, Port Arthur, Texas

November 30, 2013

West column: Firing Woodard would be big mistake for Lamar

Bob West
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — Lamar has not done itself any public perception favors with the way it’s handled the job status of football coach Ray Woodard. To leave Woodard and his staff twisting in the wind over the Thanksgiving holidays was not only cruel, but raises questions about leadership and direction. Yes, it would have been nice if LU had won a few more games, but Ray’s got a start-up program just about where it should be in its fourth season. He deserves considerable credit for how competitive Lamar was within a tough Southland Conference, and for how well positioned the Cardinals are for success next year. To pull the plug now would be a serious mistake in judgment for new president Kenneth R. Evans on several levels, not the least of which is rolling the dice that you can find a better coach for this particular job . . . If the powers that be at Lamar are set on making coaching changes, they should take a really hard look at basketball coach Pat Knight. Check out the Montagne Center stands these days and what you see are historic numbers of empty seats, reflective of abject apathy. Attendance for Wednesday night’s game against Texas-Pan American was listed at 1,784, though I’d be willing to bet there weren’t 1,000 people in the building.  To go a program worst 3-28 at Lamar, as Knight did last year, is inexcusable. Entering Saturday night’s game against Arkansas State, Bob Knight’s son was 4-34 overall and 1-12 in Beaumont with his own recruits. Why should people waste their time and money watching bad, often-boring basketball? Surely things will get better — they can’t get any worse — as an upgraded roster develops some chemistry, but bringing even the hard core fans back may be impossible.  

Not sure whether the following belongs under the it’s-a-small-world designation, or in the six-degrees-of-separation category. As a huge fan of the NBA St. Louis Hawks during formative years in Missouri, one of my favorite players was Zelmo Beaty, aka The Big Z. Last week, I learned from John Payton, the former Lamar football assistant I got to know very well when he was on Willie Ray Smith’s staff at Charlton-Pollard in the late 1960s, that he was Beaty’s coach at Henry T. Scott High School in Woodville. With the 6-9 Beaty’s dominating, Payton guided Scott to back-to-back state championships in ‘1957 and ‘58. Displaying understandable pride, John had called to inform me that Beaty, who starred at Prairie View, has two major honors coming this week. Up first on Friday in Houston is presentation of the SWAC Alumni Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award. The following night comes  posthumous induction into the Texas Black Sports Hall of Fame in Dallas. Payton, meanwhile, was stunned to learn I’d spent many nights at St. Louis’ Kiel Auditorium in the early ‘60s  rooting for the likes of Beaty, Bob Pettit and Cliff Hagan. For those not familiar with The Big Z, who died this past August, he’s in the conversation of Texas’ all-time basketball greats. The No. 3 pick in the 1962 NBA draft, he was a two-time NBA All-Star in seven St. Louis seasons, then jumped to Utah Stars of the ABA and became the playoff MVP for the 1971 ABA champs. In 13 professional years, including a final stop with the Los Angeles Lakers, Beaty averaged a double-double — 17.1 points and 10.9 rebounds. Pretty impressive stuff for a kid from the tiny town of Hillister.

  Prestigious honors continue to pile up for Orange’s R.C. Slocum. Inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame earlier in the year, the former Texas A&M coach has been named recipient of the 2014 Amos Alonzo Stagg Award. The Stagg, which is presented by the American Football Coaches Association to the “individual, group or institution whose services have been outstanding in the advancement of the best interests of football,” will be extended to Slocum on Jan. 14 at the AFCA Convention in Indianapolis. Previous winners with Texas ties are former A&M coaches Dana X. Bible and Bear Bryant, TCU’s Abe Martin, Baylor’s Grant Teaff, UT’s Darrell Royal and SMU and North Texas’ Hayden Fry . . . Alabama coach Nick Saban’s wife caused considerable angst in some University of Texas circles this past week by asserting in a Wall Street Journal story that her husband will not be coaching the Longhorns in 2014. “We’re staying. We’re not going anywhere,” Terry Saban was quoted as saying. Numerous theories quickly surfaced as to whether it’s all just a smoke screen designed to allow Saban to focus on business at hand for his Crimson Tide, or if the lady should be taken seriously. We’ll know in a few weeks . . . Hate to mention this clown in the same paragraph with real football coaches, but Jerry Glanville, aka the Macho Midget, has made it known he’s a candidate for the coaching vacancy at Eastern Michigan. No word from officials at Eastern if they’re interested in a little man in black who leaves tickets for Elvis. Glanville, 72, was 9-24 in his most recent head coaching stint at Portland State. Nick Saban, by the way, was on Glanville’s staff when he was  head coach of the Oilers. I’m guessing he tries to keep it a secret.

  It probably won’t sway Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo’s legion of critics, but Sports Illustrated’s S.L. Price builds a compelling case for No. 9 in the magazine’s latest issue. Romo is the cover boy, accompanied by the words “Why America’s Whipping Boy Deserves Your Unconditional Love.” Inside, Price throws out some convincing facts, such as Romo’s regular season fourth quarter passer rating (102.5) being the best in NFL history, and his 11-game winning drives since 2011 leading all active QBs.” Plus, there’s terrific insight into what makes the guy tick. Whether you like Romo or not, it’s a terrific read. But can he survive the SI cover jinx? The day after the magazine landed on newstands, he showed up for Dallas’ Thanksgiving game against Oakland battling a virus. Is a lost-time injury next ? ? ? Most exciting part of Oklahoma City Thunder basketball games these days does not involve the feats of Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook, but the half-court shot taken by a selected fan at halftime. Anyone who makes the shot collects $20,000 from an Oklahoma City bank and, amazingly, there were back-to-back winners in Tuesday and Thursday night games. That made five times in the 2013 calendar year that a fan has come out of the stands and hit the jackpot. The latest winner, however, may not get to keep the money. Cameron Rodriguez, a 23-year-old sophomore basketball player at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kan., has been told he’ll lose his amateur status, if he keeps the windfall. As you would expect, there is an appeal in the works.

  Memorial ex Danny Gorrer, after starting the season on Tampa Bay’s injured reserve/designated for return list, appears to be making the most of his latest NFL opportunity. Activated in early November by the Bucs, Gorrer blocked a punt and had four unassisted tackles from his cornerback position in Tampa Bay’s upset of Detroit Nov. 24. Gorrer, 27, was a teammate of Jamaal Charles at Memorial, and could be getting his last NFL opportunity. He’s previously been with the Seahawks, Ravens, Rams and Saints . . . My ongoing quest to compile a list of every player from the Golden Triangle to be on an NFL regular season roster has added a 94th name. It’s former Ozen wide receiver Curtis Caesar Jr. who played collegiately at Grambling, then spent the 1995 season with the NY Jets. The name is plenty familiar to me because in my first newspaper job in Beaumont, I had the pleasure to document the exploits of a terrific Hebert High School QB named Curtis Caesar. A three-year starter, Curtis ranks in the top five schoolboy QBs I’ve written about. Can’t believe I somehow missed out on his son playing for the Jets . . . Sounds like the law of averages has caught up with the Green Bay Packers. After going through a stretch of 371 games over 23 seasons with only three starting quarterbacks — Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers and Matt Flynn — the Packers have had four different starting QBs in their past five games. The group includes Rodgers, Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien and Flynn. Little wonder they’ve disappeared from playoff radar.  

 Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at