You’ve seen him on the sidelines consoling a dejected Kevin Parrom and chest bumping an ecstatic Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. You’ve seen him be the "good parent" after a player gets a tongue-lashing from Arizona head coach Sean Miller and you’ve seen him get in a player’s face when they weren't playing to their capabilities. He is Arizona men’s basketball assistant coach Emmanuel ‘Book’ Richardson.
But who is this man? Who is this prominent figure that virtually no one knows anything about?
Richardson has been alongside Miller for the past 10 years. He has been tremendous in recruiting circles and has been targeted by East Coast schools such as Rutgers and St. John’s to return home to his roots and help establish programs that are in desperate need of talent.
But Book hasn’t budged and chooses to remain with the Wildcats, continuing an upward trend of recruiting that has seen a tremendous amount of talent walk through the doors of McKale Center. Talent like NBA first-round picks Derrick Williams, Aaron Gordon, Stanley Johnson and Hollis-Jefferson were all engaged with Richardson during the recruiting process.
“Book has been with me as an assistant coach longer than anyone else,” Miller said. “Book has been with me for a decade, so that is a long time, especially since I have only been a head coach for 13 [years]."
That approach seems to be working out for Miller and with Richardson in tow, the Wildcats' recruiting classes have been on the rise. Arizona will feature McDonald’s All-American Kobi Simmons, top-20 recruit Rawle Alkins and Finnish phenom Lauri Markannen this season.
In addition, Arizona has already made waves in attaining the nation’s overall top recruiting class for next season, securing ESPN top-100 prospects Alex Barcello and Ira Lee, and the nation’s No. 1 overall recruit, Deandre Ayton. All solid prospects dealt with on some level by Richardson.
Richardson’s East Coast ties have been instrumental in securing players such as Lamont ‘Momo’ Jones, Parrom, Hollis-Jefferson and Alkins. His work has made UA a national threat when on the recruiting circuit and he is viewed as a highly respected recruiter among some the best in the nation.
He isn’t the man behind the curtain, necessarily, but his contributions to Arizona basketball have been instrumental in making the program a national power. Which is unique considering Richardson didn’t get his start in college basketball in the typical fashion.
Richardson had stints at just about every level of college basketball one could imagine, as well as within the AAU circuit. His journey began at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, where he helped lead his alma mater to a school record 23-4 season in 1999. Richardson also has experience as a player at Florida Atlantic, Monroe College and University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown as a point guard, leading Division II in assists his junior and senior seasons.
Almost every great coach played some college ball, and Richardson fits that mold.
His demeanor with players is something to watch, especially with the ones who are struggling. Countless times, you can see Richardson sitting next to a frustrated player, whispering the keys to victory to refocus the athlete. He is working with feather-like touch on a young man’s mind in order to draw the very best out of him.
"He is a great guy, players love him and he has a tremendous future," Miller said. "The head coach a lot of times gets the credit in recruiting but the lion share of the recruiting is done by your staff, and I wouldn’t trade my staff for anybody.”
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