Jersey policy needs ironing out at SMU, Texas
by Tim Cowlishaw
Most are deserving of having their numbers retired, but ... ... at times, the selection process can be baffling
As universities go, SMU and Texas do many things really, really well. Apparently, retiring jerseys isn't one of them.
I am not going to knock SMU for retiring Jon Koncak's No. 53 on Saturday night. I would not want to rain on his parade.
Koncak was a junior the year I covered SMU as a beat writer. That was the year in which SMU nearly stunned Georgetown in the NCAA Tournament, losing 37-36. That was the only really close call the Hoyas had in their run to an NCAA championship.
Koncak pretty much made his name in that game, holding his own against Patrick Ewing. As a senior, he made second-team All-America and won Olympic gold playing for coach Bob Knight in 1984.
It's not that Koncak doesn't deserve to see his jersey up in the rafters. It's just that a couple of Mustangs got skipped along the way.
Jim Krebs, an All-American from the '50s, is the only player honored. What happened to Gene Phillips? All he earned was Southwest Conference Player of the Year honors in 1969.
What happened to Ira Terrell, a high school legend at Roosevelt, who nearly went to UCLA before choosing to stay home?
I was covering college basketball as a student at Texas when Terrell was playing. I was covering SMU for The Dallas Morning News when Koncak played.
Again, it is no disrespect to Koncak, who improved dramatically in his four years at SMU and earned the right to have his number retired. But you can't compare the two as college players.
Koncak averaged 14.5 points and 9.5 rebounds for his four-year career.
Terrell averaged 21.4 points and 13.5 rebounds for his three-year career.
Koncak's best numbers â€“ 17.2 points as a senior, 11.5 rebounds as a junior â€“ were not as good as Terrell's lowest totals (19.4 points as a freshman, 13.0 rebounds as a sophomore).
There would be no reason to compare these two had SMU's Hall of Fame committee, made up mostly of Lettermen's Club members, done the right thing and honored Terrell long ago. Heck, he should have his number retired just for those hundreds of men's and women's games he has sat through the last 20 years.
Koncak had a better pro career but that's not really the issue when a college is retiring numbers. At least, it shouldn't be.
Oh, by the way, SMU has put Terrell into a rather delicate situation since he will be working the pregame show Saturday night. What's he supposed to say? "Yes, Koncak was a terrific player, about two-thirds as good as I was?"
Terrell will handle it graciously, but SMU should consider making amends next season with a better-late-than-never recognition of the man's contributions.
As for Phillips, all he did was average 26.1 points for his career. The three SWC player of the year awards alone should have brought him the recognition.
For some reason at SMU, they didn't.
At Texas, the situation is different. It was announced this week that the men's council on athletics will look at "retiring jerseys" next month and that Vince Young and Kevin Durant probably will be the players considered.
We don't need to spend much time discussing Young's merits. National title, greatest championship-game performance by a quarterback. Ever. Done deal.
But what about Durant?
He was an amazing talent last year, put on an incredible display. First freshman to win National Player of the Year awards. And he won all of them.
And then he was gone.
Should a player who spent one year on a campus be celebrated in such a way? Unquestionably, the most talented player Texas men's basketball ever had. No arguments there.
But his achievements were strictly individual. Didn't win the Big 12.
Didn't win the conference tournament. Team went out in the second round of the NCAAs, which is an average to poor performance for a Rick Barnes Texas team.
He's gone now, and the Longhorns are in position to grab a No. 2 seed. They at least will be favored to go farther without him than they did with him.
I appreciate Durant's skills as much as anyone. He was fabulous to watch.
But isn't this just a subtle way for Texas to send the message, "Hey, we are fine with players who come here and leave after one year. Come on down. Stop by for a couple semesters and enjoy an education."
Personally, I think Durant is just fine moving on and (eventually) tearing up the NBA without needing to retire a jersey that barely needed washing