Home team sports “Son of Knight” in the “Big Dance”

Let’s talk a little sports.

There is a university in the town where I reside. I didn’t go there. One of my brothers did. A bunch of people from my high school went there. But I didn’t. The biggest connection to Lamar University that I have is that it’s located down M.L.K. Boulevard a couple of miles. It was practically in the neighborhood when I lived in Beaumont the first time, some 33 years ago. Back before my South Park neighborhood was transformed into a poorer and blacker shell of itself by White Flight. That sounds racist. It isn’t meant to be. It is just one of those urban phenomenons which always seems to be tinged by race that happens these days. It’s akin to the NBA having evolved from the days its star players were medium-sized Jewish guys to the present with gigantic fellows of all ethnicities, albeit mostly Black Americans.

Your geography/sports history lesson out of the way, I don’t go to Lamar athletic games. I should, especially since the school has fielded a football team for the last couple of years after abandoning the sport in the late 1980s. That team is coached by someone I know, or at least had a decent conversation with one time.

I sat and talked with the now-Lamar football coach, Ray Woodard, one time a bit more than 20 years ago. He came to where I edited a small-town weekly newspaper to see my secretary — yes I had a secretary once; three different ones actually– with whom he went to school. So I was glad when Woodard was hired to resurrect the Cardinals football team.

But I wanted to say a few words about the Lamar basketball team. The Cardinals are in the NCAA tournament for the first time in more than 12 years and have been guided to the “Dance” in the Bobby Knight tradition. That’s because Lamar is coached by Pat Knight, his son.

Lamar Cardinals Head Coach Pat Knight, far right, as an assistant for his father, Bob Knight at Texas Tech. The younger Knight had a losing record after replacing his father as Red Raiders head coach. Now Pat Knight leads the Cardinals to the NCAA tournament. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons. Photo by Steven Wilke

Pat Knight isn’t Bobby Knight, but he is his father’s son. He also learned from the master as a player under Knight Sr. at Indiana and later as an assistant coach under the elder Knight at Indiana and Texas Tech. Pat Knight took the reins from his Dad at Lubbock. It wasn’t the best of times. He was fired at Tech with a 62-69 record after three seasons as head coach.

Knight inherited a group of talented underachievers at Lamar. The mostly junior-senior group will play Vermont in the first round of the NCAA tournament Wednesday in Dayton. The Cardinals should win this game and go on to face No. 1 seed North Carolina. “Should” is the operative word. Pat Knight garnered quite a bit of media attention when he ripped his team during a news conference after losing in the Southland Conference tournament to my alma mater Stephen F. Austin. Said the younger Knight:

“We’ve got the worst group of seniors right now that I’ve ever been associated with,” Pat Knight said. “Their mentality is awful. Their attitude is awful. It’s been their (custom) for the last three years.

“We’ve had problems with these guys off the court, on the court, classroom, drugs …. If you act this way in the real world, you’re going to be homeless, without a job.

Here is a great story by David Whitely in Sporting News that puts the “rant” — which turned out to be the motivation the Lamar bunch needed — in context. The blast and others Knight made this season toward an often listless Cardinal team were controversial but also applauded by many. I didn’t care for a lot of the temper tantrums shown by Bob Knight during his coaching years, but I still admire that the man expected more out of the young players than just bouncing a ball. It just so happens that he is a big fan of — surprise — education. Imagine that at a college! Some 80 percent of Bob Knight’s Indiana players graduated while the NCAA average was 40 percent. The younger Knight also seems follow his father’s sense of priorities.

Can the “Son of Knight’s” Cardinals get past the first round? On paper they should. They appear to be favored to beat the Catamounts. What the hell is a catamount anyway? Well, according to Western Carolina University’s site — their moniker also is the Catamounts — it a wildcat found in the Appalachians which is kind of like a cougar or puma or maybe a lynx or some other “souped-up wildcat.” Getting back to the game, the Cards past performances and the rants which followed, show that nothing is a given for this bunch that was recruited B.K. (Before Knight.)

Knight also had his Lamar team square off with top contenders during the regular season which resulted in 20-point-land losses but apparently with a decent effort against then-No. 3 Kentucky and then-No. 2 Ohio. So if this Cardinal team plays a good game against North Carolina after having to first dispose of the Catamounts, it will not be surprising.

If Lamar beat a North Carolina or replayed Kentucky to a win, I will be shocked. If they were somehow to come from out of nowhere and make and win the Fab Four or Terrible Two or the Awesome One or whatever the last of the big NCAA tournament hype is called, I would be flabbergasted. I would have a lot of company, like most of the remaining world which first and foremost would probably include that underachieving team from Beaumont, Texas.


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