Friday, March 23, 2001

Lubbock prepares to welcome Knight


Coach won't have much culture shock, natives say

By PAM EASTON
Associated Press Writer

        LUBBOCK, Texas — The Texas South Plains could be the perfect fit for a man who thrives on independence as much as former Indiana coach Bob Knight.

        Most people in Lubbock believe in taking care of their own, hard work is a way of life, friendships are made over a morning cup of coffee at a local diner and family, religion and conservative values are held in the highest esteem.

        On Friday, Texas Tech University and the region that surrounds it will begin to see if the independent spirit of the region and the volatile coach can mesh.

        Knight was expected to be named the university's 12th head coach during a news conference at United Spirit Arena — which could draw more fans than the Red Raiders did in their less-than-desirable performances all season.

        Those who have spent time in both Bloomington, Ind., and Lubbock say Knight won't suffer too much culture shock when he begins to call this West Texas city with red brick downtown roads and an occasional dust storm home.

        Lubbock and Bloomington are cut from similar cloth, according to some, and that's what makes Lubbock attractive to the General.

        “He likes remote areas,” Tech president David Schmidly said of Knight. “This is not a big city man. He and his wife visited here and they enjoyed Lubbock — even the sandstorm didn't bother him. He thinks this would be a good place for him to resume his career. He's positive about Texas Tech.”

        And Tech is positive about him.

        “I think he's one of the best basketball coaches to ever live,” Schmidly said earlier this week. “I think if we can get him here and his behavior is right and he is energetic, enthused and has the same values that all of us have in West Texas and Texas Tech — I think it could be a very good decision on our part.”

        Texas Tech history professor Ron Rainger isn't convinced the decision is the best one for the university where he has taught for 17 years, but after doing his graduate work at Indiana University he sees the similarities between the two communities.

        “They are both communities that are very steeped in traditional values and religious values,” he said. “Neither community is one that really likes or supports a lot of criticism.”

        Such a lack of criticism will play in Knight's favor, the professor said.

        “Knight was very much loved by people throughout Indiana. They often revered him,” Rainger said. “There is also going to be a lot of support for him here because for many people he represents the traditional values of discipline and hard work. And even if his behavior goes a little bit too far, it goes toward achieving those principles, so it's overlooked.”

        But that doesn't mean Knight isn't going to have to watch his p's and q's while coaching in West Texas, Rainger said.

        Last fall, first-year Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach found himself under criticism for playing a profanity-laced song as a memory trigger for his players during games. Leach implemented the system as a way to relate to his players and get them to remember certain goals emphasized in practice.

        It worked great until some complained of the profanity in one of the songs. To rectify the situation, Leach eliminated the song and asked the university's band to help out with his memory-triggering exercise.

        “If Coach Knight does come out as very aggressive or using a lot of bad language, some people may have a problem with it,” Rainger said.

        Texas Tech music professor Bill Hartwell, who also completed his graduate work at Indiana, said the only thing missing in Lubbock is the amount of hunting and fishing available near Bloomington. Both are favorite pastimes of Knight's.

        But other than less access to outdoors activities, Hartwell expects the coach to feel right at home.

        “He'll have his independence and he'll enjoy it here,” the music professor said. “I think he's really going to fit in. The students will just envelop him like a glove.”

        The main hill Knight will have to climb in this otherwise flat region will be finding a way to overcome the popularity of football and Tech coach Marsha Sharp's former national championship Lady Raiders, who capture a larger crowd than their male counterparts.

        “I suspect Knight didn't really have to think about the women's basketball team in Indiana,” Rainger said. “Knight was the show in Indiana. But here, the Lady Raiders are the top billing and that is going to be a real difference for him.

        “It's going to be very hard for anybody to match the popularity of what Marsha Sharp has going, even with Knight coming in as the new 800-pound gorilla.”

       Complete tournament coverage at Cincinnati.com



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