Knightmare in Indiana
Another Hoosier defection shakes the General's regime
When Luke Recker, the top scorer on Indiana's basketball team,
declared last week that he will transfer out of Bob Knight's
program, he had the diplomatic sense to blame himself. "I have
not been satisfied with my development as a player," Recker said
in a prepared statement. Yet the timing of his announcement left
little doubt about why he's leaving Bloomington. Recker waited
until the Man in the Red Sweater was in Cuba for a coaching
clinic cum fishing trip before submitting his walking papers.
Recker is the latest to join a growing band of Indiana
transfers--11 in this decade alone--who wearied of enduring
their coach's profanity-laced tirades and having his
pathological tendencies passed off as old-school virtues, and
who resented the way a despot nearly 40 years their senior
bleached the fun and joy out of a game they once loved. Still,
Recker's departure might hit harder than most. The Hoosiers'
recruiting pool has grown shallow due to the program's lockstep
discipline and mirthless reputation, but Recker--Indiana's high
school Mr. Basketball of 1997--seemed cut out for Knight life. A
homegrown Hoosier who committed to Indiana as a high school
sophomore, Recker grew up worshiping Steve Alford (perhaps his
next college coach, at Iowa, though North Carolina, Florida and
Kansas are also possibilities), and he possessed the sort of
plucky, fundamentally sound game that was a cream-and-crimson
trademark. If he can't survive the Bloomington boot camp, who
can? "I think there are very few kids anymore who are willing to
deal with the things at Indiana that you have to do to play
there," former Hoosier wonder boy Damon Bailey said recently.
Knight's shrinking legion of knee-jerk apologists was in
midseason form last week. Callers to Indiana radio shows
demonized their former hero as Luke (Program) Recker. A banner
hung from an apartment on one of Bloomington's main streets read
F--- RECKER. Whatever outrage Recker's move provoked, though, it
wasn't a complete shock. A widespread rumor--one that some
insiders say is true--has it that Recker wanted to transfer last
year, but that Knight, already stung by the departures of guard
Neil Reed and center Jason Collier, told Recker that if he left,
he would quit. Recker, apparently unwilling to shoulder such a
burden, returned. (Knight could not be reached for comment by
SI; Recker declined to discuss the matter.)
Will Knight retire now? Not even that happy ending would help
kids like Recker, who dreamed of playing ball for a legend and
encountered a tyrant instead. But before his legacy suffers more
damage--before the General goes out as ignominiously as
MacArthur--Knight might want to emulate Luke Recker and fashion
an exit strategy of his own.
Latrell's Legal Tab
Latrell Sprewell can't catch a break. First the Warriors dumped
him for attacking coach P.J. Carlesimo, an act that cost
Sprewell (above) $6.4 million in pay during his seven-month NBA
suspension. Last August, Sprewell responded by suing the NBA for
$30 million, charging that league owners perpetuate "slavery
whereby white owners can deprive blacks of their most basic
rights" and that the NBA altered photos of the damage he had
done to Carlesimo's neck. In March, Judge Vaughn Walker of the
U.S. district court in San Francisco dismissed the suit, writing
that the only rights the case involved were the dubious ones of
"strangling, punching and threatening" Carlesimo, and that
Sprewell's claims were so "frivolous" and "meritless" that the
Knicks guard must pay his opponents' legal bills.
According to court documents filed last week, that will mean
coughing up as much as $153,515--including $1,701 in
photocopying charges--to the lawyers who represented the
Warriors and the NBA in their legal dunk of Sprewell. "That's
funny," said Sprewell on Monday. "You know how lawyers are. They
got a lot of paperwork."
Sprewell plans to appeal the dismissal of his case and Walker's
ruling on legal fees. He might also challenge the amount of the
fees. The NBA and the Warriors will suggest that he pay the bill
for those appeals, too.
