Tulsa Shock: Nolan Richardson resigns, Teresa Edwards named interim coach

After a tumultuous and abysmal season and a half of losing and player attrition, Tulsa Shock head coach and general manager Nolan Richardson resigned the team announced early Saturday morning. The Shock’s owners met with Richardson after a game last night against the Phoenix Mercury.

“Despite the disappointing start to this season for the Tulsa Shock, the decision to consider a coaching change in mid season was extremely difficult,” said co-owner David Box. “Coach Richardson is a legendary basketball coach who has earned the respect of the collegiate and professional basketball family for an exceptional body of work during his impressive 30 plus year career. Last night’s announcement does nothing to diminish his extraordinary accomplishments and our organization’s high admiration for him.”

Tulsa, 1-10, came into the season with high hopes after drafting Australian phenom, Liz Cambage out of Australia as the No. 2 pick in the 2011 draft. The team also signed WNBA legend 40 year-old Sheryl Swoopes and added five-time Olympian Teresa Edwards to the coaching staff and as director of player personnel. However, even Cambage, Swoopes and Edwards could not help salvage Tulsa’s awful performance on the court and the continual revolving door of player after player who left in trades after being signed to fit into Nolan’s system of “40 minutes of hell” which resembled chaos to frustrated fans who began calling for his ouster at the end of last season when the team finished 6-28. Overall, Richardson’s record with the Shock was 7-38. The team lost to Phoenix Friday night 86-78.

“While I am saddened to leave the Tulsa Shock at this time and in this manner, I am also very disappointed in the way we have started the year, and as coach, I accept my share of the responsibility,” Richardson said in a statement. “I respect our organization and players. This is a class group of individuals who are committed to this community, organization and players. I will be forever thankful for the unique opportunity Bill and David and the entire ownership group gave me to re-enter coaching basketball, something I love to do and missed dearly. I love Tulsa. This community has always been good to me and for me. I want to especially thank my players for allowing me the honor to coach them in the WNBA where the finest women athletes in the world compete.

Richardson has a storied history in men’s basketball. He led Arkansas to an NCAA championship in 1994 and before that had a successful run at the University of Tulsa.

“I will be forever thankful for the unique opportunity [owners] Bill [Cameron] and David [Box] and the entire ownership group gave me to re-enter coaching basketball, something I love to do and missed dearly,” he said. “I love Tulsa. This community has always been good to me and for me.”

Edwards will be the interim coach of the team.

“We are fortunate our basketball operation is headed by one of the most respected basketball minds in the profession in Teresa Edwards,” said Box. “Ms. Edwards has an impressive career spanning three decades at the highest level of competition including as a member of five U.S. Olympic Basketball teams where she earned four Gold Medals. Teresa knows our team well and the players respect her management, leadership and passion for the game. Her credentials are strong and she knows what it takes to succeed. She will serve as the Tulsa Shock’s interim coach for the remainder of the season. We look forward to supporting Coach Edwards as she moves our team forward this season.”

Edward’s said she learned a lot from Richardson.

“In a short period of time, Coach Richardson taught me a lot about basketball and life,” said Edwards. “He was always gracious to me and he was passionate about the game and his players. He considered his players family and he worked hard all time to make everyone around him better. As the Shock improves, Coach Richardson will always be part of the progress. While the record may not bear it out today, he is a winner in every aspect both as a coach and a citizen. I want to personally thank him and wish him the best. Even though the circumstances are not what I would prefer to become a head coach, I appreciate the opportunity I have been given to coach the Shock on an interim basis. We have work to do and we are going to start right now.”

The Shock relocated to Tulsa in late 2009 from Detroit. Shortly after Cameron and Box announced they wanted to purchase the team, they hired Richardson. By the end of the Tulsa’s first season, all of the players from the original franchise were gone and some never came to Tulsa. Deanna Nolan, Cheryl Ford and Katie Smith (who was traded) opted not to play in Tulsa.  While Smith was traded, she made it clear she had no interest in relocating with the team. She currently plays for the Seattle Storm after a season with the Washington Mystics.

The Shock faces the Mercury again in its next game. Tulsa travels to Phoenix for a road contest on Sunday, July 10 at 5 p.m. CST.

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