Saturday, March 24, 2001

Big 12 coaches welcome Knight




By ALEX LYDA
Associated Press Writer

        Bob Knight, the fiery-tempered basketball coach whose on-court tirades include throwing chairs and jostling his players, has a new set of friends — rival Big 12 coaches.

        The conference's coaches overwhelmingly view Knight's hiring at Texas Tech on Friday as a boon for the Big 12.

        “I am thrilled, personally, that Bob Knight is back in college coaching,” Baylor's Dave Bliss said. “And while I wish that we didn't have to compete against each other, Texas Tech and (athletic director) Gerald Myers are a perfect match for one of the best coaches ever. The Big 12 Conference just got better.”

        Knight was hired by Texas Tech after a six-month exile from college basketball. The school offered him a $1.25 million deal that comes to about $400,000 annually.

        Big 12 coaches said just Knight's name is enough to generate positive attention for the Tech basketball program and the conference.

        “Bob Knight's name alone will bring a lot of attention and exposure to not only Texas Tech, but to the rest of the league,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said. “Obviously, his coaching record speaks for itself. He has been a huge part of college basketball for the past three decades.”

        Knight, whose temper led to his firing from Indiana in September, coached the Hoosiers to three national titles in 29 years.

        The season before Knight was hired by Indiana, the Hoosiers went 7-17, including 3-11 in the Big Ten. They were 17-7 overall and 9-5 in the conference in his first season, and won four consecutive Big Ten titles from 1973-76. Besides three national championships, he also won 11 Big Ten championships and an Olympic gold medal in 1984.

        “Bobby had some wonderful qualities as a person,” Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton said. “Every once in a while, things have happened that are disappointing to his friends and, probably, even to himself.”

        “Texas Tech and Coach Knight will have the full support of the conference office as do all the coaches in our league,” Big 12 commissioner Kevin Weiberg said.

        Tech is counting on Knight to improve a program that has declined since reaching the Sweet 16 five years ago.

        Colorado basketball coach Ricardo Patton said the Big 12 “has always been known for its outstanding coaches, and Coach Knight certainly adds to that.”

        Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson said it's time to look forward rather than dwell on Knight's past.

        “Too often we judge people on certain things,” Sampson said. “I'm sure coach Knight's done things he regrets, just like we've all done.”

        Praise for Knight in the coaches ranks came from outside the Big 12, as well.

        “It's great for our part of the country, and especially the Big 12 will get a shot in the arm,” said Don Haskins, who coached Texas-El Paso for 38 years and is a close friend of Knight's.

        Regarding the Tech professors who opposed Knight's selection, he said tersely, “They don't know him. All they know is a few things that have happened.”

        Stanford coach Mike Montgomery said Knight has not been accurately portrayed.

        “To characterize him as a monster, like so many people want to do, I don't think is accurate,” Montgomery said. “He is a unique person and has some personality quirks that probably don't get along with everybody, but he's been a great coach for a lot of years. I hope he has a lot of success.”

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