The Fort Wayne Mad Ants are in Springfield, Mass., Thursday to take on the Armor in the NBA Development League. What does this have to do with anything, you ask? Well, the coach of the Mad Ants is Joey Meyer, son of DePaul legend Ray Meyer.
I found myself thinking of Joey the other day when I heard that Texas Tech had fired basketball coach Pat Knight, Bob’s kid. Might there be Mad Ants – or some other strange species – in Pat’s future, I wondered?
It’s hard enough having an icon for a father. What must it be like to inherit a basketball program from him – as those two did? And they’re hardly alone. I count five other college coaches in recent years who have succeeded their dads – and another who took the same job five years later.
It’s a heartwarming story – straight out of the Hallmark Channel – when an accomplished coach passes along a program to his son … but only if the kid does good. If the kid doesn’t do good, the school just looks worse when it cans him (and as an added bonus, the word “nepotism” rears its ugly head). Which raises the question: Why do schools put themselves in this position? Why, for that matter, do the kids put themselves in this position? Couldn’t they get hired someplace else?
The NCAA is awfully good at making rules. Maybe it should make one that says: Coaches shalt not hand over their jobs to their offspring. Then we could all be spared the sight of Pat Knight getting the gate at Texas Tech. Or Sean Sutton, spawn of Eddie, being shown the door at Oklahoma State. Or Murry Bartow, Gene’s boy, getting ushered out at UAB.
Problem is, some of these second-generation coaches have had some success following Pops. Two of them, in fact, work not far from here – John Thompson III and Tony Bennett. JT3 has a ways to go to match his father’s 596 wins, one national championship and three Final Fours at Georgetown, but he did get the Hoyas to the Final Four in his third season. Bennett, meanwhile, took over from his dad Dick at Washington State and coached the Cougars to 69 victories in three years, which got him the Virginia gig (still a work-in-progress).
Keno Davis is another one. Dr. Tom, his father, left behind a nice team at Drake that won 28 games in Keno’s first season. That enabled Keno, suddenly a hot commodity, to land the Providence job. Pretty much the same thing happened to Scott Drew. He succeeded his dad Homer at Valparaiso, won 20 games right out of the chute and moved on to Baylor (and the Elite Eight last year).
Still, a decade from now, Scott, Keno – any of them – could well be coaching a team named the Mad Ants. Joey Meyer, after all, averaged 21 victories in his first eight seasons at DePaul (with a high of 28) before the program began to unravel. In his final year, the Blue Demons finished 3-23. Fortunately for Pat Knight, the Red Raiders never sank to those depths. But if Tech hadn’t pulled the plug, they might have. For that, I guess, we should be grateful.