forward Mike Winiecki, "This season we're a team people are shooting at. A
win over Richmond means something now."
tournament wins have clearly meant something to Tarrant. In his eighth season
as head coach, he has his first long-term contract: a four-year agreement with
a clause that, in essence, renews the contract every year. He also recently
signed a new, more lucrative contract with Nike; his clinic requests are way
up; and he has so many speaking invitations that he now farms some of them out
to his assistants—who also got raises last spring.
There was good
reason for Richmond to be generous. The school, which has an undergraduate
enrollment of 2,700, netted $329,000 from the NCAA tournament, even after
splitting its original $721,000 in tournament proceeds with the rest of the
Colonial Athletic Association. What's more, season ticket sales to games in the
Robins Center are at about 3,500, up from last season's 2,600. Not that the
Spiders are a terribly needy team; Richmond, after all, is a wealthy school,
blessed with a hefty endowment.
It is also
blessed with a gorgeous campus dotted with huge pine trees and bisected by a
lovely lake. At one end of the campus sits the Robins Center; although it is 16
years old, the 9,171-seat arena looks as if it opened last week, largely
because it is used by the varsity basketball teams and no one else. Tarrant
believes that if he can get a recruit on campus, he has a shot at keeping him;
at the very least, he figures, the kid will be impressed by the beauty of the
place. And a good thing, too, because until last March. Tarrant the recruiter
didn't have much else going for him.
"This is the
first year I haven't been asked once if Richmond is in Division I," Tarrant
says. "We've never beaten the ACC or the Big East for a player when they
really wanted the kid. We get done in by what I call 'cafeteria bragging
rights.' What I mean is, a kid goes into his high school cafeteria and his
buddies ask him where he's going to college. If he says, I could have gone to
Maryland or Virginia or Villanova but I decided on Richmond,' they all say,
'Yeah, right, you turned down the Big East for Richmond.' What we did in the
tournament changes that—at least a little. Now when the kid says Richmond, he
can say, 'You know, the guys that beat Indiana.' "
evidence of that when he went home to Northport, on Long Island, last summer.
"After my freshman year, when I came home I told people that my school had
beaten Georgia Tech [in the regular season] and Navy with David Robinson,"
he says. "Everyone just kind of shrugged. They never saw us on television
or heard anything about us. This year I got home and it was completely
different. Now everyone wanted me to tell them about beating Bobby
The Indiana game
has produced at least one tangible recruiting success. Last March, Terry
Connolly, a 6'5", 225-pound forward, had just completed his sophomore
season at NAIA-level Shepherd College in West Virginia, where he averaged 25.1
points and 12.6 rebounds a game. He was looking for a Division I school. "I
was thinking I'd go to West Virginia probably," says Connolly. "But
then I saw Richmond beat Indiana on TV and saw Peter Woolfolk playing inside
for them at six-five. I said, 'Maybe I can do the same thing for them.' So I
called." Connolly is now enrolled at Richmond, where he will be eligible to
play next fall.
landed two quality players during the early signing period this fall and is in
contention for several other good players who won't make their decisions until
spring. And those who do ultimately find their way to Richmond are almost sure
to leave with their degrees in hand. To date, the graduation rate of players
recruited by Tarrant is perfect: 17 of 17.
While that number
is a proud one, it was Sweet 16 that brought Tarrant into the limelight.
"After we beat Indiana, ESPN wanted me to come over to Bristol [ Conn.] to
be interviewed in the studio," he says. "They sent a stretch limousine
to pick up my wife and me. As we were driving over, Judy looked at me and said,
'Well, pal, we've certainly come a long way from the winter of '64, when we
were trying to keep our Chevy running until spring.'
around the car and laughed. I said, 'Yeah, this isn't bad for a guy from
Joisey, is it?' "