Wednesday February 6th, 2008

Maybe it's too many years of Bushes of one sort or another. Perhaps it's the prospect of too many years of Clintons of this type or that. But something has me thinking this way, and I can't be the only person who believes the legacy thing has gotten a little out of hand in college basketball.

I say this in spite of yesterday's news out of Lubbock that Pat Knight -- by all accounts a patient and well-schooled young coach with what members of his profession might call "good upside" -- will be replacing his dad at Texas Tech.

I say this in spite of the remarkable story out of Des Moines this season, where Drake coach Keno Davis has worked magic in both the slipstream and embrace of his father, Dr. Tom.

And I say this in spite of the impressive works of Bennetts pere and fils at Washington State, which but for that dynastic duo would probably be a Pac-10 mediocrity.

So, what's the problem? The problem is that kingmaking:

1. Limits a school's options

Bill Self might well have considered a return to his alma mater, Oklahoma State. But everyone in the sport knew that the way was greased for Eddie Sutton's son, Sean, to take over as the Cowboys' coach. Just remember that, Cowboy fans, whenever you guys lose to Kansas.

2. Leads to unanticipated messiness

It's the nature of the business: More often than not things eventually come a cropper, and when they do the result can be as melodramatic as a divorce. Think DePaul, where the program's patriarch, Ray Meyer, had to watch bitterly from his broadcasting position as son Joey lost his way out of the job he had inherited, and the Blue Demons stumbled from the ranks of the game's elite.

3. Can give outsized power to people who already have quite enough, thank you

I've long admired the good fathers at Villanova; their refusal to indulge Rollie Massimino's demand that his son be anointed his replacement-in-waiting is a primary reason for the estrangement that ultimately sent Massimino to UNLV, Cleveland State and obscurity.

John Thompson III is the example I can live with. His father (sensibly, in my judgment) encouraged him to use his Ivy League degree to get a real-world job (with Ford Motor Company). The coaching itch turned out to still be there to scratch, so JTIII became a volunteer assistant at his alma mater; worked his way up to top paid aide; then became head coach entirely on his own merits, all at a school, Princeton, where his dad couldn't wire the process for him. Meanwhile, back at Georgetown, after a three-year interregnum during which Craig Esherick failed to get it done, there was an authentic groundswell (not a nepotistic decree) to restore the dynastic name. And who's to argue with the result?

To want to usher his or her genes securely into the future is a natural instinct of any human being (and yes, in spite of what I've written about him, I do regard Bob Knight as a member of the species). Evolutionary biologists tell us that this explains the surge of adrenaline that allows people to summon unknown reserves of strength and courage when they see kin and offspring in danger. And it sure gives a coach on his way out an incentive to recruit the hell out of that last lame-duck year or two.

But I still don't think that, all things considered, it's a good idea.

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