BOB ON DOWN, COACH!
Why the General just might love a place like Lubbock
Bob Knight asked the question first, not us. It was November
1999, and Knight's Indiana Hoosiers had gone to Lubbock to open
Texas Tech's United Spirit Arena with a game against the Red
Raiders. Afterward Knight was asked if he would consider
returning to Lubbock. Ever the diplomat, he offered to come back
at the turn of the next century, then added: "What the hell do I
need to come to Texas for?"
Well, Coach, what if you: 1) got fired at Indiana, 2) were only
117 wins shy of breaking Dean Smith's record of 879 college wins,
3) were prevented by your old contract with the Hoosiers from
taking a job in the Big Ten or in the states of Indiana and
Kentucky without giving up a hunk of cash, and 4) couldn't land
at other top basketball schools because their athletic directors
think you're more radioactive than Chernobyl?
Then you might be reduced to considering Texas Tech, which last
week fired coach James Dickey (166-124 in 10 seasons) and began
an all-out offensive to lure Knight. He was scheduled to meet
with Red Raiders officials this week, evidently unconcerned that
Tech finished with the worst record in the Big 12 this season. Or
that men's basketball is a distant No. 3 at the school, behind
football and women's basketball. Or that Lubbock's own Mac Davis
sang, "Happiness is Lubbock, Texas, in my rearview mirror."
Knight's interest in such a basketball outpost underscores how
limited the Hall of Famer's options are. How many athletic
directors would want to hire Knight, who in a recent Playboy
interview called his former boss at Indiana, Clarence Doninger,
"the most incompetent and least trustworthy person I've ever met
in athletics"? One athletic director at a Midwestern university
told SI, "I wouldn't hire Bob Knight, and I know the man. How can
you justify throwing chairs, choking players and belittling
people? Most of my colleagues feel the same way, but for some
people winning is so important that they'll look past that. Just
look at Texas Tech."
Oh, the Red Raiders have a few things going for them. Athletic
director Gerald Myers, a longtime Knight crony, wouldn't dream of
getting in the General's way, nor would the small-market media.
Texas Tech has a big arena and is in a major conference. What's
more, the rural setting would allow Knight to hunt and fish as
much as he pleased. Recruiting would be hard--most of the talent
in Texas is in cities like Dallas and Houston, and Knight isn't a
city recruiter--but not impossible.
Other opportunities may arise for Knight, perhaps at Florida
State, UMass or even Seton Hall, if its coach, Tommy Amaker,
leaves for Michigan. But if Knight wants to be sure of coaching
next season, Texas Tech may be his best bet. Besides, he can take
heart in one thing, at least: Texas Tech's arena is located on
Indiana Avenue. --Grant Wahl
Five College Coaches Waiting in the Wings
STAN HEATH assistant, Michigan State. Delivers big on recruiting
front for Tom Izzo; signed top high school guard Kelvin Torbert
for next year.
LEONARD PERRY assistant, Iowa State. Has been Larry Eustachy's
right-hand man during Cyclones' rise to Big 12 elite; solid
recruiter and good bench coach.
JOHN PELPHREY assistant, Florida. Former Kentucky star is one of
nation's top recruiters.
JEFF RULAND coach, Iona. In his third season, has guided his alma
mater to second straight MAAC title and trip to Big Dance.
JAY WRIGHT coach, Hofstra. The Pride is flying high with 18
straight wins and a second consecutive NCAA berth.
While the spotlight has been on Gary Sheffield, three
lesser-known players have leaped to prominence in spring
training, aided by circumstance as much as by stellar play.
Josh Hamilton, Devil Rays. One of the highest profile prospects
in the majors, Hamilton, the top pick in '99, has made his
manager, Larry Rothschild, forget his most notable feature.
"When I see him out there, I don't think about his age,"
Rothschild says of Hamilton, 19.
Defensively Hamilton, who has parts of two seasons of Class A
ball under his belt, is ready to play center in the majors.
Rothschild wants to see how he hits and handles the daily grind
but says the youngster is "real close" to earning a roster spot.
Most impressive is Hamilton's maturity. He has easily handled the
hype that has followed him all spring. "He's the real deal," says
veteran outfielder Greg Vaughn, "but he doesn't act like it."
