Friday, October 19, 2001

Call It a Bit Embarrassing

Call it unusual. Call it a bit embarrassing.

But whatever you call it, at least Larry Eustachy, then a young unpaid assistant at Mississippi State, found a way 20 years ago to meet Bobby Knight, then the hotshot basketball coach at Indiana.

“In the old days, you’d call your buddies when you were the graduate assistant or the lowest coach on the totem poll,’’ explained Eustachy, now Iowa State’s head coach.
“You’d leave a message saying, ‘Tell him Bob Knight called. Or that Dean Smith called. Or that some other big-name coach called. Even in those days, Knight was that kind of icon.’’

Eustachy said he was staying at the home of Bob Boyd, the Mississippi State coach who had hired him as his unpaid assistant in 1981. Naturally, Eustachy, who still refers to Boyd as his coaching mentor, would answer the phone whenever there was no one else there to answer it.

“One day the phone rang, and the caller said, ‘Is Coach Boyd in?’ I said no, and the caller said, ‘Tell him Bob Knight called.’

“I said, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah.’’’

Obviously, Eustachy thought it was a joke -- another young coach calling and saying he was Knight.

“What are you talking about?’’ Knight snapped when it became evident Eustachy didn’t believe it was him.

“I quickly recognized Knight’s voice and about ate the phone,’’ Eustachy says now. “My relationship with him started there, and I’ve run into him from time to time since. He’s been very complimentary and I’m very happy for him.’’

Eustachy, who has a 72-26 record in his three seasons at Iowa State, is happy that Knight is back in coaching and is especially glad he’s in the Big 12 Conference.

“He’s a great addition to the league,’’ Eustachy said. “I think he’s arguably the greatest guy ever to coach the game. I’m just happy I know him and that he’s doing what he wants to do.’’

Eustachy and his Cyclones will get an up-close look at Knight when they play Feb. 2 at Texas Tech. Knight is in his first season there after winning a school-record 661 games and three national championships in 29 seasons at Indiana.

The tempestuous Knight was fired Sept. 10, 2000 after violating Indiana’s zero-tolerance policy and was hired by Texas Tech last spring to replace the fired James Dickey.

“I think he’ll be as sharp, or even sharper, this season than he’s ever been,’’ Eustachy said of Knight. “He’s had a year off and all he’s thought about is basketball. He’ll throw his ‘A’ game at everybody.

“He’ll bring more notoriety to the Big 12. He wasn’t going to just jump into any league. He jumped into a league that he thinks will be the best in the country sometime soon.

”I’m sure he doesn’t plan to do this forever. But when you can say you’ve got a Roy Williams of Kansas, a Kelvin Sampson of Oklahoma, a Rick Barnes of Texas and a Bob Knight of Texas Tech, you’re talking about elite coaches in the country. It only helps to have Knight in this league.’’

However, Eustachy said Knight “has a difficult job’’ at Texas Tech.

“It’s all about being able to get players,’’ he explained. “Everybody still talks about what happened to Knight at Indiana. He didn’t have such players as Scott May, Kent Benson and Isiah Thomas anymore. He wasn’t getting those upper-echelon players.

“So obviously Indiana wasn’t going far in the NCAA tournament. Once that happens, you’re a target for all kinds of things.’’

Another who is happy Knight is in the Big 12 is Iowa State guard Jake Sullivan.

“It’s going to be an honor to play against him,’’ Sullivan said of Knight. “He’s a great, great coach. It’s going to be quite a game when we play down there.’’

Sullivan was born in Dubuque, but wound up a brilliant high school career at Tartan of Oakdale as the second player to score more than 3,000 points in Minnesota.

“When I was in Minnesota, I always thought Knight was a great coach,’’ he said. “I got a couple of recruiting letters from Indiana, but nothing heavy.’’

Sullivan, by the way, is wearing uniform No. 0 this season.

“I wore No. 24 last season,’’ he said. “I’m wearing ‘O’ this year because I want a new attitude. It’s about winning basketball games and being as good as I can be.’’


Rumor has it that Rob Borsellino, the former Des Moines Register news columnist, has applied for the vacant editor’s job at the paper.

The Register job opening was created when Dennis Ryerson recently quit. Opinion is divided on whether Ryerson’s departure was his idea or the idea of others.

If, indeed, Borsellino is an applicant, people in the newsroom say it’s his second attempt at returning to the Register. Not long after leaving for columnist jobs in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., Borsellino and his wife, Rekha Basu apparently told their pal Ryerson they wanted to come back to the Register. At the time, Ryerson was still the Register’s editor.

