, Port Arthur, Texas

Bob West

March 22, 2014

Bob West column: Two year contract for Tic Price reflects poorly on Lamar

PORT ARTHUR — Lamar did the right thing by hiring Tic Price for its basketball opening, but you have to wonder how committed it is to giving him a legitimate opportunity to rebuild one of America’s worst college programs. Although AD Jason Henderson said at Tuesday’s press conference that details on Price’s contract were still being worked out, word is he’s only being offered two-years. If true, that’s not just unfair and wishy-washy, it makes you question what kind of thinking went into such a short-sighted decision. Given the sub-par level of talent Pat Knight left after seven wins in two years, and the fact only one scholarship is available, you could bring John Wooden back in his prime and not expect much success, certainly within two years. Nobody with firm belief in its actions hires a coach to resurrect a downtrodden program, then gives him a mere two years. How can you expect a guy to build something from scratch in two years? What good high school player with options would sign with a coach on a two-year contract? What assistant coach, and Price is going to need a couple of good ones, would be willing to take a job when he sees how little faith the school has in the man trying to hire him? Yes, Lamar got burned badly on Knight and the $400,000 plus payoff it is having to shell out. That’s not Price’s fault. He wants to be the solution to a problem, but Lamar apparently wants him to do it while he’s handcuffed.  It’s really sad Lamar finally got around to hiring another black coach, then expects him to produce  a miracle within two years. At a time when the school needs to build goodwill and faith in a shrinking fan base, send out good vibes to area talent and make inroads in the black community, putting Price on a two-year contact will not deliver a positive message. Not after the worst coach in school history had a four-year deal for the highest salary LU has ever paid a coach.  If Henderson and school president Dr. Ken Evans don’t think more of Price than two years indicate, they shouldn’t have hired him in the first place. They need stability, not another change in two years which will lead to yet another lost recruiting class.

    Good to know I’m not the only one disgusted at the NCAA going out of its way to throw minefields in the path of mid-major Wichita State making it back to the Final Four. The unbeaten Shockers, as hard core basketball fans know, were thrown into a Midwest Regional bracket that potentially could have required them to beat underseeded Kentucky, a Louisville team many experts thought should have been a No. 1 seed and either Duke or Michigan to make it to JerryWorld. Well, scratch Duke. As if the gauntlet of high-powered teams is not unfair enough, a Louisville-Wichita State matchup would be a virtual home game for Rick Pitino’s defending champs in Indianapolis. Guess they forget the mantra of giving No. 1 seeds a location advantage. Ed Salmons, who sets college basketball betting lines for the Las Vegas Hilton Sportsbook, called the Midwest “probably the hardest bracket I’ve ever seen.” Added Salmon, “I’m not a big Wichita guy, but I feel bad for them. The committee screwed them so bad.” So what else is new with an ever-changing committee Lamar coach Pat Foster once called “White Collar Criminals.” . . . One of my NCAA darkhorses, Iowa State, has two Lamar connections. DeAndre Kane, the Cyclones 6-4 senior guard  who was the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, is the son of former Cardinal point guard Calvin Kane. Calvin played at Lamar as a freshman on Billy Tubbs’ Sweet 16 team, and was in the mix for the starting spot, along with Alvin Brooks and Eric Gathers. Brooks stepped up at mid-season to win the job and Kane wound up leaving school after the season. The other LU connection at Iowa State is assistant coach Doc Sadler. Sadler, who would go on to head coaching stints at UTEP and Nebraska, was on Pat Foster’s staff for the 1985-86 season. That’s the year Lamar opened with Duke at The Summit in Houston, then faced and routed defending NCAA champ Villanova five days later in the Montagne Center.

