SXSW 2017: Interview with Pat Kondelis for “Disgraced”

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(Image via SXSW)

Disgraced is the best documentary from this year’s SXSW. The story of a murdered Baylor basketball player with the blood somehow being on the hands of the school and it’s coaches makes for a compelling and fascinating watch. As a sports fan and a fan of true crime documentaries, I was totally engulfed with this tale. This movie will entertain you as much as it will infuriate you. The hypocrisy of Baylor University and the culture the surrounds Waco, Texas.

After the film’s world premiere, I got to briefly chat with Pat Kondelis, the director behind Disgraced. Here’s the transcript of our interview.

You kind of talked about this at the Q&A about what made you want to pursue this. So why did you pursue this story? 

PAT: We were really just trying to find answers as to what was really going on. Because once we started doing research it was clear that there’s a lot more there than I think was previously known and previously reported on. So it really became, how do we get this information and how do we figure out what actually happened, and try to answer those questions and get closer to the truth. And I think we get that, and a lot more information but there’s also a lot more questions that are raised by I think some of the things that we found.

I was born and raised in Austin, so I’m pretty familiar with Waco and all that. When this movie was announced, this was the first that I had ever heard of this case. Why is it that this is the first that some of us are hearing about this case? 

PAT: I don’t know. I’m not sure. There was a lot of reporting about it when it happened but it went away very quickly, and I think that was probably intentional on Baylor and the fact that there was no trial, right? There was two years between when Patrick was murdered and they were even close to going to trial, and then that doesn’t happen. So at that point, what are you going to talk about, right? Well this guy [Dave Bliss] he got busted by the NCAA, he got his fines, there was more reporting on that when that happened. But after that, the story’s gone. So unless there’s a new piece of information or something like that, it makes sense that people aren’t going to talk about it anymore.

How did you get Dave Bliss to talk about this?

PAT: It took some time. We met and had lots of lunches and things, lots of phone conversations, but I think Dave likes to talk-

You can kind of tell by watching the movie (Laughs). 

PAT: Yeah! And he had just come out with a book, I think he wanted to do kind of his comeback, his redemption. I was completely open to that and told him that, ‘I wanted to hear your perspective, your side of the story and everything that happened.’, but we’re going to talk about everything, and I’m gonna ask you very difficult questions and he knew that and said okay. And I pleaded with him to be honest, and he didn’t do it. And I don’t know why, I don’t know he wouldn’t just cop to it, but that’s what happened.

What was your reaction at first when you’re starting to interview him and his story is not really lining up with everybody else’s? What’s going through your head? 

PAT: When he stands up and starts saying everything about the drugs, that was the first interview that we did and we had been talking for about three hours up to that point. So when he says that, you see his body language changes, the inflection in his voice changes, it’s like he stops being on-camera Dave but I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about. I was completely caught off guard, that’s why you can kind of hear me fumbling with my words like an idiot going, “Oh my God, is this true? Are you saying that the cops knew about this and they buried it?” That was all new information and I was shocked that he was saying it, but we figured out that that clearly was not the case, after the fact. And then the second time we interviewed him we had done a lot more interviews and had gotten a lot more information, so there were very specific questions that I had asked.

Why is it that people like Kirk Watson and all these people connected with Baylor are still very hush-hush about all this? 

PAT: I don’t know. I think it’s a great question, but I don’t know the answer. It leads me to believe that why wouldn’t you talk, unless you have something to hide, right? So I don’t know. We reached out to everybody and bent over backwards to try to get people to talk and give them an opprotunity to say their piece, and we had no intention of destroying Baylor or tearing anything down. I have friends that went to Baylor, I’ve worked with people there on other projects that we’ve done. But it’s strange the way that they shut down, and people just bury their head in the sand and just hope it goes away.

There’s obviously a connection between this story and the ongoing sexual assault scandal going on at Baylor. Why do you think there’s still kind of that culture at Baylor of making sure that nothing taints the image of the university? 

PAT: I don’t know, I think they need to get a better PR team. They really do, because if bad things happen you have to come forward and address it to get it all out, and then kind of purge the entire situation. They don’t do that, and I don’t understand why. I know from their perspective there’s a lot to lose. The revenue that comes into college athletics is phenomenal, especially with Baylor in the Big 12 and some of the boosters that they have. And I think there’s always a constant fear that they’re going to lose revenue, they’re going to lose recruits. Those things really matter as shallow as they can seem sometimes, there’s a lot tied into those athletic programs, and for whatever reason, they just don’t come forward with it. I wish they would.

Thanks to Pat for taking the time to speak with me, and thanks to the good people at Showtime for setting all of this up. Disgraced airs on Showtime on Friday, March 31st.

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