FAYETTEVILLE — Mike Anderson wasn’t sure if his players understood the magnitude of what took place in Bud Walton Arena on Saturday.
But the significance of the gathering wasn’t lost on Arkansas’ coach after the Razorbacks’ 81-70 win against LSU.
“It was electric in this arena,” Anderson said. “And it was an obvious reason why.
“We had a lot of champions here. Final Four teams, a Hall of Fame coach in Eddie Sutton, a Hall of Fame coach in Nolan Richardson. Guys that are responsible for the great tradition. And more importantly, all the players that played on the Final Fours, that is the reason why we’re here today in this building.”
Arkansas honored members of its six Final Four teams (1941, 1945, 1978, 1990, 1994 and 1995) during a halftime ceremony and the reunion produced a who’s who list of significant figures in the program’s history. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, former Arkansas coaches Nolan Richardson and Eddie Sutton, and roughly 20 former players from four of the Final Four teams participated in the festivities.
The list of former players included: Corliss Williamson, Todd Day, Sidney Moncrief, Oliver Miller, Scotty Thurman, Corey Beck, Jim Counce, U.S. Reed, Ron Huery, Lee Mayberry, Lee Wilson, Clyde Fletcher, Arlyn Bowers and Ernie Murry.
“We’re talking about these guys being all up under one roof,” Anderson said. “That’s pretty special. That’s pretty unique. It’s something I’m sure our fans will remember — and those guys. Some of those guys hadn’t seen each other in awhile. So it was neat for them to come here and to have Coach Sutton and Coach Richardson here at the same time. That’s priceless.”
Clinton was presented with a framed No. 42 jersey — in recognition of being the 42nd President — for his role in Arkansas’ national title season. The Arkansas native was in office at the time and attended the national championship game.
“I’m grateful that you guys let me hang around so long that I was able to be there for four of our six Final Four teams,” Clinton said to the former players and coaches before turning his comments to the crowd. “I want to say to all of you, you should be so proud of what Arkansas basketball has meant to our state.”
But the honors didn’t end with Clinton. Arkansas announced that Moncrief’s retired jersey — which was never transferred from Barnhill Arena to Bud Walton Arena when it opened in 1994 — would finally be hung in the rafters next season.
The Razorbacks revealed it will have company, too. Williamson’s No. 34 jersey and a banner recognizing Richardson’s 390 career wins will join Moncrief’s No. 32.
The three will be honored in separate ceremonies next season, becoming the first individuals to have banners or jerseys in the arena. So will former women’s basketball greats Bettye Fiscus (No. 5) and Delmonica DeHorney (No. 50).
Richardson, Sutton and Clinton sat together in a suite during the first half of Saturday’s game, leaving just before halftime to join the former players as they prepared for the ceremony. The three then sat together in courtside seats during the second half, watching Arkansas go on a 27-10 run to close out the win.
“I didn’t notice until the end of the game,” Arkansas forward Bobby Portis said when asked if he realized the three were sitting courtside.
The Razorbacks got even closer to Clinton and the former Arkansas greats in the locker room after the win.
Forward Coty Clarke said the former players complimented the current team, saying the Hogs “looked like the team that could bring it back.” Guard Ky Madden described the opportunity to meet Clinton as an honor.
“It was a real surreal moment, just to meet the President, the former President,” guard Ky Madden said. “I never thought that I would do that, me coming from a small town, where I come from and it really, really happening. So, it was an honor.”