Mac Engel

Big Mac Bites: This is the Longhorns’ only move with Shaka Smart; Luka equal to Shaq?

Big Mac Chat with Fox Sports’ Kate Abdo

Fox Sports' Kate Abdo joined Fort Worth Star-Telegram sports columnist Mac Engel for the latest edition of The Big Mac Chat; she will be hosting the Fox telecast of the Errol Spence Jr. fight against Mikey Garcia on Saturday night at AT&T Stadium.
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Fox Sports' Kate Abdo joined Fort Worth Star-Telegram sports columnist Mac Engel for the latest edition of The Big Mac Chat; she will be hosting the Fox telecast of the Errol Spence Jr. fight against Mikey Garcia on Saturday night at AT&T Stadium.

If Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte is concerned about finding the money necessary to fire Shaka Smart, he can always raise the funds through the sale of roster spots on the Texas men’s tennis team. After all, there is precedence and it is quite lucrative.

Del Conte finds the question of potentially firing Smart as men’s basketball coach at UT to be “ludicrous talk,” which is his way of spreading the court and going into an extended stall, because he has no choice regardless of expense.

This version of the four-corners offense may just last another year.

The rock star athletic director at the University of Texas has encountered his first visibly hard decision since he arrived in Austin, and he has to fire his basketball coach.

No matter how small the sport of basketball is in Texas, and specifically at the University of Texas, Del Conte can’t afford to have this big of a loser on the floor, or on his spread sheet.

Texas basketball under Shaka isn’t good enough, and just like when Del Conte knew it with Trent Johnson at TCU, he does so now.

A four-year record of 66-66 is a record only Satan would love, and power conference coaches would dread. A decent power conference team can buy about eight to 10 wins a year. So, you do the math. Seriously. You do it, because I hate math.

Change is painful, and potentially expensive. In this case, buying out Shaka will cost UT about $13 million; for Del Conte, he can find $13 million under one of Bevo’s flops.

Not making this change will be more expensive. All of those burnt orange empty seats at the Erwin Center in Austin will force Del Conte into a decision he does not want to make, whether it’s today or next year.

When Del Conte fired Johnson at TCU in the spring of 2016, he pained and hurt over the conversation. These are kids, these are lives, and there are families who are affected. This is also the job.

UT doesn’t pay CDC more than $1 million per year to just Tweet.

Smart is a good person and a decent coach, who simply is in the wrong place. It happens.

Del Conte has no choice, and to avoid the subject is ludicrous.

WITNESSING THE TRUE GREATNESS OF DAN JENKINS

The memorial service for Dan Jenkins on Friday morning was attended by approximately 200 hundred people, including some sports writers who admired, and flat out feared, him so.

Many of us in attendance shared a similar bond: An initial fear of approaching Jenkins. We are in a career that requires approaching imposing figures and personalities, but going up to an unimposing man who did the same thing for a living was somehow Herculean.

I could not do it for 20 years, until someone finally did it for me. Thank you, Susan Nix. I felt like an idiot around him, because I was in awe of him.

Award-winning sports writer Wright Thompson went through the same thing.

“I took my copy of (Jenkins’ book), ‘You Gotta Play Hurt,’ to Augusta National once to get it signed by him and I was so terrified of him that I chickened out,” Thompson said after the service on Friday.

Thompson eventually met Jenkins, and had him sign his book. Jenkins had a wonderful way of making us hacks feel that we are on his plane, yet all of us were merely riding donkeys by comparison.

Thompson encapsulated what made Friday’s service so difficult, and ultimately important: Watching Jenkins’ wife of nearly 60 years, June, walk up the aisle at Christ Chapel with their family. She cut the image of love, or sorrow, and of love lost.

We revered Jenkins because of his work, but these are the people who loved him for who he was.

“It’s strange to see his family because they are a reminder that he is a real human being with hopes and dreams and fears and loves and successes and victories. He seemed so larger than life because he was an icon as opposed to dad,” Thompson said. “You realize that he’s not just the best sports writer but that he didn’t trade some essential piece of himself for that. He left the world with his family fully intact, and he didn’t have to give anything up to get to where he was going. I was struck by a profound sense of a job well done.”

Amen, and amen.

LUKA = SHAQ

The Dallas Mavs are descending to a cruising altitude of 12-feet at the rate of a rock dropped from Mars, and rookie Luka Doncic needs to hibernate on a beach for the summer. He is running on a dead battery.

One baffling element about good shooters, which The Luka qualifies, is when they go Shaq from the foul line. In a two-game stretch this week, Luka was 4-of-16 from the foul line, including 1-of-9.

And he is still the easy choice for the NBA Rookie of the Year.

A LASTING WORD FROM MR. JENKINS

In my September interview with Dan Jenkins, I asked him if he ever re-read his books, or work.

“No, I could not stand to do it. They should have been better. Every single (bleeping) one of them,” he said.

His favorite was “Semi-Tough” because, he said, “it made me the most money. You know ... that book could not get published today.”

Read it today and he’s right. The language in it would get him pushed into the Trinity. I asked him if the men of his era could cover and write about sports today the way they did then.

“I don’t know,” he said, “nor would I care.”

An eternal inspiration. I loved the man.

A BOLD PREDICTION

The Cleveland Browns are loaded, and they will not make the playoffs.

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