Local university fires coach with famous name, maybe more

Basketball, has not been berry berry good to me. I never played, at least in an organized fashion. I was the varsity team’s equipment manager as a high school freshman. That was prior to my career throughout high school as a sports writer. Then pick up games, the most famous happening at the end of my first week at rookie school as a firefighter. A guy named Blaine threw me a hard pass and, snap, went my left pinkie. About two years later I broke the other pinkie playing another pickup game. From then on, nothing stronger than H-O-R-S-E.

Basketball has not been berry berry good to our local university either. Fans at Lamar University, a low-end Division I NCAA school in Beaumont, Texas, thought they’d been set afire two years ago when the school hired Pat Knight as mens basketball coach. Yes, as in that Knight. In the end, Lamar basketball had not been so beery berry good to Pat Knight.

The junior Knight led his first Lamar Cardinals team to the 2012 NCAA Tournament. The team crapped out in the first round. But it was the first Cardinal team to go to the big show in 20 years. It did take some Bobby Knight-like bluster. His lengthy rant after his team was verbally scorched by my old alma mater, Stephen F. Austin, went viral on You Tube.

 “I mean these kids are stealing money by being on a scholarship … “ Pat Knight said at one point in the nearly nine-minute harangue.

That massive tongue-lashing seemed to turn the team around, as they won the conference title and headed to the NCAA tourney. But since then. Nothing. Or about as close as you can get. Last season, Lamar went 3-28 overall. This year was 3-22, as for the Knight era, which ended last night. He was fired with two years remaining on his contract.

It seemed as if a story about an upcoming Lamar- University of New Orleans match-up Thursday was psychic. A Friday Times-Picayune story was headlined: “Lamar University Coach Pat Knight facing heat playing UNO Thursday.” Of course, Knight no longer faces heat.

My not being a big basketball fan, perhaps, expands the patience I have for folks. Especially those people who I find very entertaining. The university just brought back football and one would expect a team would need a bit of time to stack those building blocks together. The football Cardinals haven’t swept up its share of winning either. I guess it is because I have met Lamar football coach Ray Woodard and found him to be a genuinely nice guy is where I tune out calls by those who expect instant wins to fire him. I had plenty of patience for Pat Knight, though I don’t personally know him. Of course, Knight has also perhaps expected the trapdoor, even though he didn’t say so out loud.

In a very non-basketball way, Pat Knight has been good for Lamar and good for college hoops. As the son of one of the top three winningest college coaches and himself a player on an NCAA Championship team, Knight has seen how the glory of the game makes some players feel they are bigger than the game itself. For some reason, some chumps who can do not much more than shoot hoops think the world should be made over in their likeness. Knight, Pat and Bob, seem to think young men should be cut down a notch. Perhaps it is to remind the players that they should always be shooting up toward the hoops rather than down at them and at the rest of the world.

Or maybe they’re just big bullies on an ego trip. Who the hell knows?