    All of a sudden, knocking Johnny Manziel as an NFL quarterback seems to be fashionable, particularly among ESPN’s talking heads. First, it was former Philadelphia Eagle QB Ron Jaworski saying he wouldn’t take Manziel higher than the third round. Now along comes former Steelers running back Merrill Hoge to proclaim, “I see bust written all over him. Especially if he’s drafted in the first round. He has absolutely no instinct or feel for pocket awareness.” It will be interesting to see how smart Jaworski and Hoge look in two or three years. Fortunately for Manziel, they won’t be in anybody’s war room come draft day . . . With the signing of journeyman QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, and the trade of Matt Schaub, the Texans have signaled what their fans don’t want to hear. Namely, that this team is preparing to enter a rebuilding phase. Fitzpatrick is likely going to be a caretaker for QB-in-training Blake Bortles, Houston’s probable choice with the No. 1 draft pick. If the Texans’ aren’t right about Bortles’ upside, and he’s not a slam dunk, an extended lean period could be in the offing. Good thing Bob McNair didn’t raise ticket prices . . . Former Chicago Bear defensive tackle Henry Melton was a solid free agent signing for defensively desperate Cowboys, and his off-field activities suggest he’ll be a good fit in Dallas. Melton is being sued for $1 million by a Grapevine bar owner after an altercation last December that led to the former University of Texas star being arrested on an assault charge. Melton is accused of punching and biting Donald Payne after he told Melton to leave Chill Sports Bar.

    Writing about Babe Zaharias is fashionable these days. Less than three years after Don Van Natta’s terrific book on Babe titled “Wonder Girl” was published, another is on the way. This one’s a children’s book titled “Babe Conquers The World,” and is co-authored by the husband-wife  team of Rich Wallace and Sandra Neil Wallace. Promotional material says “the authors  explore beyond Babe’s life as an athlete to delve into the many controversies that surrounded her — including her childhood, personality, marriage and early death.” . . . PN-G ex Lew Ford is still having too much fun with baseball at age 37 to walk away, so he’s returning to the Independent League Long Island Ducks as a player/battling coach. It will be Ford’s third stint with the Ducks, spanning five seasons. He rejoined them late last season, after being waved by the Baltimore Orioles, then spent the winter playing in the Dominican League.  His .330 career batting average while playing for the Ducks is a team record . . . Chris Stroud’s tenacity and bounce-back ability was never more in evidence than in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. Stroud, who spent the early part of the week battling stomach flu, played the first three holes on Thursday in double bogey, bogey, double bogey. At five over through three holes, and not feeling all that great, some guys would take the easy way out and withdraw. Not Stroud. He played the final 14 holes 4 under for a 73, then shot 69 on Friday to easily make the cut.

    All signs point to West Orange-Stark’s Earl Thomas owning the biggest NFL contract ever for a player from Southeast Texas by this time next year. Thomas, who becomes a free agent at the end of the Super Bowl champ Seattle Seahawks 2014 season, is considered by many as the game’s best safety. The jumping off point for Thomas’ agent will be the six-year, $56 million deal Buffalo safety Jarius Byrd signed with New Orleans two weeks ago. It had $28 million guaranteed. All Thomas has to do for a monster payday is keep playing well and stay healthy . . .  Florida State’s Heisman Trophy winning freshman QB Jameis Winston is in position to be part of an unprecedented team sport double championship. Winston, who led the Seminoles to the national title in football, is a lights-out closer on a FSU baseball team that’s ranked No. 2 in the nation and should be a factor come College World Series time. Despite his value to the baseball team, Winston is not getting a pass from spring football practice. He shuttles back and forth between the two sports, and will have an especially hectic weekend in early April. On a Friday, he will be with the baseball team for a game in Atlanta against Georgia Tech. After the game, he’ll board a plane to fly back to Tallahassee for the Saturday spring football game. Then he’ll return to Atlanta to be available to close on Sunday . . . High school district football schedules for 2014 have been drawn and the big news for fans of Mid-County Madness is that PN-G will be playing at Nederland for the second consecutive year. Winning team in the Oct. 17 Bum Phillips Bowl will be presented with a handsome, handcrafted traveling trophy commissioned by The Port Arthur News that stands 16 inches tall and features a cowboy hat over a football.

    Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at    



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