Austin, Texas, attracts a lot of unusual characters. Last Saturday it attracted one of the most unusual. ESPN sent Bill Walton-a California flower child-to Austin to be the color analyst for the Texas-Kansas basketball game. In a word, he was AWFUL!
Three times in the 1970’s Walton was the College Basketball Player of the Year. Under legendary coach John Wooden he won multiple NCAA Championships. He was a MVP and won two NBA championships. The dude could play a little basketball. That doesn’t mean he can talk about it with any rational-sounding ability.
His performance in Austin-from changing t-shirts on camera to blabbing incessantly about everything EXCEPT the game-ranged from irritating to awful. Mostly both!
The “Odd Couple” part of this was Walton’s long-time association with, and love for, his college basketball coach, John Wooden. There’s never been a finer man in college basketball than John Wooden, or a finer coach. He won 10 NCAA basketball championships at UCLA (7 in a row). Nobody has even come within six of him. He won 88 straight games at one point
Wooden was a stickler for details and rules. No long hair, no facial hair. “They take too long to dry, and you could catch cold leaving the gym,” he’d say. That drove the free-spirited, All-American Walton nuts. One day he showed up with a full beard. “It’s my right,” insisted Walton. Coach Wooden asked if Walton believed that strongly and Walton said he did. “That’s good, Bill,” Coach said. “I admire people who have strong beliefs and stick by them, I really do. We’re going to miss you, Bill.” Minutes later, Walton left practice and shaved his beard.
Until coach Wooden’s death, Bill Walton called him once a week to tell Coach he loved him. An unusual pairing. The straight-laced , unbending, John Wooden and the free-spirited flower child of the 1970’s, Bill Walton.
An Odd Couple indeed.
Did he think, “Oh no, not me? I’m not getting involved in replacing Bruce Weber as Wildcat basketball coach, I’m outta here!”
Kansas State athletic director, John Currie, announced this week that he is taking the same job at the University of Tennessee. While that may be a step up in athletic circles, it still begs the question of the problem of Bruce Weber.
Kansas State basketball has been in a late-season tailspin, bringing up, once again, calls for Weber’s job. Expectations were high for this team but the latest losing streak has probably doomed the Wildcats to the NIT instead of the Big Dance. Ditto in 2016, when a lot of Wildcat fans were disappointed that Currie didn’t act and get the available Brad Underwood, a former player and coach for Kansas State. A coach who had publicly said he would like to coach at Kansas State. Underwood later took the Oklahoma State job and has the Cowboys probably in the NCAA tournament.
Getting beat by 30 points by Oklahoma, a team with a losing record, can grease the skids to a moving van . This season looks a lot like Weber’s final season at Illinois when his team lost 12 of its final 14 games, leading to Weber’s dismissal.
The knock on Weber is that he’s a good coach but can’t recruit at a high level. Yet, he’s got a lot of young talent on this team. That sounds ominously like what was being said last year. Now that Currie is gone, is there anyone still in Manhattan that is willing to pull the trigger on Weber’s job?
Interesting times in the Little Apple.
Buddy Tabler is a guest columnist for the Great Bend Tribune and his views don’t necessarily reflect those of the paper. He can be reached at email@example.com.