Chris Richard, Orioles. The silver lining in Albert Belle's
retirement (page 32) is that it means more at bats for Richard,
26, a lefthanded slugger who lit up big league pitching last year
after coming over from St. Louis. In 56 games with the Orioles,
Richard had 13 homers and 36 RBIs. He had only 199 at bats but
finished in the top 10 among American League rookies in homers,
RBIs, hits (55), doubles (14) and total bases (112). "Certain
players have what I call good eyes," says manager Mike Hargrove.
"At crunch time they don't look like a deer in headlights."
Richard appeared mostly at first base last year, which is why he
figured he'd be dealt again after the Orioles signed free-agent
first baseman David Segui in December. However, Hargrove,
enamored of Richard's lefthanded bat, sent him to the outfield
this spring, and he'll probably start in right on Opening Day.
Alfonso Soriano, Yankees. Can a guy's future be simultaneously
bright and murky? Soriano, a shortstop, has been the most
impressive player in the Yankees' camp, having gone 16 for 36
with three doubles and seven runs scored in his first ten games.
Yet he has a rather large roadblock in his path to a roster spot:
Derek Jeter. Says manager Joe Torre, "If he's going to help us,
it isn't going to be at shortstop." Soriano could start in left,
or he could end up in a different uniform--nobody discusses a
trade with New York without inquiring after him. One thing is
clear: He'll help someone somewhere. --Stephen Cannella
Sport? Not a Sport?
THIS WEEK: TOURNAMENT BASS FISHING
SPORT "Just as in golf, you need technique, concentration and
focus." --ANNIKA SORENSTAM, golfer
NOT A SPORT "A guy sitting in a boat? I don't think so." --BRAD
SPORT "Bass are smart and quick. You know you're in for a battle.
The competition makes it a sport." --DUSTY BAKER, Giants manager
NOT A SPORT "You have sonar and all sorts of technical assistance
to find the fish. Is that a sport?" --GLEN SATHER, New York Rangers
SPORT "A lot of skill is needed. There's hardly any luck
involved." --RICHIE SEXSON, Brewers first baseman
NOT A SPORT "I've fished with professional fishermen, and they
couldn't run across the court without passing out." --MONTY
WILLIAMS, Magic forward
SPORT "It's a sport when you're reeling them in. When you're not,
it's called an off day." --WILL CLARK, former major leaguer
NOT A SPORT "They don't have jerseys, man. To play a sport, you
have to wear a jersey." --TERRELL DAVIS, Broncos running back
SPORT "I only play sports games on my PlayStation, and I play
Bass Fishing. So it's a sport." --TROY NUNES, Syracuse QB
Hot Stove League
Lord knows, baseball has seen its share of weird fads. These days
the hottest craze in the majors is the piece de resistance of
clubhouse cookware, George Foreman's Lean Mean Fat-Reducing
Big league gastronomes from Anaheim to Toronto are extolling the
virtues of the Foreman grill, a late-night infomercial staple. "I
travel with one everywhere I go," says Expos outfielder Peter
Bergeron. Marlins infielder Dave Berg says, "Shoot, yeah, we have
one. It's in the break room in the clubhouse. Burgers are always
cooking up after BP." Big Mac himself is a big fan. "It's quick,
and it's indoors," says Mark McGwire. "You don't have to go
outside to light up your barbecue. And it's easy to clean."
Perhaps the most committed grill gourmand is Brewers reliever
Curtis Leskanic, who should probably consult a dietician
immediately. "I use it for breakfast, lunch and dinner," he told
the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "If I didn't buy the grill, I'd
probably starve. For lunch the other day I made a grilled cheese
sandwich on it. It's awesome, man."
"Mmm, mmm, mmm!" says Foreman upon hearing about the rave reviews
from the baseball diamond. "There's nothing like genuine meat. Of
course, my grill cuts the fat. That's important for athletes."
Q Just what is the Baseball Hall of Fame's Veterans Committee?
