Column: "The Sports Trail": Top committees seem to get things right most of the time

Wednesday, March 27, 2002

by David McNeal

Who says the NCAA tournament selection committee didn't know what it was doing when it made out the brackets for this year's March Madness?

Better check out the teams that made it to the Final Four before you start ranting and raving about power rankings, strength of schedule, league tournament winners, and your favorite home team.

Yep, two No. 1's, a No. 2, and a No. 5 seed make up the final field of teams that have survived the last two weeks.

They are, in no particular order, Kansas (No.1), Maryland (No. 1), Oklahoma (No. 2), and Indiana (No. 5).

Indiana? What a story. They beat Utah (75-56), UNC-Wilmington (76-67), No. 1 Duke (74-73), and Kent State (81-69) to reach the last weekend of the big dance.

And all without Bob Knight.

Now, you know the story about Knight, so I won't go into all that history. Let's just sum it up and say, after years of verbally abusing just about everyone that came in contact with him and disagreed with him, he got too big for his britches and earned the ultimate demotion.

A congressman once said, "I retired from congress with the consent of a majority of my constituents."

So went Knight. And so went Nolan Richardson.

I spoke last week with two high school coaches, one male, one female, that have worked with ex-coach Richardson, and they supported him. Said he did a lot of good things for a lot of adults and kids.

But I got the same answer from both when I pushed the conversation to the limit. And here it is.

Young people who go to college should be taught that there is neither a completely black, nor completely white world. You have to be able to operate in both.

In fact, with the business world going international, you'd better be able to adapt to a variety of cultures, worldwide, if you plan to make it in the cruel, hard world.

If Coach Richardson was guilty of telling young adults under his direction that there was only one way to go, then he did them the greatest disservice an educator can.

Instead of complaining that he wasn't getting equal treatment, he should have looked in the mirror for a moment.

What he would have seen was a very successful man at the top of his profession, making over $1 million a year. A man who was guiding young men to a better future. A man who had a big enough heart to help others less fortunate. A man people all across the nation looked up to.

Instead, he chose to see a black man whom he felt didn't have an equal shot in life, and he turned the verbal guns loose.

Now he's gone, and he has to look no further than that mirror to see how it happened. But he won't.

It's too easy to blame someone else. That's another bad lesson to teach young people at the college level.

So now there is a search committee whose job is to select the next Razorback basketball coach. They will have their hands full.

Don't kid yourself. There are plenty of big names out there, and some will be surprises. The committee will find a great coach, a good man, and a positive supporter for the University of Arkansas.

And if they're doing their job the right way, he won't be black, white, yellow, red or brown. He'll be a successful man, wanting to be at the top of his profession.

A man who will guide young men to a better future. A man people will look up to, in Arkansas and across the nation.

But most importantly, a man who will win. After all, this is a coaching job we're talking about and winning is the bottom line. Isn't it?

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