Monday, February 04, 2008

"Dad Got Me This Swell Job"

Indeed ... O'Reilly Auto Parts lost a legendary member of the family today when the regional manager of the Lubbock Division abruptly resigned.

The reason given for the resignation of the regional manager of the O'Reilly Auto Parts Empire-Lubbock Division was that "Daddy's tired."


Is that "tired" as in "showing symptoms of mental exhaustion and emotional fatigue" -- or "tired" as in "tired of being mediocre" ... or "tired of being perceived as mediocre"?

Or "tired" as in "sick and tired of being sick and tired all the time"?

(Simply typing those tiring paragraphs makes one tired ... and hungry -- and that's "hungry" as in "craving some Campbell's Chunky Fully-Loaded ... either that or a Manwich")

Either way, the thing that Dwight Schrute needs to remember is that Pat Knight was not "the assistant regional manager" of O'Reilly Auto Parts-Lubbock Division.

He was "the assistant to the regional manager."

There's a huge difference.

Not that it matters now.

So, somebody with a spotty assistant coaching record is the new big kahuna of b-ball operations at a football school -- and, if Pat Knight is the chip off the ol' block that we think he is, the Rough Riders (or whatever they call that team) are all squared-away for as many 15-13 seasons (w/ either a first-round, Big 12 tourney exit, a first-round, NCAA tourney exit -- or both) as A.D. Gerald Myers can stomach.

"It's a football school, everybody" -- which is what we were all saying from the minute that Papa Knight took that job and used his forefingers-shaped-as-pistols to shoot those imaginary six-shooters into the air during that press conference when the exiled Indiana coach was introduced as the new Red Rovers coach.

No word yet as to whether Sonny will ditch his T.G.I.Friday's look -- sweater vest/polo shirt combo ("hey, kid ... we need more tartar sauce for our fried clams and can the Mrs. get a refill on that iced tea?") -- in favor of some snazzy O'Reilly Auto Parts apparel (long-sleeved mock T and plaid sportcoat combo or a v-neck sweater with the "O''Reilly" logo which dwarfs the interlocking "TT" insignia?).

During the next five seasons (as long as Myers decides that 15-13 seasons are an acceptable "bridge" between football seasons), it'll be interesting to see which puppeteer -- Daddy or O'Reilly Auto Parts -- has greater influence on the string-pulling of what we can now call "The PupPAT."

Notwithstanding the fascinating paradigm, this transition from Knight, Sr. to Knight, Jr. is the exact reason why a lot of Americans have shunned O'Reilly Auto Parts in favor of Kragen or Napa or Meineke or Auto Zone -- because O'Reilly isn't visionary enough to see that maybe there's an up-n'-coming coach in this big, vast land of auto-parts consumers ... a no-name, by most standards, who has paid his dues and is maybe five or six times more qualified to run the TTU program than the relative stiff whose only real visability during his TTU career was the role he played as a cardboard-cutout in the "Knight School" series on the Disneyland Sports Channel a few years ago.

That's the bottom line: Bobby Knight cares so much about "the team" that he gave the head coaching job to the same kid who used to steal a spot on the Indiana varsity from a kid who was probably more-deserving.

What message does that send to America's children? Knight's always positioned himself as a champion for "workin' our asses off is gonna make us better than our opposition at the end of the day" -- however, once that mission statement got doused (not with the sweat of that hard labor but) with the urine of the head honcho, somebody with the "proper" bloodlines got the job.

That's in Chapter 3, Verse 12 in the Bobby Knight Book of Contradictions.

For many Lubbockians, the fact that Texas Tech is a football school and not an O'Reilly Auto Parts Basketball Funhouse means that Bob bailing on the team with a dozen or so games will not register, in those people's minds, a "way to tough it out, Knight" on their radars.

To those people, the only landmark victories of note during Knight's stint were the memorable occasions when A) The Red Rovers came back from a 38-7 deficit midway through the third quarter against Minnesota and won, 44-41, in overtime in the '06 Insight Bowl which nobody watched ('cuz it was on the NFL Network) and B) The Red Rovers rallying from a 28-14 deficit in the final four minutes to beat Virginia, 31-28, in the most-recent Gator Bowl which nobody watched last month (because America was clicking back-n'-forth between the second half of the Cotton Bowl and the first half of the Capital One Bowl).

Hard to believe that Bob would walk away from all those good vibes and from a university which, during his stint in Lubbock, produced household names such as Kliff Kingsbury, B.J. Symons and Sonny Cumbie.

