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Duke Should Have Listened to Bobby Knight

Washington Post columnist John Feinstein makes the case for Maryland hiring Mark Turgeon as their new basketball coach in today's column, but it is his lead that will create a case of Post Traumatic Syndrome for Longhorn basketball fans with a long memory.

According to Feinstein, Knight wanted Duke to hire his former assistant and childhood buddy, Bob Weltlich instead of Mike Krzyzewski.

Feinstein gets part of the story wrong -- Weltlich was still as Mississippi and not Texas at the time of the Duke opening, but still the Longhorns could have avoided a trainwreck had the Duke AD listened to Knight.

Coach K was a senior Captain for Knight at West Point.

Krzyzewski was 73-59 as the head coach at Army when the Duke job came open. Weltlich was 48-68 at Ole Miss -- but had two straight winning seasons at a school considered to be at the bottom of the SEC. Duke Athletics Directer Tom Butters had interviewed Krzyzewski and was impressed, but feared the heat he would take for hiring a coach from a military academy that had gone 9-17 that year. Knight pushed for Weltlich, who had been an assistant on the 1976 National Championship team and had been a lifelong friend of the Indiana coach.

After a 2nd interview with Coach K, Butters thanked him for coming and was going to take Knight's advice and call Weltlich up for an interview.

When Steve Vacendak, Butters’ top lieutenant, asked him why he had sent Krzyzewski home, Butters said: "I think I’d get crushed for hiring him with his record and lack of experience."
"Do you think he’s the best coach for the job?"


The way Butters told the story, that’s when he made his decision. He sent Vacendak to the airport to bring Krzyzewski back and offered him the job. He never called Weltlich

Weltlich led Mississippi to its first NCAA basketball tournament by upsetting Georgia in the SEC Post-Season Tournament in 1981. But in his 6 years at Ole Miss he never had a winning record in SEC play. When Abe Lemons imploded after the disastrous Mike Wacker injury in 1981-82, Texas went for the polar opposite and hired Weltlich -- who had all the charm and people skills of his Indiana buddy -- without the wins.

Weltlich, nicknamed "Kaiser Bob" during his stay at Texas, pushed players to the limit, including during the Holidays. Sean Tuohy played point guard for Weltich at Ole Miss. Tuohy and his wife, Leigh Anne are the adoptive parents of Michael Oher, the subject of the book and movie, "The Blind Side."

In the book Tuohy tells the story of the Ole Miss basketball team coming back on on a marathon trip Christmas day after losing a game in Illinois. Weltlich called for a practice as soon as they arrived on campus. As the team got ready to watch game film, Weltlich leaned into Tuohy's ear and said, "Hey 12, Merry F%^king Christmas."

Bob Weltlich was 77-98 as the head coach at Texas with one NIT appearence.

Stories like that abound during Wetlich's stay at Texas, and he was finally released after six seasons. Like his mentor/friend, Weltlich could evaluate talent and character, and he left his successor (Tom Penders) some real players - including Travis Mays, Lance Blanks and Joey Wright of BMW fame. His biggest problem was treating said talent like human beings when they arrived on campus.

While at Ole Miss, Weltlich was the consensus SEC Coach of the Year in 1980, took the team to two NIT appearances as well as their first NCAA tournament. The 1981 SEC Tournament title was the first conference basketball tournament crown for Ole Miss since winning the 1928 Southern Conference Championship. Just this last March Bob Weltlich was honored at the 2011 SEC Men's Basketball Tournament as one of 12 SEC Basketball Legends, one from each team.

After leaving Texas, Weltlich coached at Florida International and South Alabama before resigning after the 2002 season.

Not really sure whatever happened to that Krzyzewski guy.