Ryerson supposedly saw nothing wrong with Borsellino and Basu coming back, even though there were no job openings. But Ryerson was overruled by others, and Borsellino and Basu were told they weren’t welcome back.

As for the editor’s job Borsellino is rumored to be interested in, he would have some very small shoes to fill. But maybe he has little feet.


Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz says Kyle McCann, who has a 6-10 career record as the Hawkeyes’ starting quarterback and has thrown six interceptions in the last two weeks, deserves to keep the job in Saturday’s game against Indiana at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City.

So that means No. 2 quarterback Brad Banks, a junior college transfer, will again be on the sideline.

That tells me a couple of things: (1) Ferentz and his staff don’t think Banks has made much progress; (2) The coaches are reluctant to bench McCann, a very ordinary quarterback, and thus admit they’re listening to the Internet second-guessers who have been pleading for a game-long look at what Banks can do.

Let me issue a warning. A coach is asking for trouble when he brings in a skill-position player who has been a junior college star, then doesn’t use him.

That player has a long time to sulk on the sideline. I’m not saying Banks sulks, but I’ll bet he’s not Mr. Happy Guy when he looks at the depth chart every week and sees himself listed No. 2.

Being No. 2 would cause a lot of junior college transfers to sulk, and players who sulk on the sideline are not healthy for coaches who are trying to save their jobs.


Well, are the Barnstormers dead or not? Better question: Does anybody care?…Don’t feel too sorry for James Dickey, the fired Texas Tech basketball coach. Dickey will receive $125,000 as part of a settlement for his firing. The settlement comes in addition to a $1.3 million buyout of Dickey’s contract. That tells me he’ll still be able to put food on the table…Indiana and Texas Tech sure know how to ruin a good game. The Hoosiers won’t be playing Texas Tech in December, 2002, after all. Indiana officials say the game was cancelled because of “new circumstances.’’ The circumstances, obviously, were that Knight is now the coach at Texas Tech. How embarrassing would it be if Knight came into Bloomington, Ind., and beat the Hoosiers?…Some questions are better left not asked. After a hit by the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Tony Womack ended the St. Louis Cardinals’ playoff hopes, a woman went on the field to hug Womack. “Was that your mother?’’ Fox Network announcer Joe Buck asked Womack. “No, that was my wife,’’ Womack answered.

[THE AUTHOR Ron Maly edited and wrote at the Des Moines Register for 39 years and 9 months. He somehow kept most of his sanity and some of his health during that time. He was voted Iowa’s Sportswriter of the Year four times, won lots of Associated Press writing awards and a number of other writing awards that he can no longer remember. It’s come to his attention that Iowa State’s basketball team is predicted to finish sixth or seventh in the Big 12, but he’s not buying it. This is the kind of situation Coach Larry Eustachy likes. Maly says Eustachy operates best when little is expected of him. Coopinions, e-mail Maly at]unt on it that the Cyclones will be in a postseason tournament. It’s been a while since Maly covered an Iowa football game, but even then dropback passers were starting to be about as popular as helmets without face-masks. No wonder Maly is wondering how long it’s going to be before Kirk Ferentz gives Brad Banks a chance. If you have an opinion about something, or even if you don’t have any opinions, you can e-mail Ron at]

Oct 19, 2001
Vol. 1, No. 4

Wednesday, October 10, 2001

Max Rauer of D.M. Remembers Arne Harris

Arne Harris never hit a home run for the Chicago Cubs. Never pitched a game or fielded a ground ball, either.

But Harris was a talented and very valuable behind-the-scenes member of the cast during every Cubs game that was televised by Chicago station WGN.

Harris, 67, who died last weekend while dining at a downtown Chicago restaurant with his wife and Cubs TV announcer Chip Caray, was the long-time director and producer of Cubs’ games on WGN.

Max Rauer of Des Moines remembers Harris well.

“I attended Jim Duncan’s radio and TV classes at Drake with Arne in the 1950s,’’ Rauer said. “Jim was the head of the broadcast journalism department, and also in those classes was Al McCoy, who is still broasdcasting games for the Phoenix Suns.’’

Paul Morrison, historian in Drake’s athletic department, recalls Harris as being “one of Jim Duncan’s prize pupils. He was always considered one of Jim’s brightest students.’’

Others quickly learned how bright he was.

