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