Now it is Heath's program, and he has been pulled into the state's embrace. Last spring he attended graduation for students and players he had barely met and shook their hands. Despite the lingering memories of Richardson's contentious departure and an ongoing NCAA investigation into booster activities, Heath signed a highly ranked recruiting class, including Brewer's son, Ronnie, a 6'6" swingman from Fayetteville High. Following last Saturday's 72-65 loss at South Carolina, Heath's team was in last place in the SEC West with a 2-8 conference record. Nevertheless Heath gets standing ovations at every game at Bud Walton Arena. "Stan has exceptional people skills," says Broyles.
It is an odd bit of symmetry for Heath. During his 15-year climb from high school assistant to the Elite Eight, he idolized successful black coaches, John Thompson and Richardson in particular. Richardson has called, and they have talked. "I don't think anybody is comfortable with the way things ended for Coach Richardson," says Heath. "But it has nothing to do with me. It's in the past."
Of course, it's in the future, too, a gathering storm, closer by the day.