“While he was going to school at Drake, I think Harris had a part-time job at WHO-TV in Des Moines,’’ Rauer said. “Then, the following summer, he left to go back to Chicago, his hometown. He got a part-time job with WGN, and they were doing some stuff with the Cubs.

“So they offered him a regular job that fall. Arne called Duncan and told him, ‘You know, I have this chance to be with WGN and do some stuff with the Cubs. What do you think?’

“Duncan said, ‘Stay there. If that thing doesn’t work out, you can always come back to Drake. But at least you’ve got your foot in the door at a good operation. So I would advise you to stay.’’

Stay he did.

For 38 years.

Hardly a Cubs game went by on WGN-TV without Harris’ name being mentioned. Chip Caray regularly talked about him, and Harry Caray (Chip’s late grandfather) always had fun talking about Harris’ choices of TV shots during games when he was the Cubs’ play-by-play announcer.

Rauer said Harris was “always very knowledgeable about baseball. He’d get in trivia games with people and he knew everything about the game. When he was doing Cubs games, he came up with some TV shots that had never been done before.’’

Back when the Chicago Cubs still played exhibition games in Des Moines, Harris often accompanied the team here. It wasn’t necessary that he come here because the games weren’t televised, but he just wanted to be around baseball and he liked coming back to Des Moines.

After his days at Drake, Rauer went on to do play-by-play of games involving Iowa, Iowa State and Drake for various Des Moines radio stations. Although pretty much retired now, he remains close to the Drake scene.

“I’m on the Drake Relays executive committee and do other things pertaining to athletics there,’’ he said.


Veteran play-by-play broadcaster Larry Morgan will have an interesting basketball season.

He may survive the winter as long as he’s got a compass and a number of road maps in his suitcase.

“Morgan will announce Drake’s women’s games, but will continue to be the TV announcer for Iowa’s men’s games,’’ Drake athletic department spokesman Mike Mahon explained.

But what if there’s a conflict? What happens when Iowa’s men and Drake’s women play on the same night?

“Larry said there are only two conflicts,’’ Mahon explained. “When there is a conflict, another announcer will fill in for him.’’

Working with Morgan on the Drake games will be analyst Laura Leonard, a former Drake player. The play-by-play announcer for Drake’s men’s games will be Mike Newell.

Former Iowa player Al Lorenzen will be the analyst.

Drake’s games will be carried by KXTK-AM (940). Both Morgan and Newell have broadcast games involving Bulldog teams in other seasons.

[THE AUTHOR -- Ron Maly edited and wrote at the Des Moines Register for 39 years and 9 months. He somehow kept most of his sanity and some of his health during that time. He was voted Iowa’s Sportswriter of the Year four times, won lots of Associated Press writing awards and a number of other writing awards that he can no longer remember. It seems like 100 years ago that he covered Drake’s men’s basketball games alongside announcers Mike Newell and Larry Morgan. Some of those games date so far back that New Mexico State and West Texas State were still in the Missouri Valley Conference with Drake. In those days, the players wore short pants, not the knee-length variety Michael Jordan brought to basketball. And no one ever imagined there would be something called the Knapp Center on the Drake campus. That also was before Maly knew anything about computers and e-mail. Now he knows a little about both. If you care to light up his e-mail button, his address is]

Oct. 10, 2001
VOL. 1, No. 3

Thursday, October 04, 2001

Leave It to the Cubs to Screw It Up

Leave it to the Chicago Cubs to screw up things.

Don’t get me wrong. The screw-up didn’t come when the Cubs’ swoon in the last half of the National League baseball season caused them to fall out of playoff contention.

That was expected

Despite the players’ “worst-to-first’’ promise, no fan in his or her right mind expected them to still be in the race in September and October.

What I’m referring to as a big-time screw-up came this week when Oscar Acosta, the Cubs’ pitching coach, beat the hangman to the punch. Instead of waiting until Sunday to be fired by Manager Don Baylor, Acosta quit right after pitching ace Jon Lieber won his 20th game.

The Chicago Sun-Times says Baylor now apparently has a team in revolt. That kind of talk kind of blows a hole in that warm, fuzzy feeling you had about Baylor and his boys most of the summer, doesn’t it
him after he quit.

It turns out that Acosta was a favorite of the pitchers, and they openly supported him.

“Everybody has a lot of respect for him,’’ veteran Kevin Tapani said. “He is one of the best people I’ve ever had the privilege to be around in baseball…It sounds like a personality thing where he was honest with [Baylor], and Don didn’t like hearing it, which is a strange thing. In baseball, there’s always someone on your team you can say you don’t like.’’