Subtracting the $153,515 from Sprewell's 1999 salary leaves him
with $4,906,485 for the season. If you think that's not enough,
fax your pledge to the Latrell Sprewell Legal Offense Fund at
Title IX's Toll
RED INK KILLS REDHAWKS
In February, Miami of Ohio's board of trustees gave an ultimatum
to the RedHawks' golf, soccer, tennis and wrestling teams: Raise
$13 million or the programs will die (SCORECARD, Feb. 22). The
money normally budgeted for those sports was to be redirected to
women's sports to help Miami comply with Title IX regulations.
Last week university president James Garland announced that the
golf team, which had come up with $750,000 in supporters'
pledges, will survive for now. Soccer, tennis and wrestling are
history. The school's verdict left some RedHawks envious of the
women's precision skating team, which gets most of its funding
from the U.S. Figure Skating Association. The skaters flew to
Goteborg, Sweden, this month for the sport's World Challenge Cup
and have made two trips to Europe in the past three months. "We
went to Iowa this year, and Florida," wrestling coach Chuck
Angello told The Cincinnati Enquirer. "We drove."
Horse Racing Furor
A SHOCKER IN ARKANSAS
Valhol's unlikely victory in the April 10 Arkansas Derby is
being investigated by the state's racing commission. Officials
suspect that jockey Billy Patin used a handheld device commonly
called a buzzer or battery to stimulate the 30-1 shot to his
first win in three career starts. Buzzers, which work like
miniature cattle prods, can be hidden in the end of a whip or up
a jockey's sleeve. None has ever been detected in such an
"I swear to god I never did that," Patin told the Arkansas
Democrat-Gazette. He was unavailable for comment to SI. Dallas
Keen, Valhol's trainer, stands by his jockey. "I believe my
rider," Keen says. "The horse is legit. The horse is a winner."
Shortly after Valhol crossed the finish line at Hot Springs'
Oaklawn Park, a member of the maintenance crew found what
Oaklawn officials call "an electrical device" on the track. ESPN
footage of the race seems to show a small object drop past
Valhol's left shoulder as Patin rides the horse through the
clubhouse turn after the race. Oaklawn won't pay Valhol's
$300,000 winner's purse until the matter is settled. "I saw some
video that was pretty damning," says Oaklawn spokesman Terry
Wallace. "We feel like someone is trying to steal our
reputation," says Wallace.
Valhol's chance of running in the May 1 Kentucky Derby is in
doubt. Not since 1994 has an Arkansas Derby winner failed to run
for the roses, but if there are more than 20 horses entered,
Churchill Downs officials select horses on the basis of their
graded stakes earnings, and without his Arkansas winnings the
slender chestnut probably won't qualify. Valhol's owner, Jim
Jackson, has threatened legal action if his horse is kept out of
the Derby. "They're not only playing with my horse, they're
playing with my reputation," says Jackson, echoing Valhol's
doubters at Oaklawn.
Simpson Gets Mugged
STICK 'EM UP, O. J.
On April 13 O.J. Simpson found himself in hot pursuit of an
assault suspect on the streets of Los Angeles. The LAPD's
summary report reads: "At 1605 hours Mr. O.J. Simpson had just
completed a game of golf at Griffith Park Course. As he was
changing his shoes at the rear passenger door of his vehicle, he
was approached by a Male Caucasian, 40-45 years, armed with a
handgun. Mr. Simpson fearing for his safety offered the suspect
his wallet. The suspect ordered Mr. Simpson to the rear of the
vehicle. Mr. Simpson distracted the suspect and grabbed the
handgun. A struggle ensued, however, the suspect maintained
custody of the firearm. The suspect abandoned the attempt[ed]
robbery and fled to his vehicle parked two parking stalls away.
The suspect fled in a possible late model white van."
Simpson gave chase in his own van, but the assailant--whom the
Juice said looked like "a regular solid citizen"--drove
recklessly, running red lights. O.J. called the LAPD on his cell
phone. The police told him to give up the chase, and he obeyed.
Simpson suffered a small cut on his right hand, but he says he
inflicted some damage as well. During the scuffle he bit his
attacker, who remains at large.