A Depending on the ax you choose to grind, the Veterans
Committee, which last week voted Pirates second baseman Bill
Mazeroski (right) and Negro league pitcher Hilton Smith into
Cooperstown, is either: a) a savvy body of insiders who right
the wrongs of the baseball writers who elect recent retirees to
the Hall; or b) an old-boy network that lets its unelected
cronies in through the back door. Either way, it's an obscure
group that's responsible for 149 of Cooperstown's 253 members.
The committee is composed of five Hall of Fame players, five
baseball execs and five members of the media or baseball
historians. Each year it can elect one player who's been retired
at least 23 years, one 19th-century player, one Negro leaguer and
one executive, manager or umpire. Ostensibly the committee uses
the same selection standards as the writers, but inductees like
Mazeroski--who never received more than 42% of the writers' votes
(75% is required for election)--have led some to question the
committee's agenda. Personal connections seem to go a long way.
"Almost nobody has seen Maz play as many games as I have," says
committee chairman Joe Brown, the Pirates' G.M. for all 17 years
Mazeroski played in Pittsburgh. "Every man in the Veterans
Committee has spent a lifetime in baseball. We have much more
knowledge of players who have slipped through the cracks."
The California Supreme Court, by O.J. Simpson, to throw out the
$33.5 million civil judgment against him for the 1994 deaths of
Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. O.J., who appeared last
week in his own defense, argued that his constitutional right to
confront his accusers was violated when former LAPD detective
Mark Fuhrman wasn't put on the stand. He also said exculpatory
telephone records were not made available during the trial. No
word on when a ruling will be handed down.
By a committee of the Illinois House of Representatives, a bill
that would allow the sale of alcohol during Bears games at the
University of Illinois's Memorial Stadium, where beer sales are
now banned. The Bears say a final decision on whether to play in
Champaign in 2002 while Soldier Field is being renovated won't
hinge on the availability of alcohol.
The referees' names, from the box score in Nashville's The
Tennessean for a recent 76-69 victory by Lambuth University over
Lipscomb in women's basketball. The game report faxed to the
paper by a Lipscomb student statistician listed the officials as
Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder and Blind Lemon. Lipscomb's athletic
director apologized to Lambuth officials, the teams' conferences
and the real refs.
By some faculty at North Carolina, the choice of SportsCenter
anchor and Tar Heels alumnus Stuart (Boo-yah!) Scott as this
year's commencement speaker. The selection committee wanted a
guest who would be more lively than the traditional speakers
from the ranks of government and the liberal arts. Last year's
commencement address was given by Deputy Secretary of the
Treasury Stuart (Boo-yah!) Eizenstat.
BEHIND THE MUSIC
Staff Writer, Behind the Music
RE: Potential BTM subject
In response to your suggestion to think "outside the box," how
about a show on Albert Belle, who was forced into retirement last
week because of an arthritic right hip? Violent outbursts,
battles with alcohol, feuds with the press--he fits the BTM
formula perfectly. A quick breakdown of the proposed episode.
Segment 1: Humble origins. Slow-dissolve montage depicting
Belle's childhood in Shreveport, La. We see a model American
boy--sixth in his high school graduating class, Eagle Scout,
all-state baseball player. Cue theme from The Natural.
Segment 2: Hints of trouble. While in the Indians' system, Belle
has run-ins with managers over his bad attitude. He becomes a
drinker and at one point smashes a porcelain clubhouse sink with
a bat. (Video montage here--Pete Townshend destroying a guitar,
Robert DeNiro as a bat-wielding Al Capone in The Untouchables,
Segment 3: Spiritual rebirth. In 1990, Belle emerges from two
months in rehab for alcohol abuse and anger management, saying:
"I have found a new way of life." He even changes his name, from
Joey to Albert. But when an Indians fan taunts him in 1991 by
yelling, "Hey, Joey, keg party at my house after the game," Belle
plugs the fan in the chest with a ball from 15 feet away. Cue Pat
Benatar's Hit Me with Your Best Shot.
Segment 4: Superstardom. Screen graphic: THE BELLE EPOQUE. From
1992 to '96, Belle is baseball's dominant power hitter, averaging
41 home runs and 123 RBIs per season. During that stretch, he
makes four All-Star teams.
