Coach's Corner

Coach weighs in on UT men's basketball (still lacks reliable offense), Super Bowk 34 (the Tennessee Titans should take it in an upset), and Bobby Phills' fatal car crash (tragic, but it was after all his own fault, and at least he didn't kill any innocent bystanders).

Odds and ends:Think you have a good handle on Rick Barnes' basketball team? With apologies to Rudyard Kipling, you're a better man than I am. Aside from nasty defense, which keeps Texas in every game, where points will come from is a game-to-game mystery. With a starting lineup consisting of two seniors and a gaggle of juniors, a fan might assume a predictable offense. The fan would be wrong. One night William Clay shoots like Dale Ellis, the next like Dale Evans. A vastly improved Ivan Wagner is still a hit-or-miss outside shooter, as are Darren Kelly and Lawrence Williams. Senior Gabe Muoneke, a player oozing talent, often appears bored. Then he'll wake up -- hello Oklahoma -- only to doze off again. Because UT's outside game is so erratic, All-American Chris Mihm is constantly swarmed with buzzing little opponents. It's a testament to his patience that he plays as consistently as he does. A longtime Horn watcher is struck by this: No matter how different this coach and team is from the freewheeling Tom Penders teams (and Barnes is as far from Penders as a beagle is from a goose), the team still lives and dies, in big games, with outside shooting and dribble-drive penetration. A serious NCAA run is unlikely without an every-night Muoneke and a reliable inside-out perimeter game. Let's hope Mihm stays. This team still looks a year away.

The knowledge that Super Bowl 34's buildup is 10,080 minutes shorter is a gift to be cherished. Buoyed significantly -- understanding that this decreases the chances of Dick Vermeil weeping when talking about ... well, just about anything -- I stand ready with my pick. Last week I asked if the Titans were lucky dogs or the proverbial team of destiny. As I age, an uncharacteristic mystical streak expands. The long suffering Titans/Oilers -- an early nine-point pooch -- despite losing two key starters to weird foot injuries -- will prevail to become the last of the original AFL franchises to, at last, win a championship. The oddity that neither team has ever been within sniffing distance of a playoff game (let alone a Super Bowl) allows room for the fans' ultimate fantasy: a good game. St. Louis will follow the natural big game impulse to play not to lose, which will allow Tennessee to hang in there and win, 27-21.

Bobby Phills is dead. A young family is in shambles. They'll bear the emotional scars of the car crash that killed their father for every minute of every day for the rest of their lives. It was a horrible day for his family, a sad one for his Charlotte Hornet teammates. Still, there was something deeply disturbing about the way this story -- given days of extensive coverage -- was reported by the media.

In interview after interview, Phills was described with adjectives like, "quiet," "levelheaded," and "intelligent." This is all well and good -- if your friends can't find something nice to say about you after you're dead, you must have been a sorry SOB.

You know what? My first reaction, when the story was initially reported that Phills was traveling at "a high rate of speed" when he lost control of his Porsche and ran into two other cars was, thank God the right person died.

Oh, that's terrible. I know, I'm a bad person. But that's what I thought. Bobby Phills -- 31, "quiet," "levelheaded," "kind," a father of two small children, who was basically painted as a saint by the national media -- Bobby Phills, at 10:30am, was drag racing in his hot new Porsche down a busy Charlotte street ... drag racing in the middle of the morning on a damn midtown street.

Two little boys playing a deadly, macho, "I'm badder than you" game, not only with themselves, but with ladies out shopping for groceries. In days of solid coverage I never heard a single word of the two other victims, who I can only assume walked away from this grisly tragedy. The innocents are usually the ones who die.

The media, in its compulsion to idolize the Professional Athlete, never discussed (it got in the way of all the teary eulogies) the abject stupidity of Phills and his friend. I lost my dad at a young age. Maybe I'm a little more sensitive to kids growing up without fathers. In this case, so needlessly.

Someday, someone's going to have to explain to these kids just why their 31-year-old dad, an invincible professional athlete with a young family dependent upon him, was drag racing at midday, going 90 down a busy city street.

The American sports media, in an insane scramble to see who could out-sap whom, missed an opportunity to tell two sides of a real-life tragedy. Typically, they opted to make Phills out to be a one-dimensional, tragic/heroic figure, instead of telling the truth -- a truth that might have caused one teenager to think twice before racing down city streets, a sad story of two men/children playing a game of Russian roulette without any concern for who got hurt. This wasn't an accident. It was a suicide. Thankfully, it didn't turn into a murder.

The guilty person paid the ultimate price. The innocent, for a change, walked away. I believe this is just.

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