Book Richardson was unable to speak to Stadium for the story, with his impending trial. The recollections and details in the story were provided by his wife, children and those close to him.
TUCSON, Ariz. – When he heard the knock on his door just before 6 a.m. on the morning of Sept. 26, 2017, a frustrated Emanuel “Book” Richardson walked down the hallway. His wife was visiting her ailing grandfather back home in New York, and both his 16-year-old son and 8-year-old grandson were sleeping in their bedrooms. The landscapers had done this in the past; he had asked them nicely not to arrive quite this early.
He peeked out the curtain. On the former Arizona assistant coach’s front stoop stood between six and eight FBI agents in uniform, two immediately in front of the front door, two on the side of the house, and another two holding a battering ram.
Richardson was confused, unaware why anyone from the Federal Bureau of Investigation would be pounding on his door, proceeding to search the house, confiscate his cell phone and laptop, and order him to remove the drawstring on his shorts.
Erin Richardson’s cell phone rang. She had arrived late the previous night after a delayed flight and saw the call was from her daughter, 25-year-old Sere’, who was two months pregnant at the time. She was frantic, instructing her mother to check out the security camera immediately.
“The FBI are at the house,” Sere’ said. “And they’re arresting dad.”
Nearly 2,500 miles away, Erin grabbed her iPad and was devastated by the horrific sight: Her shirtless husband being handcuffed by FBI agents with their son, Emanuel Jr., standing a few feet away in the front yard.
“I was screaming,” Erin said. “I was crying.”
She couldn’t hear what Book was saying since there was no audio, but could read her husband’s lips:
“Why are you arresting me?” he asked over and over. “What did I do?”
They wouldn’t tell him.
Richardson finally gave his son a kiss, told E.J. everything was going to be OK and then was put in one of the black SUVs that were parked in front of the house and taken to an FBI remote location about 20 minutes away. He was still unaware of what was going on, and at one point thought it might just be someone playing a prank on him for a TV show.
When Richardson arrived at the FBI remote location, he was interrogated for about an hour and was finally informed of the charges: Federal bribery, fraud and other corruption charges. He was accused of accepting at least $20,000 in cash bribes in exchange for agreeing to pressure basketball players to sign with an agent and also a financial advisor.
The allegations in the indictment included that Richardson “appears to have kept for himself and some of which he appears to have provided to at least one prospective high school basketball player (“Player 5”) in order to recruit Player-5 to play for University-4.”
Player 5 was then-Arizona commit Jahvon Quinerly, who decommitted and is currently enrolled and set to play as a freshman at Villanova.
The penalty: Up to 60 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines.
Richardson was then taken to the county jail, where he shared a cell with two other men, one an alleged drug trafficker. Richardson, clad in an orange jumpsuit, pleaded not guilty to the charges, was released on a $100,000 bond and went home.
His daughter was waiting for him with the car in the back of the courthouse.
“When I finally saw him, I could tell he was embarrassed,” Sere’ said. “He just kept apologizing for what he was putting us through.”
Then they called Erin.
“I could tell in his voice that he was just defeated,” she recalled. “He just kept apologizing to me. That’s just not the Book I know.”
It was so out of character that Erin asked her daughter to hide the keys and also remove all of the medicine in the cabinet.
“I just wasn’t sure,” Erin said.
Book Richardson has always been known as the life of the party, smiling and laughing, telling jokes. One Pac-12 college assistant coach described him as a guy “who everyone got along with, and even if he lost a recruit to you, it was hard to be mad at him because he’d call and congratulate you.”
“He’s a people pleaser,” Erin said. “To a fault.”
He got his nickname, “Pocketbook,” at eight months old because he wouldn’t stop playing with his grandmother’s pocketbook. It was shortened to Book because the nickname doesn’t exactly exhibit toughness growing up in Harlem, New York. Now the only person who calls him Emanuel is his former high school coach Gary DeCesare.
“He’s like a son to me,” said DeCesare, currently the head coach at St. Rita High in Illinois. “He’s that guy who is always worrying about everyone else. You never, ever hear anything say anything negative about him, and that’s rare in this industry.”
The family moved to the Bronx when Richardson was in the eighth grade, and he became the starting point guard on a powerhouse St. Raymond’s team alongside Terrence Rencher and Orlando Antigua. Richardson went to Florida Atlantic, but only lasted a year before transferring to Division II University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown.
“He’s one of the most selfless guys I’ve ever been around,” Rencher said. “He just wants to make everyone feel good. He loves the game and loves the kids.”
After graduating in 1998, he began his coaching career at his alma mater before spending three years as an assistant at Monroe College, a junior college program in the Bronx. He was an assistant for one season at Marist, then the director of the renowned New York Gauchos travel program from 2005 to 2007 before being hired by Sean Miller at Xavier in 2007, and brought to Tucson alongside Miller two years later. In the eight years on staff, Richardson has been a part of a trio of Elite Eight teams.
Book Richardson can only sit and wait these days. He was suspended immediately, and officially fired on Jan. 11. The family has been without health insurance since his termination. While the trials of three of the 10 men who were arrested that day by the FBI in the college basketball probe will begin next week, Book’s trial isn’t slated to start until April 22.
Five hundred seventy three days after he was arrested.
“He just wants to get on with his life,” Erin said. “The waiting game is killing us.”
Richardson didn’t leave the house at first. He was scared, ashamed, humiliated to see anyone – especially in Tucson, where some were already blaming him for the downfall of the Arizona program. There was even a time when he told Erin that he was going to drive down to the Arizona federal prison and turn himself in so he could get it over and start serving time.
