Late to the Game: Is Augie Garrido the Bob Knight of College Baseball?

augie_knight

Assistant editor Chris O’Connell isn’t from Texas; he’s from New Jersey. That’s OK though—he’s here now. But without growing up in a place that cherishes college sports the way many parts of the South—and especially Texas—do, Chris has taken it upon himself to learn more about all aspects of college athletics in a series we like to call Late to the Game.

My introduction to UT baseball coach Augie Garrido was a video that is essentially a best-of screaming compendium performed by one of the all-time greats (Google it at your own peril). As a huge fan of the angriest winner in the history of the world, former Indiana coach Bobby Knight, I was instantly a Garrido supporter, and from that day on, I associated the two. I’ve seen them as two sides of the same spittle-spewing, championship-winning coin.

But was I wrong to do that? Let’s find out.

Just Win, Baby

Let’s start with what is always the most important factor when it comes to alpha dogs like these: Who has more wins? This one is a bit tricky.

Knight played college basketball at Ohio State, where he was a member of the Buckeyes’ 1960 NCAA Tournament Championship-winning team as a reserve forward. When he shifted to guard in his final two years, he played, but Ohio State fell in the 1961 and 1962 championship games. As a coach with Indiana, he won three NCAA Tournaments, in 1976, 1981, and 1987, plus one NIT Tournament, in 1979. That 1975-76 Hoosiers team is often considered one of the best of all time, and it didn’t lose a game the entire season, which hasn’t been replicated since.

Garrido has five College Baseball World Series titles—three with Cal State Fullerton, and two at Texas. His 1995 Cal State Fullerton team was 53-9, and outscored its final three opponents 33-6 on the way to the championship, as close as you can get to a steamroller team in college baseball. Garrido is the all-time leader in games won, with a 1920-892-9 record, good for a .682 winning percentage. Knight, No. 7 on the men’s college basketball list, is 902-371, which puts him at .709.

Knight has fewer titles, yet he coached a single team considered among the greatest of all-time, and owns a higher winning percentage. Garrido has more titles, and is the all-time leader in wins, but his winning percentage is significantly lower. Knight gets a slight boost for his on-court performance, and the fact that the NCAA Tournament is nearly impossible to win, but still, titles are titles. Just ask Michael Jordan how he feels about his six NBA Finals rings to Kobe Bryant’s five. Then let me know what Jordan says so I can use his quote.

Edge: Garrido

What’s My Name?

This one is easy. Knight is known as “The General,” which is probably the highest rank in the Army. [checks Wikipedia] It is. Garrido doesn’t have a nickname, unless you count the style of small-ball he has inspired, Augie Ball, as a nickname, which I don’t.

Edge: Knight

I Think You Dropped Something

Next up: name dropping. While Knight is infinitely more famous, Garrido can count among his friends none other than Kevin Costner, George W. Bush, and Richard Linklater, who directed a documentary about the coach for ESPN2 and has been known to take batting practice with the team. On the flipside, in 1974, Knight was involved in an altercation with his then-friend, then-Kentucky coach Joe B. Hall. At the end of a blowout, Knight slapped Hall in the back of the head, which understandably caused Hall to flip out. Afterward, Knight offered a weak apology and essentially blamed the incident on Hall. Garrido wins not just at having famous friends, but at being a friend. Mr. Rogers would be proud.

Edge: Garrido

Off Court/Field Behavior

Garrido has two well-known missteps. After a loss to his old team Cal State Fullerton in the 2004 College Baseball World Series, Garrido was compelled to apologize after he didn’t send his players back out onto the field to receive their second-place trophy.  The other was his four-game suspension following a 2009 DWI, for which Garrido has apologized, calling the event a “serious mistake.”

“I’m not a martyr here,” Garrido said after the incident. “I’m not asking for sympathy. I’m just saying I’d like to walk the same walk that I ask my players to walk. And that’s what I’m doing.”

The “Criticism and Controversy” section of Knight’s Wikipedia page is more than 1,700 words long, and is separated by decade because of the number of incidents. Some highlights: he choked IU’s Sports Information Director in the ’70s; made a controversial comment to Connie Chung, comparing what the refs were doing to his team to rape, in the ’80s; gave profanity laden halftime speech to his Hoosiers in the ’90s; and allegedly fired a shotgun in the direction of another man in Lubbock when he was coaching at Texas Tech in the ’00s. The one good thing he’s done recently is yell at some SMU fans to sit down during a recent game against Temple. Sit down, Mustangs. It’s the civilized thing to do.

Edge: Garrido

The Verdict

Both Knight and Garrido are fierce competitors, which is to say that they hate losing so much that they have been known to lose their minds under two distinct circumstances: after a perceived slight by the ref or umpire, or when a player or players aren’t performing. And sure, Garrido is pretty incredible at getting his point across when he needs to. But he never threw a chair or hit a player or offended an entire race of people.

When I first thought of comparing these two, my understanding was that Knight was the consummate winner, the bad boy who managed to squeeze victory out of every moment, and the model for an outspoken college coach. I also had it in my head that Garrido, knowing him only from the aforementioned video and a quick glance at his Baseball Reference page, was much more nefarious than he really is. Here’s the truth, as I see it: Garrido is a better version of Knight, a fiery winner who gets close to that line, dips his toes over, but never fully crosses, which is where the two coaches depart.

I asked Stuart Reilly, BA ’01, who you may remember from last week, to summarize Garrido in one sentence. He decided to respond in Haiku form, which I suppose is acceptable:

likes to bunt a lot
has a lot of famous friends
they say he is Zen

And now I have a nickname for Garrido: The Zen Master. Is that taken?

Photo illustration by Melissa Reese

 

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