Tapani can say what he wants. He likely won’t be with the Cubs next season.

Pitcher Jason Bere, who is expected back on the staff, told the Sun-Times he couldn’t believe Acosta wasn’t rewarded for the success of the Cubs’ staff, which ranks fourth in the league in earned-run average.

Everyone knows the problems pitchers face at wind-blown Wrigley Field. When the wind blows out, baseballs fly out over the fence as though it were a Little League park.

Bere said Acosta’s intensity and honesty were what got him into trouble. Baylor refused to be specific on what his conflicts with Acosta were.

Frankly, I enjoyed watching Acosta in action—even on TV. I recall one game, when the Cubs were riding high much earlier in the season. Acosta shot out of the dugout and went jaw-to-jaw with the home-plate umpire while protesting a call.

Somehow, he avoided getting kicked out of the game, and Baylor didn’t come out of the dugout to help him out until Acosta had given the umpire an earful.

My guess is that Acosta was respected so much by the pitchers and was being given so much credit for what the Cubs accomplished early in the season that Baylor felt threatened. It’s that old deal about, “Who’s in charge here?’’

My feeling about Baylor is, despite doing a pretty fair job of managing a team that was supposed to finish last in the Central Division, he doesn’t handle pitchers well. In the first place, I don’t think he has a lot of respect for pitchers, and that dates back to when he was a player. The Cubs’ pitchers sensed that.

As a player, Baylor defied pitchers to hit him when he stood at the plate, and he was hit often. It’s silly to think he suddenly abandoned his hitter’s mentality once he became a manager.

There is no doubt in my mind that Acosta will find another job as a pitching coach in the major leagues, and he’ll head a staff that comes into Wrigley field next season and baffles Cubs hitters. That’s the kind of stuff that always happens to the Cubs.

By the way, Jerry Reuss, who was the Iowa Cubs’ pitching coach this past season, is being mentioned as a possibility to replace Acosta in Chicago.

The Cubs’ players are also outspoken in their dislike of Mack Newton, Baylor’s handpicked fitness and motivational instructor. The Sun-Times said they linked Acosta’s demise to his intercession on their behalf against Newton, whom they perceived as a self-serving blowhard.

Baylor wants Newton to return next season, but it’s hard to believe that can happen with players now openly voicing opposition to him.

Sounds like an interesting off-season, right? To say nothing of spring training and the 2002 season.

But, as they say, that’s baseball.


I’m starting to feel sorry for Joe Paterno, who is in his 36th season as Penn State’s football coach.

The Nittany Lions are bad.

Really bad.

Watching that team in practice and on Saturdays is more than any 74-year-old man should have to do.

Of course, there are undoubtedly a lot of officials in the athletic department at Penn State –including the person who signs the paychecks--who feel the same way. And they’ll remind you that Paterno and his assistant coaches are the guys who recruited all of those bad players.


I’ve received lots of feedback from people who agree with what I wrote last week about departed Register editors Dennis Ryerson and Mike Townsend, and the sad shape the paper is in these days.

The comments came from people who still work in the newsroom, people who have retired from the paper, people who have left for other reasons and even people who want nothing to do with writing or editing newspaper stories.

Most of those who commented can’t believe how far the paper has gone downhill. But some also feel new publisher Mary Stier has an opportunity now to hire an editor who will dig the newsroom out of the embarrassing hole it’s been in under the old regime.

Thanks to everyone who wrote. It was great hearing from all of you.

[THE AUTHOR -- Ron Maly worked at the Des Moines Register for 39 years and 9 months. He somehow kept most of his sanity and some of his health during that time. He was voted Iowa’s Sportswriter of the Year four times, won lots of Associated Press writing awards and a number of other writing awards that he can no longer remember. He’s hoping Dan McCarney and his Iowa State football team can somehow overcome huge odds Saturday and score the Big Upset at Nebraska, and he thinks Kirk Ferentz and his Iowa team have a very good shot at winning at Purdue. Of course, Maly may be mellowing as he ages. There was a time when he’d never think Iowa State could win at Nebraska or that Iowa could win at Purdue. After all, he still remembers Bob Devaney and Jack Mollenkopf. Maly will continue to write occasional e-mail items about anything that interests him. To receive them, send your e-mail address to]>

Oct. 4, 2001
VOL. 1, NO. 2