, Port Arthur, Texas

Bob West

March 8, 2014

West column: Wade preparing to become an opera critic

PORT ARTHUR — Wade Phillips is about to attend his first opera and he’s understandably excited about it. Wade, wife Laurie, former Houston Oilers QB Dan Pastorini and another former Oiler, Larry Harris, who is an opera singer, are going to New York City for a special benefit performance of the Bum Phillips All-American Opera March 20. World premiere of the presentation, celebrating the life, legend and homespun principles of the Southeast Texas coaching icon Bum Phillips is set for Wednesday at the La MaMa Theatre in the Big Apple. “This is really special,” said the son of Bum. “How many people have an opera written about them? It’s neat. Daddy joked about it when the idea first came up and said, ‘Don’t they know I can’t sing?’ But down deep he was proud about it. Of all the things you could see him being honored with, I don’t think an opera was on anybody’s list. This just shows the scope of those he touched.” In that scope was a young Houstonian, Luke Leonard, who grew up during the Bum’s Luv Ya Blue era in Houston. Bum left such a lasting impression on Leonard, the Bum Phillips All-American Opera became his brainchild and his passion. He’s the opera’s director and is hoping the March 12-30 limited engagement run, along with fund raising and grants, will be successful enough to bring it to Texas. Meanwhile, lending some Lone Star flavor to the special presentation Wade is attending, the evening is being sponsored by Hill Country Shiner Bock Beer. That, for sure, would have gotten glowing reviews from Bum.

    It’s difficult to envision Lamar University not naming Tic Price head basketball coach within the next 48 hours. Beyond the fact it’s financially expedient, given the $400,000 payout to Pat Knight, and Price already being on Lamar’s payroll, Tic earned the opportunity with an impressive body of work after taking over a team that was a hopeless mess. He not only coached hard, he worked his tail off recruiting, without guarantees he was going to get the job. In a perfect world, Tic wouldn’t be my choice over three coaches with Lamar ties —  Steve Green, Alvin Brooks and Tom Abatemarco — who want the job, but it isn’t a perfect world. Hire Tic. The man is hungry and he’s proven he can coach . . . Watching what Price has done in a short time with a seriously flawed team, by the way, makes me wonder why Steve Roccaforte’s last three Cardinal teams couldn’t even qualify for the Southland Conference tournament. Tic was sitting next to Roc on the bench at games, and was there every day in practice. Yet Lamar managed to go only 18-30 in a crummy conference. Even factoring in some  injury hits, it doesn’t make sense . . .  Roccaforte, by the way, is probably going to be looking for another job real soon. Word on the coaching grapevine is that South Florida is set to fire head coach Stan Heath after another lackluster season. The Bulls are 97-127 in Heath’s seven seasons and 37-88 in conference play. In the three years since Heath hired Roc, South Florida is 46-60 overall and 18-35 in league games. Because of his recruiting reputation, Roccaforte should land on his feet. And hopefully in a better situation.

    Best sports column I read all week was Randy Galloway’s humorous piece suggesting Jerry Jones trade Tony Romo to the Texans’ for their No. 1 pick in the draft, then select Johnny Manziel. It’s not going to happen, of course, though such a deal might have appealed to the Texans if Jones hadn’t loaded Romo up with such a fat contract. What the average fan may not realize, however, is the P.T. Barnum in Jethro wants Manziel so bad he’d do just about anything, no matter how stupid, to land him. To Manziel’s credit, he apparently played Jones to the max when the two met . . .  The biggest Cowboys question this week is whether Demarcus Ware, their best defensive player of the past decade, agrees to take a pay cut or opts to accept an offer from another team. For Ware, the answer should involve more  than money. If he ever wants the opportunity to play in a Super Bowl, or even make the playoffs, he’ll sign elsewhere. If he’s content to be a sideshow in Jethro’s circus, and deal with the ongoing mediocrity that the Cowboys have come to stand for, then stay put for less money . . . John Payton’s name is mostly linked to football coaching, based on the years he spent as a Lamar University assistant, and before that at Charlton-Pollard when he was on Willie Ray Smith’s staff.  Go back far enough, though,  and you find he was a terrific basketball coach. Payton and his 1964 Beaumont Charlton-Pollard state champions were honored by the UIL Thursday night at the state tournament on the 50th anniversary of that title. Pollard teat Kashmere, 58-55, in the championship game. Payton, with the help of future NBA star Zelmo Beatty, also coached Woodville Scott to back-to-back state titles in 1956 and ‘57.

    Loved that tweet Wade Phillips sent out Thursday noting his record and Jason Garrett’s record after each logged 56 games as head coach of the Cowboys. Wade,  with an inexperienced Tony Romo at QB and Garrett forced on him as offensive coordinator, was 34-22. That included two NFC East championships and one playoff victory. Garrett’s record at the 56-game mark is 29-27, with no playoff appearances but a lock on 8-8 seasons. Apparently, in Jethro’s world, winning is incidental . . . Barry Switzer’s torrent of outlandish quotes rolls on with this observation: “I’ve always said I’d never recruit a white quarterback. The only way I’d ever recruit a white quarterback to play for me was if his Mom and Daddy would have to both be black, and that’s the only way I’d do it.” Those words drew this response from Sports Illustrated’s NFL writer, Peter King. “Two points. 1. Barry Switzer is getting more and more like Dennis Rodman every day. 2. Troy Aikman will be surprised to know he has two African-American parents.”  . . . Bridge City’s Matt Bryant got to share a spotlight with University of Texas and Atlanta Falcon icon Tommy Nobis last week. Nobis, 70, was honored with the Atlanta Sports Council’s Lifetime Achievement Award during the Atlanta Sports Awards Banquet. Bryant, whose kicking seems to get better with age, was honored with the city’s Community Spirit Award for his charity work. Matt, in his 13th NFL season, made 24 of 27 field goal attempts, including all three attempted from over 50 yards. He’s converted field goals at a remarkable 88 percent fate in five years with the Falcons.

    For those who can’t get enough of legendary Texas sports author Dan Jenkins’ writing — Semi Tough, Dead Solid Perfect, You Gotta Play Hurt — he’s out with another book that figures to be knee-slapping funny. Titled His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir, it’s billed a a colorful, sentimental, hilarious, and cantankerous memoir about his lifelong journey through the world of sports. Jenkins never pulls any punches and doesn’t figure to start at age 84. Matter of fact, I’m expecting this one to be his most outlandish. Don’t buy it if you’re easily offended or dislike laughing . . . Congratulations to Port Arthur’s Inika McPherson for her recent success in the high jump at the USA Indoor Track and Field Championships. The young lady who won a state championship as a ninth grader at Lincoln nearly a decade ago successfully defended her championship in Albuquerque, N.M. by soaring 6’ 3 1/4. Winning any kind of national championship is a remarkable feat and she’s done  it in back to back years. Among the spoils of victory were a spot in the International Association of Athletics Federation Championships in Warsaw, Poland and a $3,000 Elite Athlete Development Grant . . . Because I’ll always resent Pat Knight walking off with $400,000 of Lamar’s money, after the damage he did  to the school’s basketball program the past two years, I’ll never stop looking for nuggets like this. Knight’s 6-50 record since the start of the 2012-13 season was even worse than it looks. How could that be possible? Because only 11 of the 50 losses — 6 of 22 this year, 5 of 28 last year — were by single digits. It is very, very difficult to be so inept you lose 39 of 50 games by double-figure margins. Really, Pat, how are you able to take all that money and still look in the mirror?

    Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at


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