“He didn’t want to drag his family through all this,” Erin said.
But after more than a month sitting in the house, Richardson told his wife that he wanted to go trick-or-treating for Halloween, something he had never done, not as a child growing up in the Bronx, and not even with his own children. They went to the store to buy costumes and on Oct. 31 went out as a family – Book clad in a blonde wing, padded fake muscles and a big sword as He-Man and Erin as SheRa.
“He laughed and joked,” Erin said. “It was the Book I knew.”
But it’s up and down, good days followed by bad ones, times when Book will sit in his bedroom with the curtains closed for hours, depressed, nearly suicidal with concern over how he will be able to take care of his family. He doesn’t sleep, his back hurts and there was one day when his blood pressure soared to 183 over 101.
When the doorbell rings or there’s a knock on the door, there’s a panic that sets in even though he knows the feds aren’t coming back. He even keeps a pair of shorts on the top of his bedroom dresser — ones without a drawstring — just in case.
“He’s scared,” Erin said. “But it’s gotten a little better.”
Back in December, an older, diehard Arizona basketball fan asked Book if he wanted to make a few extra dollars and help him paint and clean houses in South Tucson. Richardson did it for a few weeks, but then stopped after being afraid of getting injured without insurance.
Now the routine is the same for the most part each and every day. He gets up and takes E.J., who is a senior at Canyon Del Oro, to high school and then calls Erin to see whether she wants anything from Chick-fil-A. He returns home, helps with any chores around the house and then sits down at the same chair at the dining room table and pulls out his iPad, where he spends much of the day buying tokens and playing games like Bejeweled, Gummy Drop and Crime Scene. Then he’ll field phone calls from the tight-knit group of friends — mostly involved with basketball — who will try to keep his spirits up while was continues to play the waiting game.
NBA star Kemba Walker is one of those who has helped — both emotionally and financially. So has former Arizona standout and current NBA player Solomon Hill. Walker has known Richardson since 2006, back when Walker was an unheralded point guard coming out of Rice High School in the Bronx and Richardson was coaching the Gauchos — then regarded as one of the top summer travel organizations in the country.
“I know what type of man he is, and he’s someone I’ve always been able to count on,” Walker said. “He’s always been there for me, and I hate that he’s going through this. I love Book. That’s my guy and he’s been a mentor to me.”
“This entire thing is insane,” added Walker. “People who do far worse get less. This shouldn’t be this serious.”
Curtis Loving and Chris Fouch, two other former players, call and text to make sure Richardson is holding up. It’s the least the 29-year-old Loving can do for the man who took him in a time of need. Loving said he had stability issues when he was younger and was bouncing from house to house, even having to sleep outside at times.
“Book opened his home to me,” said Loving, who now works at a charter school in Brooklyn as a coach and social worker. “He gave me the support I needed in my life. People make mistakes. He made one, but I don’t think he should be going to jail. Nobody’s life was taken.”
If there’s a silver lining to all of this, it’s that E.J. feels like he’s gained a father, Sere’ finally spent her birthday with her dad and Erin’s husband has returned.
“We were in a rough place,” Erin said. “As a lot of coaches’ wives can understand, there’s a strain being a college coach can put on a marriage and a family. … It was tough.”
“When this happened, it pulled us so much closer together,” she added.
Instead of barbecuing out back for the Arizona players, now Book does it for his family. Instead of the long talks to recruit teenagers, now Richardson sits down with his own son and has formed a close bond that admittedly wasn’t there a year ago. Instead of trying to prepare Arizona players for the NBA, he prepares his son for his senior season of high school.
“I’d never seen him cry before, and we’ve had some real personal talks,” E.J. said. “I’d never seen him like that. He’s the biggest, toughest guy I know. I’m really glad we get to talk more.”
“It’s been good,” Sere’ added. “On bad terms.”
While his teammates and coaches from St. Ray’s stay in constant contact, Miller and the Arizona basketball coaching staff haven’t communicated with Richardson at all.
“He feels abandoned,” Erin said. “He feels like he was deemed guilty and thrown out with the trash.”
Despite the fractured relationship, Richardson still watches every Arizona basketball game on the big screen TV in the living room and even told one top-50 recruit that he should play at Arizona because it’s the best situation for him to thrive.
Richardson needs to get permission in order to leave the state. He went with DeCesare to Chicago for the NBA Combine back in May, took a father-son trip Las Vegas for NBA summer league in July and went to Miami with his wife and daughter.
But he can’t get a job, certainly not until the trial is over. Erin isn’t working, either, so the family had to pull from Book’s savings to afford the legal fees – which have piled up in excess of $150,000 in the past year. She watches Book play 1-on-1 with E.J. in the backyard and prays that no one gets injured because the family is without health insurance.
“Right now we’re okay,” Erin said. “We’re living in the same house, driving the same cars and taking care of the kids. But down the line, who knows?”
“He was the man of the family,” Sere’ added. “He took care of everybody. Now he feels helpless, but we still see him as the man of the family. I know we’re going to get past this.”
However, no one can say for certain what lies ahead.
The family will keep an eye on the upcoming trials that begin next week, and then play the waiting game. Richardson is aware his future as a D-1 college basketball coach is likely over and so is his dream of becoming a head coach, but now the priority is taking care of his family.
“We talk about it, but I really in my heart of hearts don’t believe he’s going to do time,” Erin said. “I really I don’t.”