Oddly enough, it is Sonny Cumbie who fills up an arena the way that Knight used to (only Sonny does it as an Arena Football League superhero).

Sonny Cumbie has definitely earned his place in the O'Reilly Auto Parts Athletic Ring of Honor (if such a thing exists) -- although it's up to the O'Reilly board of directors to determine Bob's place in the Lubbock cosmos, given that "resignation" is nuthin' but a fancy, clinical term for "quittin'."

And, it's up to The PupPAT to decide if he wants to embrace Daddy's legacy or distance himself from it.

After all, he could create an identity for himself other than the guy who rode the bench for Daddy and averaged 2.4 PPG as a "player" (as well as moving the needle on the charisma meter past "zero") by doing something unique, creative and groundbreaking -- and not the crude schtick which marked Daddy's IU career, such as destroying the sno-cone machine in a rage or, on a few occasions, forcing the players (because he was pissed at them) to dress in the hallway while permitting the team managers to get changed in the locker room.

Maybe the PupPAT could separate himself from Papa by wearing an O'Reilly Auto Parts baseball cap (or an O'Reilly Auto Parts floppy hat, like the ones you get at the ballpark during those promo giveaways) during TTU ballgames.

Think about that. "Pat The Hat" -- the only coach in D-I b-ball with the cajones to wear a lid while coaching.

It's not as crazy as it sounds.

Moreover, it's the only chance that the Man In The Hat ... the PupPAT ... has to elevate TTU above middle-of-the-pack status, not to mention getting a leg up on that waste-of-space who coaches Oklahoma State ... Sean Sutton (another tribesman in the Big 12's pro-active "nepotism-in-action" campaign).

Meanwhile, over in Waco (a tumbleweed Texas outpost nearly as desolate and unappealing as Lubbock), a Baylor program which was dead as a doornail (literally) is enjoying a resurrection under a fresh-faced kid named Scott Drew (the son of a respected coach who actually got his job by "leaving the nest").

It's almost beyond belief what Drew has accomplished in such a short time ... gettin' Baylor (Baby Knight's first opponent) to an almost-historic level while The General and his T.G.I.Friday's son were molding slightly-less-than-marginal ballplayers into barely-above-adequate ballplayers.

As we all know, many (but not all) of the problems at Baylor stemmed from one of Knight's cronies (Dave Bliss) losing what they call "institutional control of the program" -- ending his career in embarrassing and humilating fashion following the murder of Patrick Dennehy.

In the days/weeks ahead, we'll hear quite a bit of babble and blather from Knight and Knight super-supporters who will blah-blah-blah about Bob's integrity and loyalty and accountability (Digger Phelps would punch his aunt in the head to ensure that he's the loudest voice in that group).

These testimonials should provide some amusing material for those of us who haven't overlooked Bob's friendship with Bliss, not to mention past alliances with Tates Locke and Norm Ellenberger (two of the '70s dirtiest cheaters ... gentlemen who didn't really INTEND to run dirty programs, it's just that they were swept away in the undertow of unfortunate circumstances and blah blah blah blah blah ...).

Papa Knight is likely to remain on the warpath (and, if he provides some laughs ... bonus!) when he hits America with his mega-tough-guy schtick of "I-don't-give-a-sh**-about-those-motherf**ers-who've-never-met-me-and-think-I'm-an-a**hole."

Bob will tell us that he doesn't need to defend himself to anybody.

Then, he'll go ahead and do it anyway.

The goal of Bob's media circus will be to divert attention from his untalented son, who, by the end of this month, probably will have opted against wearing a sombrero or a fedora during games (that is, unless the Red Rover guy who rides that horse onto the field before Red Rover football games lends him that snazzy, Zorro-like hat ...).

America has been through this whole routine (read: tired schtick) before ... we're supposed to forgive the F-bombs because Bob REALLY cares about the kids .... we're supposed to forget the jerk-off, jackass behavior because he donated $1 to the campus library ... we're supposed to go along with the contradictions because his boys were recruited properly and, more than likely, will receive a diploma from the university ...

However, one-half of America will respond with (in terms that Bob can identify with): "So F-ing what ... "

The other half of America -- led by mega-dork, turbo-kiss-asses such as Disneyland Basketball's Digger and Dickie V. -- will paint the portrait of Bob as a legendary legend of legendary status.

As a backdrop, ESPN will offer video imagery from the Knight Library ... all of those unforgettable scenes from his 28 years at Indiana interspersed with a black-n'-white snapshot or two of his days at Army (even though the only images available from his six-plus seasons in Lubbock are of him seated on the Rough Rider bench as he wore his black sweater with the O'Reilly Auto Parts logo dwarfing the "TT" logo, not to mention the scenes of Bob standing with his hands in the pockets of his slacks as the O'Reilly Auto Parts logo on his black sweater dwarfs the "TT" logo ... ).

