While Shawn Miller was introduced Tuesday at Madison Square Garden as one of the Big East’s new men’s basketball coaches, Emmanuel “Buck” Richardson was supervising a practice about 8 miles north at Gaucho Gym in the South Bronx.
Xavier, who is bringing Miller back as head coach, was willing to overlook the scandal in Arizona during Miller’s tenure as head coach for the wildcats from 2009-21 because he believed he could help the Knights win big again. Arizona State was trapped by the 2017 federal investigation into corruption in college basketball.
Richardson, who worked alongside Miller for 10 years and spent three months in prison after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery, has expressed no animosity toward Miller for returning to the game so quickly after his dismissal in Arizona in April. 2021. That could mean there’s a chance for Richardson to return to the college game one day for a second chance, too.
“It gives me hope to be a coach in college,” Richardson told The Post. “It’s been five years. For me to be angry, to be sad, to be upset, it doesn’t help. I look forward to showing someone that I still have a lot of talent, and I still have a lot of time left.”
“I hope someone realizes that I can help him win basketball games on and off the field, I can develop talent and I can coach.”
Richardson, 49, was one of four assistant coaches arrested as part of an FBI investigation. He was accused of accepting $20,000 to send players from Arizona to athletic agent Christian Dawkins. During Dawkins’ trial, prosecutors played a taped call that told Richardson Dawkins that Miller was paying former player Dender Eaton $10,000 a month to play with the Wildcats. Miller denied paying players. Arizona was charged with five Level 1 violations last March, and Miller faces one Level 1 count for failing to show he “promoted a compliance climate and monitored his employees.”
After Xavier missed the NCAA Championship for the third consecutive season in 2021-22, he focused on Miller, who only sat for a year after firing in Arizona. He went 120-47 and reached four NCAA championships in five years from 2004-09 as a jockey coach, with Richardson serving at the time as one of his assistants.
“And that means the world to me. Xavier believed in me in two really different times,” said the 53-year-old Miller. “Number one, he gave me my first chance as a coach when my records were zero and zero. You always need that first person who believes in you. And secondly, I now have the opportunity for them to believe in who I am at a critical time for Xavier. … Happy to be back, grateful to be back.”
Asked if he should explain to the Xavier decision-makers what happened in Arizona, Miller said, “They know who I am.”
Athletic Director Greg Christopher said the school has dug into the issue, and has come out relieved with Miller’s hiring. This has helped him gain the support of CEOs and leaders of the Catholic Church in the community, along with notable alumni.
“It was probably the longest interview I ever had as we went through it all,” Christopher said.
One assistant coach at Big East said Miller’s hiring tops it all, while another said, “Everyone in our office doesn’t understand why this guy deserves a job after what happened.”
Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman noted that each school is at liberty to appoint any coaches it sees fit, but the league has not objected to the move.
“We trust Xavier’s judgment on this matter, and we will look forward, not backward,” Ackermann said.
Meanwhile, Richardson is currently serving as the director of boys’ basketball for the Bronx-based Gauchos AAU. The head coach for a new NYC academy team called the Program is expected to begin in the 2023-24 season, but it’s still in the pipeline. Richardson, a New York City resident, does not believe Miller threw him under the bus, although the two have not spoken since Richardson’s arrest.
Both Miller and Richardson are still in limbo, as the Arizona case remains unsettled. A decision is expected soon, with a possible suspension of Miller and a discipline for Richardson after the independent impeachment dissolution process concludes after a summer hearing.
It remains uncertain whether the school will be willing to seize the opportunity for Richardson. He was in the mix for a job at LIU Brooklyn on new coach Rod Strickland’s staff, but the president refused to sign the move.
It’s worth noting that these days players can benefit from Name, Picture, and Similarity (NIL), and had those rules been in place years ago, Richardson might not have fallen behind bars or ended up in college basketball at all. The same could be said for the other three assistant coaches arrested as part of an FBI investigation five years ago.
“That’s the irony,” Richardson said. “I look at it this way: in every dark cloud there is a lighter side. … I’m not saying [NIL] It wouldn’t have happened anyway, but this thing that happened to the four black acolytes, it soon happened.”