Nolan Richardson: John Calipari can end Arkansas' title drought

Bilas: Arkansas will be a 'national player' quickly with Coach Cal (2:26)

ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas joins Marty & McGee and explains why John Calipari is going to have immediate success with the Razorbacks. (2:26)

Arkansas hired John Calipari to lead the men's basketball program to its first national title since 1994, the year Nolan Richardson won the crown with the Razorbacks and their "40 Minutes of Hell."

Richardson told ESPN on Thursday that Calipari has the "support" and capabilities to end the 30-year drought and win a national title.

"I don't see why it wouldn't be a job where [Calipari] could come in and win a national championship," Richardson said. "I can see that they can. I don't know another coach who could do it better than Calipari because of his recruiting."

Richardson said he spoke briefly with Calipari after he accepted the job last month following his lengthy stint at Kentucky and congratulated him.

Calipari has since added a decorated collection of talent in his first offseason at Arkansas. Boogie Fland, the five-star recruit who had originally committed to Calipari at Kentucky, and Johnell Davis, who led Florida Atlantic to the 2023 Final Four, anchor a group that could compete for the SEC crown in 2024-25.

Richardson said Calipari has already won the fan base's support and he expects Razorbacks fans to fill Bud Walton Arena (capacity 19,368) in Fayetteville, Arkansas, next season.

"He's got their support," Richardson told ESPN. "Fayetteville is probably to me the greatest job on the Earth as far as the fans are concerned. A lot of times, the fans, they're for the coach who is the coach at the present. They're all in the present mind. If you come in and do a good job, you've got all the fans behind you. You've got 20,000 in the arena. Arkansas has got tremendous facilities. It has tremendous support. A bad night in Arkansas is 17,000 people. That's unheard of."

But Richardson added that the game has changed a lot since he last led Arkansas to a national title 30 years ago. The transfer portal and NIL rules have turned recruiting into a race to "buy the best player," he said.

If that's the game, he said, then Arkansas is also positioned to compete in the new landscape.

"We have everything up here," he said. "You've got Tyson Foods, Walmart, J.B. Hunt. You've got some heavy, heavy, heavy hitters in this little corner of Arkansas."

As the only former coach who knows what it's like to win a national title at Arkansas, Richardson said his advice for Calipari is simple: He wants him to stick to the blueprint that helped him find success early in his tenure at Kentucky.

"It's all about recruiting," Richardson said. "It used to be recruiting and development, and now it's about recruiting the top players. I think [Calipari] is going to do that. I think he's already proven he's a tremendous recruiter by getting all of the one-and-dones. My advice is don't do anything different than what you've always done: go get the best players and you've got a chance to be the best."