Quarterback Draft of '99
BISHOP TO PAWN
After a season in which Kansas State's Michael Bishop threw for
2,844 yards and rushed for 748 more, finished second in the
voting for the Heisman Trophy and won the Davey O'Brien Award as
the nation's best college quarterback, it wasn't too farfetched
for Bishop to declare last weekend, "Everybody in America knows
what I can do." But the NFL's draft cognoscenti were not
impressed. Bishop watched and waited while 226
players--including 10 quarterbacks and three punters--were
drafted before the Patriots selected him in the seventh round.
The 6'1" Bishop has decent speed (a 4.7 40) and a cannon arm--he
once threw a ball 93 yards in the air. He also knows how to win.
His record as a starter in junior college and college was 46-3.
The knocks on Bishop are that he has an unconventional release
and improvises too much. Scouts say his future might be at wide
receiver or defensive back, where he can put his athleticism to
better use, or in the CFL. Bishop, though, insists he can play
quarterback in the NFL. "I know I've got the tools," he says.
"All I need is the chance."
Tea Time in England
ROTTEN CRICKET SANDWICHES
A cricket team in England has disbanded over what London's Daily
Telegraph calls the team's "overwhelming culinary failure."
Until 1993 the Stoke Canon Cricket Club had provided the
traditional treat for visiting teams, a spread of sandwiches,
cakes and jams over afternoon tea. Then club caterer and
cofounder Vi Dolling retired. "We tried all the wives and
girlfriends," says wicketkeeper and team skipper Tim Keehner,
"but they got bored, and in the end it was down to us players."
Stoke Canon's efforts, including curried-egg sandwiches and
Marmite (concentrated yeast paste) mixed with peanut butter,
drew howls of protest from opponents. "Some players made
terrible sandwiches--it was not a pretty sight," admits Keehner,
who bagged the teas, scuttled the team and used the club's last
[pound]200 to take the blokes out for a night on the town.
IOC Bashing Pays Off
NEXT: REILLY ON DEATH AND TAXES
In February, SI's Rick Reilly called on Olympic sponsors,
including Time Inc., SI's parent company, to close their
checkbooks until the IOC addressed the rampant corruption in its
ranks (THE LIFE OF REILLY, Feb. 22). One reader, U.S.
Representative Henry Waxman, took Reilly's column to heart. Last
week Waxman (D., Calif.) introduced a bill with Representative
Rick Lazio (R., N.Y.) that would ban payments from American
corporations and individuals to the IOC unless the organization
adopts reforms drafted by a commission chaired by former U.S.
Senator George Mitchell. "What crystallized this idea was Rick
Reilly's column in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED," says Waxman. "Unless we
put pressure on the IOC, they won't enact the reforms necessary
to show they are dedicated to changing their ways."
Says Reilly, "That's fine and all, but when is Congress going to
do something about John Tesh?"
Another NHL Hero
Late in his team's final regular-season game on Sunday, Pavol
Demitra of the St. Louis Blues carried the puck into the Los
Angeles Kings' zone. L.A., trailing 3-2, had pulled its goalie,
and Demitra needed one point to reach 90 for the season and
trigger a $500,000 incentive clause in his contract. But he knew
that his teammate Scott Young was one goal short of the 25 he
needed to earn a $300,000 bonus. So Demitra passed up the open
net and slid the puck to Young, whose shot was blocked by a
Kings defenseman as time ran out. Asked how he could pass up a
certain half million, Demitra said, "Scott needed a goal."
--That hockey after Gretzky turns out better than the
--That Lakers owner Jerry Buss learned a lesson from the Rodman
affair: always listen to Jerry West.
--That the success of synchronized diving won't lead to new sync
sports like synchronized rodeo.
Combined career passer rating of Jim Plunkett, Archie Manning
and Dan Pastorini, the last three quarterbacks to go 1-2-3 in
Super Bowl appearances by Plunkett, Manning and Pastorini with
the teams that drafted them.
Members of Akili Smith's entourage in New York for the NFL
draft, including his high school and junior college coaches, his
criminal lawyer, his pastor and the councilman from his home
district in San Diego.
Donation by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to help the Library of
Congress recreate Thomas Jefferson's book collection.
RBIs in the third inning--on two grand slams and a three-run
homer--by Medicine Lodge (Kans.) High's Tramer Ray in a 26-5 win
Strikeouts by Jasper (Texas) High pitcher Josh Girdley in a
10-inning, 2-1 loss to Livingston High.
