Coach's Corner

Mack Brown or Rick Barnes jump to the pros? Not likely, when just the hint of a threat will get them a fat renegotiated contract.

My first advice to any coach hired at UT is to make friends with San Antonio car salesman and Spurs/Vikings owner, Red McCombs. In the unlikely chance I'm named to coach in Austin, you can be sure I'll heed my own advice. I'll call Red to say hi, offer to buy a few cars, invite him over for dinner; whatever it takes. I want my name in the newspapers followed by the magic words, "Andy Cotton, a friend of Vikings (or Spurs, depending on which team Mr. Dodds asks me to coach) owner Red McCombs."

Having done this I'll go home, have a stiff belt of bourbon and not worry about recruiting or Baylor until tomorrow. My wife will smile benignly at me, maybe even cook dinner. The kids, knowing an allowance raise when they see it, will do their homework and be quiet. I'll sleep well. A good and profitable day's work.

It was Tom Penders who first recognized the importance of befriending Mr. McCombs. Though time has proved Toddlin' Tom to be a decent college coach with a questionable set of personal ethics, in his day he was Austin's Golden Boy with a bright, unlimited future. It was also a time -- this was good for Tom -- that the Spurs were in turmoil; lots of losses, coaching changes, and persistent rumors that Penders was an hour from signing on (he was a friend of Red McCombs!) to coach Red's team. Invariably, often within the same 24-hour news cycle, the announcement would come from the majesty of Belmont Hall that the University was tearing up that cheesy old contract Tom had signed last month. Tom was getting a well-deserved raise.

The football coach could only look upon this fine gravy train with restrained, dignified envy ... until Red bought the Vikings. Then it was bon temps roulez, baby! It will be widely reported, every time the Vikings lose two games, that Red's packing the vans for a midnight run to San Antonio to grace the graceless Alamodome.

Gregg Popovich's success and the boy scout image of today's Spurs have been bad news for Rick Barnes. But as the saying goes, one man's ceiling is another man's floor. Mack Brown couldn't script a better meal ticket than the steadfastly embattled Vikings coach, Dennis Green.

Every season for nine years, Green's merry band will lead the league in DWIs, rape charges, running over citizens, clubhouse fights, drug violations of all sorts, barroom brawls, and bad drafts. But the best thing Green does, from Mack's point of view, is he wins. So every time a Viking (or Dennis himself) is pulled over on a snowy Minnesota highway after a few too many pops in the clubhouse, the media will cry for a change at the top, and a Texas coach (a friend of Red's!) will get another nice raise. But -- this is the really cool part -- Green will win just enough to keep his job, thus maintaining status quo. Everybody's happy.

A few weeks ago Dennis surprised everybody and quit. Within hours Mack Brown, now a good friend of Red's -- the only thing better than being a friend of Red's is to be a good friend -- was awarded another monster raise. Why would Brown ever want to go to the pros, where the media's heartless, owners are quickly disillusioned, and the life span of a coach is only a tad longer than that of a butterfly? Why indeed, when he can make a living by being a friend of Red's and sweet talking teenagers' moms into letting their muscular babies come to UT.

'Tis a sad state of the winter sports page that the main news is catty gossip about coaches. By the time you read this, Tony Dungy will have been fired -- an excellent example, Mack, of why life is better in college. The Sunday newspapers from Dallas to New York were ablaze, in the wake of another feeble playoff performance by Dungy's Bucs, with the injustice of Tony's plight. Some claim it's racial. Some say it's unfair. Most agree it's a shame. But were I a Buccaneer fan, I'd say good riddance and how fast can you and that Oklahoma offense get out of town?

I'd say three straight playoff appearances without a touchdown, an imploding locker room, and an overrated and overhyped defense, I'd say gimme Steve or Mack or Tuna Bill or just about anybody (except Marty Schottenheimer) with the sparkle of a four-wideout set in his eyes. A black man. A Chinaman. A Hindu. A Jew. I wouldn't care. Just promise to read a book in the off season on the evolution of the T-formation and the advent of the forward pass.

Mack and Rick (as friends of Red's) must understand that the pro gig sucks. You better win fast, or tomorrow you're on the street, hoping to become someone's bench coach or defensive coordinator. In Austin, Brown has to win nine games a year, hope the Vikings stay in turmoil, pray the BCS avoids a playoff where he'll really be held accountable and -- above all! -- remain friends with Red. Barnes just has to win his 20, go to the tournament, win the odd second-round game, and hope the Spurs collapse so he can play his green chips and be rumored to be Red's first choice as the Spurs new head coach.

That's what I'd hope.

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