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02/18/2014

The lesson of Pat Knight & Monte Kiffin

A hire that should never have been made - either time - was officially called a dud - again - when Lamar University fired Pat Knight as its men's basketball coach.

Unlike Texas Tech, which was all but strangled into hiring Pat when Bob Knight quit midseason of '08 to move Pat into a job that he had been designated three years prior, Lamar hired Pat for his last name. If Pat's last name had been "Johnson" he would never have landed either job. Had Bob not left when he did - midseason - Tech may have backed out of the agreement to name Pat his replacement.

628x471That's not his fault. It's the fault of Texas Tech, Lamar and the many other teams/universities around the country who hire last name's rather than qualified candidates.

It's the same mistake the Oakland Raiders/Tennessee Vols/USC Trojans made with Dallas Cowboys "recently promoted" assistant head coach Monte Kiffin's son, Lane.

There are countless quality coaches doggedly working, and winning, in the lower-level conferences, or Division II, that you have never heard of; athletic directors refuse to even consider many potential candidates because they all "want a name." These guys may have the resume, but can't even get an interview because they don't have the correct last name, or are not the "hot" assistant on the big name program.

Winning the press conference, which every coach ever does, and the mirage that a last name is going to magically yield superior results in recruiting, has become more important than the first, second or third season. The ADs, and the head hunting firms they contract out to do their job because they don't want the fallout if the hire doesn't work, eliminates scores of candidates because they don't "sound" sexy.

When Minnesota fired Tubby Smith, it replaced him with 31-year-old Richard Pitino, son of Rick. Wonder how he got his foot in the door?

At a time, Pat Knight was a "great" hire simply because of his last name. A smaller program such as Lamar landing a Knight was a coup, despite a resume that suggested this was a shaky hire, at best. Just because he was related to Bob had zero to do with his chances of duplcating his dad's success. Between Tech and Lamar, Pat Knight was 79-123. He made one NIT (Tech), and one NCAA (Lamar).

In fairness to the likes of Jim and John Harbaugh (Jack Harbaugh), Wade Phillips (Bum), there are of examples of nepotism that work. Say what you want about Wade, but the man has been a coordinator/head coach for 30 years in the NFL.

Pat's time in Lamar is over, and despite his last name it's hard to envision him ever landing a major, or mid-major, head coaching job again. Maybe now Lamar, and other places, will put more weight on qualificiations and experiences rather than the last name.

@MacEngelProf
tengel@star-telegram.com
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