Segment 5: Fall from grace. Quick-cut sequence showing a raging
Belle: On Halloween 1995, he runs trick-or-treaters off the
grounds of his suburban Cleveland home in his Ford Explorer.
(Belle's call to police: "You better get somebody over here,
because if I find one of them, I'll kill them.") In '96 he
throws a ball at SI photographer Tony Tomsic, bloodying Tomsic's
hand. In July '98 Belle is arrested at the home of a female
acquaintance and accused of hitting her. The charges are dropped.
Segment 6: Coda. Dissolve to graphic of headlines announcing
Belle's five-year, $65 million deal with Baltimore in 1998. Then
dissolve to Orioles press release announcing his retirement a
little more than two years later. Freeze on image of stoic Belle,
still refusing to talk to press.
Country star Travis Tritt was getting ready to go on tour when he
heard of the death of his friend Dale Earnhardt (below). "I felt
the need to do something to let all the other fans know I'm
feeling the same loss they are," says Tritt, who inserted
Earnhardt's name into the lyrics to his song Put Some Drive in
Your Country. Tritt also dug up a guitar with Earnhardt's face on
it, a gift from a fan. After beginning a show in Syracuse with
the song and the guitar and receiving an "over-the-top" response,
Tritt decided to start every concert that way. "I'm not looking
for headlines," says Tritt. "I'm just trying to honor a friend."
...Annaphiles, we feel your pain. Anna Kournikova has been MIA
since last month as the result of a stress fracture in her left
foot. The injury forced her to skip a WTA event in Acapulco,
where she would have been the top seed for the first time ever.
So what has the divine Ms. K been doing? According to a source,
Kournikova has been shooting an exercise video, to be released
later this year. Must be a low-impact workout...
For the past year Patrick McEnroe has done sports reports on Don
Imus's syndicated radio morning talk show. McEnroe, who lives in
L.A., has had to get up in the wee hours to do his segments for
the New York-based program. On March 6, after being made to wait
a couple of hours before getting on the air, McEnroe got into a
heated on-air debate with the host that ended with McEnroe's
quitting. "I said, 'I-Man, what's the story? Do you want me to
do the sports?'" recalls McEnroe. "And he said, 'Quite honestly,
no.' He said he only did sports because of the sponsors. So I
told him I don't need to be here." As for his radio career,
McEnroe says, "Maybe I'll call Howard Stern."
B/W PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER LONE STAR Could Knight thrive far from the limelight in which he rose and fell?
COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK SOLOMON (SORIANO) Soriano's hot bat gives the Yankees a dilemma.
COLOR PHOTO: KEVIN FLEMING/CORBIS
COLOR PHOTO: COURTESY OF SALTON (GRILL)
B/W PHOTO: JOHN G. ZIMMERMAN (MAZEROSKI)
COLOR PHOTO: RICHARD DREW/AP
COLOR PHOTO: AL TIELEMANS (BELLE)
COLOR PHOTO: GEORGE TIEDEMANN (EARNHARDT)
COLOR PHOTO: TONY DUFFY
Players in the NBA's top 10 in scoring as of Sunday who played
four years of college basketball.
Consecutive seasons in which the Jazz will have finished .500 or
better now that Utah is guaranteed a winning mark this year; the
record is 19 by Boston from '50-51 to '68-69.
Financial hit to Reggie Miller for having thrown chewing gum at
ref Ed F. Rush, including a $10,000 league fine and $130,000 in
lost salary from a one-game suspension.
Days a Hungarian cabinet meeting was postponed so that Prime
Minister Viktor Orban, 37, could practice with and play a match
for low-level pro soccer club Felcsut.
Press credentials issued for the ACC men's basketball tournament,
nearly as many as for the Final Four.
This Week's Sign of the Apocalypse
A full-page ad in the Swedish financial daily Dagens Industri,
signed by five-time Wimbledon champ Bjorn Borg, urged Europeans
to have more sex to reverse a drop in birth rates that threatens
social security programs; the English language ad concluded with
the battle cry F--- FOR FUTURE.
"I needed to let Dale's fans know I'm feeling the same loss."
They Said It
XFL sideline reporter, on why the league's Saturday night
ratings are so bad: "The young male viewer who loves us is out
chasing young female viewers."