Saturday, March 24, 2001

Texas Tech puts out red sweater for Knight

Associated Press Writer

Bobby Knight, wearing his new red vest, and wife Karen at Friday's introduction at Texas Tech.
(AP photo)
| ZOOM |
        LUBBOCK, Texas — Bob Knight looked the same, especially after he pulled on the red Texas Tech sweater vest. He sounded the same, too.

        Knight returned to college basketball Friday, ending a six-month exile to coach a Red Raiders team that hopes he can build a winner — and control his famous temper.

        After missing his first college season since 1963-64, the former Indiana coach signed a five-year, $1.25 million deal with Tech. With other incentives, the salary comes to about $400,000 annually, athletic director Gerald Myers said.

        Knight pulled on the vest as he was introduced to thousands of cheering fans during what turned out to be a pep rally for a Hall of Fame coach who won three national championships in 29 years with the Hoosiers.

        “This is without a doubt the most comfortable red sweater I've had in six years,” said Knight, who almost always wore one while prowling Indiana's sidelines. But this one sports a “TT” instead of “IU.”

        Other than that, it sounded like the same ol' Bob Knight — brash, defiant and unapologetic for the events that led to his September firing at Indiana, including grabbing one of his players by the neck during practice.

        Asked about his behavior at Indiana, Knight replied:

        “I'm not sure what the pattern of unacceptable behavior was, except that I was told about four things that happened three years, eight years, 11 years and 22 years prior to that.

        “I think that's kind of a funny pattern over 22 years,” he said as the crowd cheered.

        Nevertheless, Indiana was gracious in commenting on its former coach.

        “We wish him luck in that red sweater,” school spokeswoman Susan Dillman said.

        Knight greeted the fans with a Texas Tech “guns up” salute — holding up his thumbs and index fingers like they were pistols.

        In a flash of his self-confidence, Knight said, “I'm not right all of the time, but when it comes to this game, I'm right most of the time.”

        When a reporter repeatedly asked Knight about his past behavior, the coach said, “My wife has this great saying, 'If the horse is dead, get off of it,' and you should adhere to that, too.”

        Knight's wife, Karen, told the fans inside United Spirit Arena they will find a friend in Knight.

        “Some people have often referred to him as having a temper, and I just see every day what I call a huge passion for living. He has a passion for everything he does,” she said. “Please don't pass judgment until you've had a chance to know him. That's the only thing I ask. ... If he's a friend he'll be your friend for life.”

        Knight doesn't have any behavior-related clauses in his new contract, other than the standard requirements of all Tech employees, Myers said.

        Tech policy states that “cause for termination includes failure to perform duties, actions that are detrimental to the university, and any violation of university, Big 12 or NCAA rules.”

        Indiana fired Knight for breaking a no-tolerance policy imposed after a series of outbursts. The list is almost as long as his list of coaching accomplishments.

        Knight's most infamous flare-up in a game was tossing a chair across a court. Years earlier, he was convicted of hitting a Puerto Rican police officer before a practice at the Pan American Games.

        Others include kicking his son's leg during a game and grabbing a player by the back of the neck in practice, an act caught on videotape. The final straw was when he grabbed the arm of a student who referred to the coach by his last name.

        Despite the past, Myers said the hiring would give the Red Raiders instant national credibility.

        “I think this is the beginning of something special,” he said. “We've got the opportunity to make this program competitive at the highest level of college basketball.”

        The 60-year-old coach was the only serious candidate to replace James Dickey, even though about 100 of the university's 900 faculty members signed a petition advising against the move.

        Tech officials first met with Knight early this month in Florida, four days before Dickey was fired. With Myers pushing for his longtime friend, the biggest hurdle to hiring Knight was a rule that required the school to wait 10 business days after Dickey was dismissed.

        Knight's new salary puts him a little behind other coaches in the Big 12 Conference, where the average package is $500,000. Some of the higher-profile programs pay much more: Larry Eustachy at Iowa State makes at least $900,000 in total compensation.

        Knight is 763-289 as a head coach, at Army for six years and Indiana for nearly three decades. Besides three national titles, his record includes 11 Big Ten championships and an Olympic gold medal in 1984.

        Knight is chasing former North Carolina coach Dean Smith, who has the most NCAA Division I victories — 879.

        The Red Raiders will need Knight's help. They were 7-8 at home this season and finished 9-19 overall.

        The season before Knight was hired by Indiana, the Hoosiers went 7-17, 3-11 in Big Ten. They were 17-7, 9-5 in his first season and went on to win four consecutive Big Ten titles from 1973 to 1976.

        Tech is counting on Knight to improve a program stuck in reverse since reaching the round of 16 five years ago. NCAA sanctions that cost nine scholarships in the last four years were part of the problem.

        Knight, whose programs have always followed NCAA rules and had high graduation rates, should help the Red Raiders become more of a factor in the competitive Big 12, which sent five teams to the NCAA tournament.

        “We've had a problem with NCAA penalties and that's set this institution back,” president David Schmidly said. “We don't ever want to be on the wrong side of the NCAA rules again.”

        Lagging ticket sales have been another problem at the 2-year-old, $68 million arena. Tech's high-profile women's program consistently outdrew the men's team. While that may change soon, Lady Raiders coach Marsha Sharp has endorsed the hiring of Knight.

        Talk about Knight has led to a surge in interest for season tickets. And local clothing stores that carry Tech paraphernalia also have enjoyed a boost.

        “It's been nuts,” said Red Raider Outfitter vice president Stephen Spiegelberg.

Big 12 coaches welcome Knight
Bloomington has mixed feelings

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