Texas Rangers whose last names start with Z (Gregg Zaun, Todd
Zeile and Jeff Zimmerman), tying the major league record for Z's
held by the 1916 Cubs.
Cruel Clothes and I.D. for Big Egos
Who needs another Mark McGwire home run ball? An April 29-30
auction hosted by Mastro Fine Sports of Oak Brook, Ill., and
Sales On Line Direct (www.auctioninc.com) offers more personal
paraphernalia. Want to lounge around in the robe Ty Cobb wore
while he cussed out Al Stump? Bids start at $900. Care to get
gussied up in the purple sequined outfit Tonya Harding wore at
the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships after Nancy Kerrigan
got kneecapped? You'll need at least $2,000. Got a soft spot for
hardware? Try Manny Sanguillen's '71 World Series ring ($2,500)
or Mike Cuellar's '69 Cy Young Award ($5,000).
Two items offer the chance to assume the identity--or at least
the I.D.--of a sports hero. Mickey Mantle's passport (minimum
bid, $6,000) reveals that his eyes were gray and bears customs
stamps from Bermuda, the Bahamas and France. Michael Jordan's
expired Illinois driver's license features nearly a dozen holes
traffic cops made when stapling driving citations to it. It'll
cost you at least $1,000 to be like Mike.
"When I came to, I didn't remember anything," Don Zimmer says of
the beaning that nearly killed him. On July 7, 1953, when Zimmer
was playing for the Triple A St. Paul Saints, he was hit in the
head by a pitch from Columbus hurler Jim Kirk. Surgeons reduced
the pressure on Zim's brain by drilling four holes in his skull,
which were later filled with plugs made of tantalum, a metal
used in lightbulb filaments and nuclear reactors. Three years
later, as a Brooklyn Dodger, Zimmer was beaned by the Reds' Hal
Jeffcoat. "After Jeffcoat hit me in the face," he says, "doctors
examined my skull and said, 'What have you got in there?' I told
them, but somehow reports came out about a steel plate." Why not
correct the tale, which made his head the butt of countless
jokes? "Aw, it's like when people say they saw me play in
Montreal," says the Yankees' interim manager. "I say, 'Thanks, I
enjoyed it,' but I never played there. When somebody brought up
the steel plate, I just said, 'Yeah, sure.'" Steel or no steel,
he's one of the game's magnetic personalities.
Punchin' Judy Hitter
Last Friday's brawl between the Giants and the Diamondbacks
began with the usual exchange. "He said, 'F--- you!' I asked
him, 'F--- you?' and he said, 'Yes, f--- you!'" said San
Francisco third baseman Charlie Hayes (above, being restrained
by Barry Bonds). Hayes, who was on second base when the curses
started flying, charged pitcher Todd Stottlemyre and threw an
overhand haymaker intended to f--- him up good. The fight's
aftermath provided an odd sight--Arizona ace Randy Johnson,
whose hat had fallen off, donning a Giants cap by mistake--and
some of the young season's better postgame quotes.
"I just don't like him," Hayes said of Stottlemyre. "Nobody
likes him because he's an a------. I'm sick of people like that.
Who is he, Sandy Koufax? He's a .500 pitcher, that's all. If he
has a problem with me, we can get it settled. I told him I'd
knock him out."
Stottlemyre shot back from the Diamondbacks' clubhouse: "He
missed me all night, at the plate and on the mound." Told that
Hayes claimed the pitcher had instigated the fight, Stottlemyre
responded, "That tells you how stupid he is. He's obviously
frustrated--that's his problem."
The most telling remark came from Hayes. "He talks too much,"
said the 11-year veteran, who's 0 for 13 lifetime against
Stottlemyre. "He talks like he's Bob Gibson. I'm the only guy
who can't hit him."
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
A new book of inspirational tales, Cries from the Heart: Stories
of Struggle and Hope, features an introduction by Darryl
blowout of the Nets: "I wanted to be the idiot that won by a lot
instead of the idiot that lost the game."