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SPORTS WEEKEND | TV-RADIO

Donahue Running Option From Booth

December 06, 1996|LARRY STEWART

One more trip east and Terry Donahue will have completed his first full regular season as a college football commentator. He will work Saturday's Army-Navy game, and then get a few weeks off before doing a bowl game, probably the Fiesta.

"I felt more comfortable as the season progressed and enjoyed it more as the season progressed," Donahue said. "All in all, it's been a pretty good first year."

And CBS gives its rookie announcer high marks.

"He's doing a wonderful job," said Mike Aresco, the network's vice president in charge of college

sports. "He's going to be among the best in the business."

Since it has been established that Donahue declined to interview for Lou Holtz's job at Notre Dame, one might conclude Donahue is through with coaching.

"I really need another tour of duty in broadcasting to really evaluate what lies in my future," the former UCLA coach said. "I might go back to coaching, I might stay in broadcasting. I just don't know."

Those close to Donahue say if he does go back to coaching it will be at the pro level.

*

ESPN flew Dexter Manley from Houston to Los Angeles to appear on "Up Close" with Chris Myers on Monday, but Manley didn't make it to the show.

Manley, the former all-pro defensive end who was released from prison after serving 15 months of a four-year sentence for drug possession, was supposed to be picked up at the Beverly Prescott Hotel, but he told the limo driver he had an errand to run, then disappeared.

ESPN had to fill in with a show that had been previously taped.

Manley ended up back in Houston, saying he had left for personal reasons. Authorities and his parole officer are investigating what he did and where he went when he disappeared.

"It's the first time I've been stood up since my senior prom," Myers said. "If he ever wants to be on the show again, he'll have to pay his own way."

It was a far cry from Evander Holyfield, who unexpectedly asked to be on the show the Monday after his victory over Mike Tyson.

And Myers figures he won't have any problems with next Monday's guest, reliable Tom Landry.

*

Then there's Bob Knight. Roy Firestone, the former host of the daily "Up Close" shows who now does prime-time specials for ESPN, was in Bloomington, Ind., recently to interview the Indiana coach.

"Of all the interviews I've ever done, this was the most incredible," Firestone said. "Never before have I gone into an interview thinking one way and left thinking entirely the other. Of all the people I've interviewed, I have more respect for this man than anyone, and that certainly wasn't the case before the interview."

ESPN planned to show it next week but had to clear a full hour and now has it scheduled for Feb. 7.

Firestone, who recently won an ACE award as the best interviewer in cable television, beating out the likes of Larry King and Howard Stern, said it took him a year to get Knight to agree to talk to him. And he said he couldn't have done it without intervention by two of Knight's closest friends, Ted Williams and horse trainer Wayne Lukas.

"The first time [Knight] called me back--and I was surprised he even called--he said, 'You got a lot of . . . nerve. Why would I ever do your show?' "

Firestone explained he wanted to show people the other side of Knight so he could be more understood. "He said, 'I don't need to show my other side. I don't need to be understood by anyone.'

"I think he puts up this barrier of rudeness and crudeness to test you. Once you break through that, you're OK. There's a method to his madness, and there is a lot of madness."

Firestone said that during the interview Knight almost breaks down. "I've been accused of trying to get people to cry, but that certainly wasn't my intent in this case," he said.

Firestone said Knight got emotional when talking about Landon Turner, a player Knight was particularly tough on. Turner was paralyzed in a car accident four months after helping Indiana win the 1981 NCAA title.

The Boston Celtics, then coached by the Clippers' Bill Fitch, made Turner, who would have been a first-rounder, the last pick--225th--in the 1982 draft.

"What people don't know is the Celtics did that because Knight called Red Auerbach [the Celtics' general manager] and pleaded with him to do it, telling him it had always been Turner's dream to be drafted by the Celtics," Firestone said.

TV-Radio Notes

On paper, it appears NBC has a top-quality NFL game Sunday--Denver at Green Bay. But with John Elway not expected to play and the 12-1 Broncos having already clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, this one loses some luster. . . . Because NBC has to fit two college basketball games into a four-hour block Saturday, the first game of the John R. Wooden Classic at the Pond of Anaheim, Arizona-Utah, will be joined in progress at 11 a.m. The end of that game and the start of the second game, Louisville-Louisiana State, will go head to head with Kansas-UCLA, which will be on CBS at 12:30 p.m.

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