|Wednesday, July 2
Updated: July 7, 12:20 PM ET
Bliss: Dennehy is a player 'you love to coach'
By Andy Katz
WACO, Texas -- Baylor coach Dave Bliss wanted to talk about Patrick Dennehy, Carlton Dotson and his program.
Late Wednesday night, Bliss did just that with ESPN in an exclusive one-on-one interview.
Baylor's legal counsel was naturally on edge with a missing persons' case still open, and if an affidavit is proven true, then it could be ruled a potential homicide.
Bliss has three college-age children and has tried to relate to the pain and disbelief that Dennehy's family is going through while awaiting word on his fate.
"Unfortunately I have had to think about that in the last 10 days, because I've had to make the phone calls,'' Bliss said.
"Only a parent knows how much and how valuable the child is. I know that I have other children -- the other teammates -- and I have a lot of people I have a great deal of concern about because I have concern about our own family.''
How hard was the first phone call?
"There is nothing that can ever prepare you for something like that,'' Bliss said.
"I remember situations occurring where there was the Oklahoma State plane crash and things like that and I actually would feel relieved that I never in all my years of coaching been through anything that was as difficult as that.
"What you have to remember, in our situation, next to the parents we probably loved that person as much as anybody. So I know that they understand that it is as difficult for us to make as it is for them to get.''
Bliss described Dennehy, a transfer from New Mexico who redshirted the past season, as one of the guys "you love to coach and you love to have around.''
He said Dennehy flashed his teeth and had bright eyes. Dennehy recruited for Bliss while he was redshirting. He called him a caring, friendly and energetic person.
"The other part is that I really looked forward to coaching Patrick because he has so much untapped potential because of that tremendous size and that tremendous energy,'' Bliss said of the 6-foot-10 Dennehy.
Dennehy injured his knee the second day of practice last season so he sat out three months and didn't practice until the end of the season.
But Bliss said Dennehy was around the team throughout his idle time. He said that assistant coach Rodney Belcher, who came to Baylor from the New Mexico staff a year ago, monitored Dennehy's behavior throughout the year.
Dennehy, who has been praised by Baylor professors for his attentiveness in class, was an apparent fit for this Baptist-based school in Central Texas.
"He is one who really believes in Baylor and as a born-again Christian, you know I think that he really feels this is where God intends him to be,'' Bliss said.
Dennehy had a few well-reported incidents of a temper when he was at New Mexico. The most notable occurred Feb. 9, 2002 when he argued with a teammate and then during a timeout shoved another player and knocked over a chair and headed for the locker room. The Lobos lost the game to Air Force. Dennehy was eventually told not to return to the team when new coach Ritchie McKay replaced Fran Fraschilla.
But Bliss wasn't concerned about any of Dennehy's problems at New Mexico.
"The only thing I remember about his attitude at New Mexico is when we played him when we were here at Baylor. He got rebounds and blocked shots and that's when I knew he might be a pretty good basketball player. But again, I can't compare him to New Mexico, because I wasn't there. All I know is that he is a Big 12 basketball player.
"At 6-foot-10 and 240 pounds Patrick's fearless,'' Bliss said. "And in the Big 12 fearless counts for something. When he played when he came back, even though he had been hurt, his rehab was tremendous and he came back faster than anybody would expect. And so consequently he is somebody we expect to have a real impact. His size in the Big 12 is what the Big 12 is all about."
Was there ever any instance of his temper or anything like that?
"Well, Pat is a very energetic person as I said,'' Bliss said.
"A lot of our players get excited out there and there are always flare-ups, if you don't have flare-ups then you don't have competition, but nothing of manner that I had heard about prevailed at New Mexico. A lot of times you know he would get embroiled going for a rebound or a loose ball or something along that line but it was all just in the good healthy aspect of competition.''
Dotson was characterized as a player who thought he should be playing more after the Bears signed him as a late addition in 2002 out of Paris (Texas) Junior College.
Bliss and Dotson met at the end of the season and they mutually decided that he should look elsewhere to play because his minutes would be down with Dennehy ahead of him, joining R.T. Guinn, Lawrence Roberts and incoming junior college transfer Harvey Thomas, among others. Bliss said he would help Dotson find a new home to play his senior season.
How did he handle it? Was he angry at all?
"Well no, I'll tell you he wants to play basketball, so he could have come back if he wanted. It's just that I knew in this particular case, he already knew he had Lawrence ahead of him and R.T. Guinn ahead of him and the two youngsters are significantly bigger than he is,'' Bliss said.
"And he knows Patrick is bigger than he is. He just weighed it out. Dotty is a fine student, he has a 2.5 and he can transfer anywhere. Again, he is one that I think just considered the basketball playing time the issue.''
Dotson and Dennehy have been said to be close friends. Bliss said they became good friends in the offseason, often seen lifting weights together. The two even traveled to Albuquerque last month to play in the New Mexico Games. But there were no signs of disagreement that Bliss observed. He said Dotson didn't have a temper, but just showed normal emotions of disgust when he was taken out of the game.
"He is a person that wants to please and I felt that he had a great relationship with the coaching staff,'' Bliss said. "He still wanted more playing time and that usually was the prime area of concern when he talked to the coaches.''
Basketball is far from Bliss' mind now. He said he couldn't explain how insignificant the game is at this time. But next week starts the July evaluation period.
Belcher and associate head coach Doug Ash would rather not go on the road. Bliss isn't sure what will happen.
"All I know is that Baylor University is still the same wonderful, educational university. It's still got the great Christian commitment, it's still in the best basketball league in America and all we can hope is that we go out there and continue to function as we have. As things play out and time goes on we hope the truth is known. Baylor believes in the truth and all we can do is pray each and every day that we move a step closer.''
But how comfortable would he be sitting in the stands at the Nike or Adidas camps next week while police are searching the farms around Waco for Dennehy?
"You go through the last 10 days and you don't even know what day it is,'' Bliss said. "But I want to go out on the road because I want to get back to being a basketball coach.''
He said the team grew closer over the past few weeks, even those teammates who aren't in summer school. For now, Bliss has to lean heavily on his family, especially his wife, Claudia. She said she doesn't know how he's been able to handle the weight of this tragic situation. "You know what I'll tell you what I do, I get really frustrated,'' Bliss said, his voice cracking, his eyes welling with tears.
"The reason you get really frustrated ... is when you know you're a person that is in control of things and you can't control things."
And how often has he slept through the night?
"It is difficult to do a lot of things, cause what you do is you think about things all the time,'' Bliss said.
"I haven't slept in a long time through the night. The Waco police and all the police that are involved in this are trying as hard as they can. And you just hope for the best.''
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.