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Forty Minutes of Hell: The Extraordinary Life of Nolan Richardson Hardcover – February 9, 2010

4.4 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“[An] energetic biography. . . . Bradburd rounds out his story with humanizing detail.” (Sports Illustrated)

“Highly provocative. . . . A sharp-elbowed biography.” (New York Times)

“[An] excellent, angry new biography.” (Financial Times)

“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.” (Boston Globe)

“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.’” (Tulsa World)

“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.” (SLAM Online)

“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.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“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)

“What an incredible journey!” (President Bill Clinton)

“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)

From the Back Cover

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 pace—a style he called "Forty Minutes of Hell," which became a nationally known trademark—Arkansas 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.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Amistad; 1st edition (February 9, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061690465
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061690464
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,213,808 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By RBSProds TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Five REVEALING Stars!! A wide-ranging, in-depth look at the life and times of famed National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame coach Nolan Richardson, known for his highly influential "Forty Minutes of Hell"-style of basketball coaching. Coach Richardson's unique life experiences, as detailed by author Rus Bradburd, is full of triumphs and tragedies, during which time he became the only coach to win the 'coaching trifecta' of a National Collegiate Division I Basketball Championship, a National Invitational Tournament Championship, and a National Junior College Basketball Championship. This well-researched book is full of previously unknown stories about Coach Richardson, Coach Don Haskins of UTEP fame, and many sports personalities from the Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Arkansas areas, as well as on the national level. The book begins with his 'infamous U of Arkansas press conference' that touched off a firestorm of debate across the nation's sports TV and talk radio shows, resulting in the bizarre firing of Richardson as head coach of the University of Arkansas varsity basketball team after years of excellence, that probably should not have happened. The book also covers the torturous lawsuit and the aftermath of the judgement. But it also details the influence of his grandmother; the evolution of Richardson's 'aggressive basketball' coaching style; the glory years of his involvement with many teams, coaches, and players; his trailblazing activities amid the racial and social problems of the times; the tragic death of his influential teenaged daughter from leukemia; and the importance of his friends and family life. A well-written, very nostalgic look at Coach Richardson's life that also contains much new information. Highly Recommended. Five DETAILED Stars!! (This review is based on an Amazon.com Kindle download in "Text-to-Speech" mode.)
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Format: Hardcover
"Forty Minutes of Hell" is great reading, even for the non-sports fan. Nolan Richardson's life is a saga of grit, determination, and basketball coaching brilliance with no compromise of personal integrity. Bradburd's account of this multi-championship winning coach is thorough and as fast-paced as Richardson's famous game. Richardson's controversial statements about race are not ducked. In fact the book begins with his famous/infamous press conference at the University of Arkansas in 2002 which was a prequel to his termination there. Like any hero, Richardson is not perfect, and Bradburd doesn't gloss over Richardson's mistakes. The El Paso chapters will surprise many readers--it's a city with a rich basketball tradition, alongside its Mexican-dominant culture and its prescient civil rights litigation. What Nolan Richardson has accomplished is truly amazing--coaching the winning teams of all three major college basketball titles and storming his outspoken way into sports history.
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Format: Hardcover
Rus Bradburd's telling of the life (so far) of legendary basketball coach Nolan Richardson is partly a basketball story, from a junior college in hardscrabble West Texas to Final Fours and a national championship at Arkansas. More importantly, though, it's the story of a man from a poor neighborhood in El Paso fighting through daunting obstacles to achieve the pinnacle of success in a place where many wished him to fail, and the scars left by those battles. Perhaps most importantly, this book tells the story of a nation's struggles with racism, both subtle and overt, over the last half-century. Because of people like Nolan Richardson, much progress can be seen; as Bradburd's book makes clear, however, fear and bigotry remain alarmingly present in our country. This is an important book, for basketball fans and non-fans alike.
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Format: Paperback
Sometimes a book can take a right turn to an entirely different direction, without the driver, er, author even putting on the turn signal.

Such is the case with "Forty Minutes of Hell," by Rus Bradburd, which has a big surprise for its readers part of the way through.

The book is a biography of Nolan Richardson, a name which will be very familiar to college basketball fans. Richardson is best known for his tenure as the head coach at Arkansas, where he had a good-sized run of success including a national championship in 1994.

Richardson looked to be set for life at Arkansas, until some bizarre circumstances led to his departure. What's more, Richardson never landed another coaching position -- a bit strange considering his track record. This makes him prime material for a biography.

Through the first part of the book, Bradburd covers the basics of Richardson's life in a simple, professional manner. The future coach grew up in El Paso, played at what was then known as Texas Western (now Texas El Paso or UTEP), and moved into coaching. After an apprenticeship, Richardson gained some fame for his work at Tulsa, where he won an NIT title as he revived the program there.

Then Richardson moves up the ladder to Arkansas, and the tenor of the book changes drastically. The focus on the book shifts from Richardson's life as a basketball coach to the experiences of this proud, fiery African-American as the head coach at a university in the Old South.

There were problems along the way, and Bradburd points the finger mostly at athletic director and former football coach Frank Broyles.
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