PORT ARTHUR —
Bum Phillips will never forget the first time he crossed paths with Darrell Royal. Bum was in his first season as a Bear Bryant assistant at Texas A&M in 1957 and Royal was in his first year as head coach at Texas. An 8-1, No. 4 ranked Aggie team lost to the 6-3-1 Longhorns 9-7 in College Station. “They shouldn’t have beaten us, but they did and a lot of credit for that goes to Darrell,” said Bum, when contacted after Royal’s death. “He was a great coach and a better person. Of all the coaches I’ve known, he’d be in the top two, both as a coach and a human being. What I liked about him was that he was as good a friend to people who didn’t have much as he was to folks who were wealthy.” Some 20 years after that first on-field meeting, Royal made Phillips totally comfortable about taking Earl Campbell for the Houston Oilers with the No. 1 pick in the 1978 NFL draft. “I could see Earl was a great player,” Bum said. “What I needed to find out was what kind of kid he was and how he’d fit with our team. I sent Wade to Austin to visit with him, but what Darrell told me sealed the deal. His word was as good as gold.” Phillips, who recently turned 89, ended our conversation with what was an interview first for me. “Thank you for calling to ask about Darrell,” he said. “I was hoping somebody would. I sure wanted to talk to somebody about him.”
Thank God, Jimmy Johnson finally decided to blow the whistle on Jerry Jones’ attempts at revisionist history on who made the personnel decisions that resulted in the Cowboys winning back-to-back Super Bowl titles in 1992 and 1993. After hearing Jones tell NBC’s Bob Costas Sunday night that he ran the Cowboys football operation from the day he bought the team in 1989, Jimmy apparently couldn’t bite his tongue any longer. He called out Jones on Dan Patrick’s NBCSN national talk show and in remarks to the Dallas Morning News. Dale Hansen of WFAA TV in Dallas, who was the emcee of the Port Arthur News Homecoming Roast of Johnson in 1992, probably summed the latest Jones fiasco best by teeing off him in an editorial that concluded with this line. “There is a village looking for an idiot and I know where he is.” . . . Considerable irony, by the way, surrounded the timing of Jimmy at long last getting a gut full of Jethro. Things broke loose on the day the NFL Network premiered the “It’s a Football Life” documentary on one of Port Arthur’s favorite sons. Taking the high road toward the Cowboys owner, in remarks that were taped well ahead of the program’s airing, Jimmy said that Jones has taken more grief for their parting of the ways than he should have. Not many who know what was going on behind the scenes would agree with that, but Jimmy for years has tried to make it seem that he doesn’t carry any lingering animosity over the breakup. It’s nice to see the charade is over, even though this will wipe out any remote possibility of induction into the Cowboys Ring of Honor. But it wasn’t going to happen anyway.
Back in July, Larry Bodin wrote a touching story for the Port Arthur News about Nederland’s Kirby Hanley having to leave Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski’s summer camp because of the worsening condition of his cancer-stricken father, Rory Hanley, who passed away in early July. Kirby’s mother, Shawn, e-mailed Krzyzewski about why Kirby had to leave, told him what a big fan her husband was and how his dream had been to meet him and attend a Duke game. Class act that he is, Krzyzewski invited Kirby and his mother to attend a Blue Devils game of their choice. With the assistance of Beaumont attorney Walter Umphrey, who is providing his private jet for the trip, the Hanley clan — Shawn, Kirby, Kirby’s sister Kaitlin and cousin Wade Witt — will be at Cameron Indoor Stadium next Sunday as Krzyzewski’s guest to watch Duke play Florida Gulf Coast . . . PN-G ex Lew Ford, who authored one of the most remarkable sports stories of this or any other year by playing his way back to the major leagues after a five-year absence, looked like he might be on the outside looking in again, after the Baltimore Orioles released him following the AL playoffs. On Friday, however, Baltimore signed the 35-year-old Ford to a minor league contract and extended an all-important invitation to attend spring training with the Orioles. Baltimore, obviously, wants to go younger, but it saw enough of Ford to know he can be pretty solid insurance . . . If there is ever a golf championship for owners of professional sports teams, the Astros Jim Crane figures to hoist the championship trophy. Crane carries a 1.7 handicap index, has twice shot rounds of 66 at famed St. Andrews, owns a small piece of Pebble Beach and is sole owner of one of America’s most upscale courses — Floridian National in West Palm Beach.
Don’t known that I’ve ever seen a basketball coach facing a more challenging situation than Pat Knight has in his second season at Lamar. With eight new players on the roster, with 90 percent of his scoring from last year’s SLC Tournament champions gone and with a schedule that calls for 11 consecutive road games to open the season, including visits to Kansas State, Alabama, Purdue and Baylor, the Cardinals figure to take some serious lumps while Knight tries to get his team ready for Southland Conference play. Knight, incidentally, says he seldom goes anywhere with somebody recognizing him from last season’s infamous post-game press conference. “People come up to me at hotels, restaurants, bars and in airports,” he said. “It’s not like ESPN is ever going to stop showing it. Maybe I can be like Jim Mora and get a Coors Light commercial off a press conference rant after I retire.” . . . PN-G oldtimers are certain to remember the name Norvel Dorsey. Dorsey, who passed away Thursday at age 74, was the key man in one of the most legendary plays in the Indians illustrious football history. With PN-G’s star running backs Gordon LeBoeuf and Bobby LaBorde being throttled by Alice’s defense in the 1955 state semifinals, Dorsey, a linebacker, was inserted at offensive guard by head coach Lewis Ford, took a “camouflaged handoff” from QB Bobby Falgout and scored on 59-yard run with 1:14 left in the game for a 14-7 win. The next week PN-G defeated Garland 20-14 to win the state championship.
The Cotton Bowl is drooling over the possibility of being able to put together a Texas-Texas A&M matchup for its Jan. 4 game at JerryWorld. Since its format calls for a Big 12 team to face an SEC team, and since it’s unlikely either school could land in a BCS bowl, you would think there’s a reasonable chance of an Aggie-Longhorn clash happening. A&M, without question, would love a shot at UT, and would be salivating at what Johnny Manziel could do to the Texas defense. But Deloss Dodds and company, who have made it clear they want no part of playing the Aggies, don’t figure to be all that enthused about a game that could prove embarrassing ? ? ? . . . Although rumors are flying fast and furious that Sean Payton may wind up replacing Jason Garrett as Dallas’ head coach, Las Vegas oddsmaker R.J. Bell of Pregame.com says it’s a long shot. Bell is giving it only a 15 percent chance that Payton will replace Garrett. He’s got it 58 percent that he’ll return to the Saints, 9 percent that he’ll land with the Philadelphia Eagles and 18 percent he’ll be with somebody other than the Saints, Cowboys or Eagles . . . Tonight’s game against the Bears is hardly a must win for the Texans, but it is somewhat of a statement game. After the way it was taken apart by Green Bay, there are doubters about how good Houston really is. The Texans could erase most doubts by beating a very good Chicago team in Solider Field. Here’s hoping Matt Schaub and the Texans offense is up to the challenge.
Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.