What we won't get is that classic moment when Knight appeared on "Larry King Live" several years ago ... and Larry showed America the footage of Knight slamming his paw -- one of the two paws which spent A LOT of time riding the bench at Ohio State 35 years earlier -- up against Neil Reed's trachea and Larry asking, point-blank, "What was that?" ... and all Knight could come up with was, "I don't know."

Hopefully, Bob isn't too tired/fatigued/exhausted to dig up some new material 'cuz that was a mighty dumb answer.

Bob, it seems, wasn't too tired/fatigued/exhausted to travel to South Williamsport, PA last Aug. to waste our time occupying ESPN air-time with his "connection" to the Lubbock Little Leaguers ... and he wasn't too tired/fatigued/exhausted shortly after that trip to sign a 3-year contract extension ... but, now, it seems, he's too tired/fatigued/exhausted to get his point across about the fundamentals of winning b-ball to those O'Reilly Auto Parts b-ballers.

Fatigue/exhaustion is funny that way ...

Which leaves it up to the fresh face and young brain of Pat to pull off what Mike Davis did at IU in the springtime of '02 -- take a bunch of rag-tag lowlifes which "The Genral" (wink wink) recruited and turn 'em into a veritable, lean, mean, b-ball killin' machine which wins the NCAA Southeast Regional and comes oh-so-close to winning a national championship.

You're on alert, America: The O'Reilly Auto Parts' Cinderella story could be coming to an NCAA Regional near you during March Madness of '09 or '10.

Or not.

Until then, those of us who were once grabbed brusquely about the shoulders by Knight following that win over Ohio State in Jan. '96 (and who are married to an IU undergrad who has dozens upon dozens of classic, behind-the-scenes stories from Knight, '84 thru the '87 national championship run) have only one place to turn to refute the nonsense of the weeks ahead.

We will seek refuge in the Playboy interview from '01 ... and Bob's pre-O'Reilly Auto Parts car trip to Akron to watch Junior work his magic as a Zips asst. coach.

The exchange between Knight (who was driving) and Playboy writer Lawrence Grobel (who occupied the passenger seat) wasn't quite the confrontation that America might've compared favorably with Lt. Kaffee and Col. Nathan R. Jessep ("Did you order the Code Red?" ... "YOU'RE GODDAMN RIGHT I DID!!!"), but it came damn close.

KNIGHT: (bangs the center of the steering wheel with his fist) "Jesus Christ! This is bullshit! I'm not here for a fucking inquisition! And if that's what this is, then get the fuck out and hitchhike back home! The fucking stepfather was a fucking goddamn fucking asshole from the word goddamn go. He fucking lied and he lied and he lied! Jesus Christ! I mean, this is my fucking life we're talking about! My fucking heart was ripped out by this goddamn bullshit!"

Grobel: "OK ..."

KNIGHT: "OK, my ass! It isn't OK! Goddamn it, I don't need this shit with 'Playboy' or anybody else! I'll drop you off in fucking Dayton and you can get home."

Grobel: "Please, Coach ..."

KNIGHT: "This is fucking bullshit! I don't want to hear another fucking word."

Vintage Bobby ... tellin' his side of the story in Playboy ("what? Penthouse didn't return your call soon enough?")

In case Bob forgot, in that issue of Playboy -- which, by the way, isn't the magazine of virtue that, say, "Field & Stream" might be -- the centerfold was Miriam Gonzalez ... and, not only was she was typically smokin' hot, but she has the same birthday as this sports reporter (ret.).

Bob's so classically classic -- which is the Y2K way of saying that he's a man's man, a coach's coach and a hypocrite's hypocrite.

And, he's the only American we know (figuratively ... because nobody knows him literally) who can get away with adding profanity to "The Star-Spangled Banner" (y'know ... the song about the rockets' red glare and the F-bombs bursting in air ...).

In the month or so remaining in the O'Reilly Auto Parts-Lubbock Division season, America will NOT be deprived of the man who bailed on the O'Reilly Auto Parts-Lubbock Division b-ball program.

How so? Well, every time somebody asks The PupPAT how he feels about this or that -- or what his reacton is to various outcomes -- we can simply translate every single answer in very basic terms.

"I feel how Pa tells me to feel ..."

"My reaction is what Pa tells me it is ..."

That is, until the fatigue sets in ...

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