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10 questions for ... Quinn Richardson, who will join former teammates and coaches at Saturday's reunion at the Assembly Hall
A sharp-shooting captain on Lou Henson's 1983-84 Illini has done as well in the business world as he did on the basketball court. Senior vice president at Bank of America in Chicago, the 47-year-old father of two will join many of his former teammates at this weekend's reunion of the Big Ten champs. Sports editor JIM ROSSOW caught up with Richardson to discuss Lou Henson, the Assembly Hall and the controversial loss to Kentucky in the Elite Eight.
If you guys played Kentucky anywhere but in Lexington, do you go to the 1984 Final Four?
I really think we would have gone if we played on a neutral court. Efrem Winters wasn't at 100 percent but we played very well anyway. We couldn't overcome some of those conditions of playing Kentucky at home. But I let it go. While playing at home to go to the Final Four didn't seem equitable or fair, the good thing about it is they rectified the situation. They changed the rule.
What's your best memory of that season?
The Wisconsin game, nailing down the Big Ten championship at home with my parents coming out on the court for Senior Day. My dad's dream was to see me play at Illinois, work up a sweat in an Illinois uniform. Cutting down the net after that game was a thrill.
And you got to keep the net?
Big George Montgomery told me to. He was our enforcer so we did everything he said. I still have it draped over a trophy in my house.
Who wins in a round-robin tournament: the '84 team, the Flyin' Illini or the 2005 Illini?
Wow. There was a lot of talent on the '89 team. Marcus Liberty wasn't even in the starting lineup. Their sixth and seventh men could have been starters for most other teams. The 2005 teams, you can't say much more about. Great point guards. But I'll say we would have beaten them in double-overtime.
I was told Coach Henson's advice to you upon leaving Illinois was: Get to work 15 minute early.
That's right. He always said there's a right way and a wrong way. In fact, on the way to my first interview the radiator in my car was acting up so I called the president of the bank and told him there was a chance I might not make it on time. I got to the interview on time but the first thing he told me was that he appreciated me giving him a head's up. I got the job and haven't looked back since.
Coach Henson turns 77 (Saturday).
He's certainly a fantastic coach, but he's such a great person. He always cared about you as a person, not just someone who could bounce a ball on the hardwood. Once you were out of eligibility, he still cared about you. Coach would make you practice for an hour and a half, then spend 15 minutes talking to you about life and earning a living. He said 'Not many of you guys are going to the NBA, so you gotta do something after college.'
Most kids today don't want to redshirt as freshmen. You redshirted after your junior year.
I can remember the day as if it was yesterday. Coach Henson walked up to me with a big smile on his face and said 'I have an idea.' All I had to hear was 'more playing time' and I jumped at it. That was probably an atypical situation, especially for a senior. Seldom do you have seniors redshirt unless they get injured. But look how it turned out.
The university has put on hold plans to renovate the Assembly Hall. What's your take?
I'm OK with it. It's still a great venue for college basketball and it's such a landmark with so much tradition. Having said that, could you make something better? There's a time and reason for anything at some point, like what they did with (Memorial Stadium) and going from Chicago Stadium to the United Center. Maybe when the timing's right and the capital is available, something can be done.
Could Quinn Richardson play in today's Big Ten?
Yes. I was in great condition, I was fundamentally sound, I could hit the open shot, take care of the ball, set picks and play defense. Now, I wasn't the type of player who could come down and dunk on someone, like Chester Frazier did at Michigan. I jumped up when I saw that. In fact, when I see Chester next I'm not going to call him Chester. I'm going to call him Mr. Frazier because of that dunk.
But what about those tight shorts players wore back then?
Times have changed in terms of fashion. I don't think I could wear shorts over my knees but when I look back at what we wore, it looks like swim shorts. I would go with a hybrid, maybe something in between.