of tendinitis has flared up for shooting guard Donald Williams, according to Smith, and point guard Jeff McInnis aggravated a pulled groin muscle against Kentucky. Smith said he was encouraged by the progress of Rasheed Wallace, the center whose sprained ankle in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament slowed his preparation for the NCAAs.
"Rasheed's ankle is much better," Smith said. "In another few days, he should be as good as new."
Sutton understands what it's like for Jim Harrick at UCLA when the old coach comes around.
In Westwood, of course, that would be John Wooden, the coach emeritus at the program he took to 10 NCAA titles in 12 years. In Stillwater, it was Henry Iba, who directed Oklahoma State to two NCAA championships in the 1940s and won 655 games over 36 seasons.
Iba died two years ago, and Sutton choked up talking about him after Oklahoma State won the East Regional. Sutton played for Iba in the late '50s.
"If you were one of his boys, that was something special," Sutton said.
Wooden has an office at Pauley Pavilion, Bill Walton does commentary on UCLA television games, and Marques Johnson is on the radio crew, but UCLA's heritage hasn't been easy for Harrick to deal with.
"I don't know if players embrace history," Harrick said. "I told the kids when I was hired, let's forget the past and embrace the future, see what we can build now."