, Port Arthur, Texas

Bob West

February 19, 2011

Simmons, Lamar made great move on Tubbs court

PORT ARTHUR — Terrific move on the part of Lamar University president Jimmy Simmons and everybody else involved in the process to give Billy Tubbs the lasting legacy of naming the floor at the Montagne Center the “Billy & Pat Tubbs Court.” There would, of course, have been no Montange Center had it note been for Tubbs elevating Cardinal basketball from an underfunded afterthought into a highly respected program that made waves on the national level for the better part of a decade. Pat Foster deserves some of the credit for  the success also, but it was Tubbs and his three consecutive Southland Conference champions who paved the way. Although the timing didn’t happen by design, it’s certainly appropriate that Lamar saluted its 1978-79 NCAA team on the same night the Billy & Pat Tubbs Court was anointed . . . LU basketball, as we all know, has never been the same since the Tubbs-Foster glory years and the same could be said of the Southland Conference. A league that once turned out the likes of Andrew Toney, Joe Dumars, Karl Malone, Rand White and so many Lamar greats, is the weakest I’ve ever seen it. That’s the only reason why Steve Roccaforte’s current Cardinal team still has a chance to make it to the SLC tourney. USA Today’s Sagarin ratings have the SLC 29th in its conference ratings, ahead of only the MEAC and the SWAC. Only one SLC school — Stephen F. Austin — is listed among the top 200 Division 1 teams. Lamar is a woeful No. 266. The safest bet on the NCAA tournament is that whoever represents the SLC will be relegated to one of the play-in games designed to get some of the riffraff out early.

    Former Nederland High School quarterback Don Clayton, who did a remarkable job building a powerful program from scratch at Katy Cinco Ranch, has been named head coach of the South team in the Texas High School Coaches Association All-Star game July 27 in Fort Worth. Clayton will also be coaching the Texas team against a team of Louisiana All-Stars in the June 11 Bayou Bowl in Baytown. That staff will have a distinct Mid-County flavor, as Kingwood head coach Dougald McDougald will be coaching the defense. McDougald was a schoolboy star at PN-G . . . The passing of Les Ledet at age 81 last week in Flower Mound had sports overtones. Area old timers remember Ledet, one of Southeast Texas’ all-time great radio personalities, as the voice of the minor league baseball Port Arthur Seahawks in the 1950s. Ledet did the team’s home games from Seahawks Stadium at the corner of Gulfway Dr. and Stadium Rd. with then PA News sports editor Dick Oliver. On the Seahawks road games he’d re-create the action based on a teletype feed, much the way former president Ronald Reagan did when he broadcast minor league games. Ledet always drew chuckles when he’d tell how he managed things when there were delays receiving the teletype details. “There were a lot of foul balls,” he’d say . . . Jerry Jones, rightfully so, is never going to live down the negatives surrounding the fleecing of fans at Super Bowl XLV. Jethro even got a couple of mentions last week on a sarcastic blog about what noted sports figures did on Valentine’s Day. Read them and laugh. “Jerry Jones: Invited 15 friends to a Valentine’s dinner, but only had 12 place settings. Jerry Jones: Rented out a strip club for him and 100 of his closest buddies. They found out when they got there that the club only seats 75.”

    If you followed sports on TV in Southeast Texas in the  late 1970, you might remember KBMT’s Bill McAtee. The very talented McAtee, who mostly does NFL football and PGA Tour events on CBS, is one of three distinguished Lamar University Alumni being recognized March 4 with a reception and dinner at the John Gray Library. McAtee’s claim to fame is becoming the youngest major network sportscaster ever when he was hired by NBC at age 26. Since then he’s been all over the dial at NBC, USA Network and CBS, doing football, golf, tennis and a couple of Olympics Winter Games. My fondest memory of Bill is hooking up with him at NBC’s studios in New York one Sunday afternoon in the 1980s, watching him work the network’s NFL post-game highlights show . . . Speaking of KBMT, what is it about the Beaumont ABC affiliate that spawned so many sports guys who ascended to varying levels of fame in bigger markets. John Ireland went on to make a name for himself in radio and TV in San Diego and Los Angeles. Van Earl Wright garnered attention at CNN and with the Fox Sports Network, Randy McIlvoy is the sports anchor at KPRC in Houston and Scott Walker has done stints with ESPN and the Golf Channel. KMBT’s current sports director Dave Hofferth, meanwhile, is as good at college basketball radio play-by-play as you can hear anywhere in the country. My pick to be the next national success coming out of this market is Fox 4’s Brooke Bentley. With her talent, knowledge of sports and wok ethic, it’s just a matter of time before she hits it big.

    The Astros Drayton McLane would make a good NFL owner. With the Astros coming off yet another bad season, no real starpower now that Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman are gone and the team up for sale, McLane approved a single-game ticket price increase ranging from $1 to $3. That’s right out of the NFL playbook. When all else fails, stick it to the fans. They have proven over and over they will keep coming back for more, no matter what you do to them . . . I couldn’t help but laugh when I read where Dulles High School defensive back Sherrod Evans cited being told he would be allowed to participate in both football and track as one of the reasons he signed with the University of Texas. Evans, a world class sprinter, even pointed to Memorial ex Jamaal Charles as an example of a player who pursued both sports at UT. Apparently nobody told Evans that Charles, after winning the Big 12 100 meters as a freshman, reluctantly gave in to rather strong suggestions that if he didn’t let go of his track dream and spend more hours in the weight room bulking up for football, his playing time was likely to be reduced. Promises. Promises . . . That the Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl despite losing 16 players to injuries during the season is beyond amazing. Also in that category is the fact Green Bay played 16 regular season games and three more in the playoffs and never trailed by more than seven points at any time. They were the first team since 1969 to accomplish that feat.

    As most NFL fans know, Pat Tillman was a standout defensive back for the Arizona Cardinals who walked away from millions of dollars to serve his country with the Army Rangers. Given what happened to him and his family, every American over the age of 12 should be forced to view the movie “The Tillman Story.” It’s stunning, eye-opening and infuriating to see documentation of the whitewash, cover-up and out-and-out lies told to the Tillmans after their son was killed by “friendly fire.” in Afghanistan. To hear then President George W. Bush trying to make propaganda gains by eulogizing Tillman as a classic war hero, when he knew what really transpired, is sickening and disgusting. Top military officials come off looking even worse with their lies. Don’t take my word for it. Watch our leaders in action for yourself . . . Here’s why it’s hard for me to take the NBA regular season seriously. A month ago in Los Angeles, the Lakers beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 112-57. Last week, a couple of nights after snapping a 26-game losing streak, the Cavs defeated the Lakers, 104-99. That’s a 60--point swing and a prime example of how many regular-season games get mailed in . . . Nebraska’s upset of No. 2 ranked Texas Saturday afternoon was orchestrated by a coach with Lamar University ties. Cornhusker head coach Doc Sadler spent the 1985-86 season as Pat Foster’s assistant with the Cardinals. He made the move with Foster from Lamar to the University of Houston and was head coach at UTEP before going to Nebraska.  I have to think beating Texas was his biggest win ever.

    Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at

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