PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

Bob West

January 18, 2014

West column: Knight needs to take honorable step and resign

PORT ARTHUR —     Pat Knight’s most memorable moment in three seasons as Lamar University’s basketball coach came late in the first year when he tore into his players with an epic rant that went viral on Youtube. Among other things, Knight said, “These guys are stealing money by being on scholarship with their approach to things.”  Considering his epic failures of the past year and a half, one wonders if the figurative term of “stealing money” should now be applied to Knight. After the players recruited by Steve Roccaforte responded positively to their new coach’s harsh words by finishing strong, winning the SLC post-season tournament and grabbing the league’s NCAA berth, Knight received a nice reward. His contract was extended and his salary was bumped into the $200,000 range. With the Cardinals having gone an abominable 4-45 since the extension and pay raise, in no small part because of Knight’s abysmal recruiting, the LU basketball program is among the very worst in Division 1. And that’s led to unprecedented fan apathy. You could shoot a cannon anywhere into the Montagne Center stands most nights and not hit anybody. Knight suggested after a 15th consecutive Montagne Center loss last Saturday night that Lamar maybe should just go ahead and fire him. It’s a good idea, except for one huge problem. LU is hardly in a financial position to eat what’s left of his contract. So Knight needs to do the honorable thing and resign. That way nobody will be tempted to accuse him of stealing money with an approach to things that’s costing the school roughly $65,000 per victory.

    The folks who stage the Willie Ray Smith Award have hit a home run  with their guest speaker for the 22nd annual event. Jerry LeVias, the Beaumont Hebert ex who was the Jackie Robinson of getting the Southwest Conference integrated in the 1960s, and went on to do amazing things at SMU, has agreed to be the guest speaker for the Feb. 19 banquet at the Elegante Hotel. I can’t think of a better treat for this year’s finalists than to have up close and personal exposure to a man who was a real difference maker in college football, and a true profile in courage. If you have never heard LeVias speak, you should call Clyde McBride at 860-5848 and make arrangements for tickets . . . The four offensive and four defensive finalists for the Smith Award, by the way, will be announced Wednesday afternoon. Based on a ballot that curiously didn’t have Ozen’s five-star recruit Tony Brown as a nominee, I have to think the defensive winner this year is going to Nederland’s DeShawn Washington or Colton Kimler. If so, it would be the second Nederland defensive winner in three years. Corbin Carr grabbed the trophy in 2012. Offensively, it’s a tough call. I can see PN-G receiver Jeremiah Rose and West Brook running back Justin Hervey getting a lot of support, but Silsbee QB Patrick Reed may be tough to beat . . . Speaking of Tony Brown, Ozen’s stellar cornerback has already graduated and is enrolled for the spring semester at Alabama. So now, I can pass along what Brown said to our Gabriel Pruett at the December photo shoot for the PA News Super Team. With Brown not having made a commitment at that point, Gabe, a diehard Longhorn fan, asked him the difference between Austin and Tuscaloosa, Ala. “Nick Saban,” was his quick reply. We knew then where he was headed.

    Nice to see former Hamshire-Fannett quarterback Les Koenning Jr. wind up on new University of Texas boss Charlie Strong’s staff. If Les isn’t the most traveled assistant in America, he has to be close. His second stint in Austin will be his 15th different coaching job since he got his start under Texas’ Fred Akers in 1981. Les, whose dad Les Koenning Sr. won so many games in the high school ranks that he landed in the THSCA Hall of Honor, has made two different stops at Alabama, Texas A&M, Duke, Rice and Miss St. He also spent one year on Jimmy Johnson’s Miami Dolphins staff in 1997 and gets a thumbs up from JJ. When Lamar restarted its football program, Les was one of the applicants for the job that ultimately went to Ray Woodard . . . Here’s another entry in the small-world department. Strong, a walk on who became a star at Central Arkansas,  played his college football under a coach named Ken Stephens. That’s a name that should ring a bell with Lamar fans. Stephens replaced Larry Kennan as LU head coach in 1982 but managed to go only 8-36 before being fired. Ken was a prince of a guy and a terrific lefty golfer, but was in a little over his head at Lamar. Sounds like he did pretty well with Strong, though . . . Could this have happened anywhere but Louisiana? Two high school football officials working a game between St. Paul and Mandeville were arrested after getting into a dispute with a police officer during the third quarter. The issue involved getting fans moved back away from the sideline. A confrontation between the officials and the officer ensued, leading to the referee and head linesman being arrested on the spot and spending the night in the St. Tammany Parish jail.

    Johnny Manziel’s stock seems to be going up. ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper published his first mock draft Wednesday and had Manziel going to the Houston Texans with the No. 1 pick. A day earlier, former Dallas Cowboys vice president of player personnel Gil Brandt, who is now the senior analyst for NFL.com, issued his list of the 50 top NFL prospects. Manziel was No. 1 and two of his A&M teammates — OT Jake Matthews (No. 4) and WR Mike Evans (20) — were in the top 20. I still don’t think the Texans will take Manziel. It’s probably going to be South Carolina DE Jadevon Clowney or trading down . . . It rarely works out this way because of the injury factor, but the four NFL teams battling for a spot in the Super Bowl this afternoon were the top four favorites in the preseason. And Vegas already has the Broncos, Patriots, Seahawks and 49ers as the top four for next year. Vegas also already has set Super Bowl point spreads for all possibilities. Denver-Seattle or Denver-San Francisco would be listed as pick’em. Seattle would be 2.5 over New England while the 49ers would be 1.5 over the Patriots. If you were in Vegas today, and put down $100 on a team to win the Super Bowl, the payoff would be $200 on Seattle, $210 on Denver, $335 on San Francisco and $600 on New England . . . The NFL is pushing a proposal — expanding the playoffs — that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has to love. Starting with the 2015 season, the league is expected to add another wild card team. So what if that allows a team or teams with losing records into the tournament. All that matters is the extra TV money generated. Jethro, however, probably needs to push for two or three more playoff teams from each conference, if the Cowboys are ever again going to make the playoffs under his watch.

    It’s starting to look more and more like former Nederland and Lamar pitching ace Brian Sanches has reached the end of the line in professional baseball. Sanches, based on how well he pitched last year in helping the Omaha Storm Chasers win the minor league AAA championship, thought he’d get a couple of offers to try and make a major league club. There’s been little interest, however, even from feelers put out to teams in Japan and Korea. “They told me I’m too old and don’t throw hard enough,” said the 35-year-old Sanches. “Teams want youth and velocity.” If it’s over, and he says it’s 75 percent he’ll retire, Brian can look back on seven MLB seasons — three with the Phillies, three with the Marlins and one in Washington — with pride . . . If the Texas Rangers come up short again this season, they may want to blame pitching ace Derek Holland’s  dog Wrigley. Holland, the Rangers No. 2 starter, could miss the entire 2014 season after he got tangled up with Wrigley, a boxer, on the stairs in his home.  A nasty tumble followed with the end result a knee damaged to the point of needing microfracture surgery. It won’t make Holland or the Rangers feel any better, but Nolan Ryan once missed a start with the Astros after getting bitten by a coyote . . . Beaumonter Kendrick Perkins doesn’t get much love as an offensively challenged center for the Oklahoma City Thunder, but he once again beat up on the Rockets Dwight Howard Thursday night in a game that saw Houston go from scoring 73 points in the first half to just 19 in the final 24 minutes. Howard, who was in and out due to foul trouble, made only 5-of-13 shots, scored 11 points and had 8 rebounds. In two games against Perkins this season, he’s averaged 10 points and 8.5 rebounds. Overall, he averages 17.9 points and 12.5 boards.

    Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at rdwest@usa.net

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