Archive for Saturday, March 10, 2001

Tech fires Dickey; Raiders want Knight

NCAA sanctions led to decline of Texas Tech men’s program after 30-2 season in 1995-96

March 10, 2001

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— James Dickey was fired Friday as Texas Tech's basketball coach, clearing the way for the possible hiring of Bob Knight.

Tech athletics director Gerald Myers said the decision to drop Dickey was made a week ago and that he and school president David Schmidly met with Knight on Monday in Florida.

"We felt it was necessary for us to talk to Bob Knight to assess his interest and also our interest," said Myers, who preceded Dickey as Tech's coach and is longtime friends with Knight.

Myers said he spoke with Knight on Friday to tell him he was making the announcement and that we would be in touch with him to discuss the possibility of a campus visit.

"I have the highest regard for Bob Knight as a basketball coach," Myers said. "I happen to know him very well. Yes, I would say he'd be a top candidate for this job, although we're not to a point of saying who the top candidates are."

State law requires the job to be open for 10 business days, which means no deal could be official before 5 p.m. March 23, according to Cindy Rugeley, a school spokeswoman.

Knight has been out of coaching since Indiana fired him Sept. 10 for a "pattern of unacceptable behavior." He won three national championships in 29 years at the school, but his tenure was marred by emotional outbursts and physical attacks.

Schmidly, who met Knight on Monday for the first time, described the Hall of Fame coach as "an interesting man."

"No contract has been offered to Bob Knight," Schmidly said. "Nothing has been given to him in writing, nor has he indicated to us that he would necessarily accept any offer we might make in the future."

Myers said the school would buy out the final three years on Dickey's contract. His assistants also were fired.

Dickey issued a statement thanking Tech for the opportunity to coach, but did not comment on the firing itself.

"I would like to have some time to collect my thoughts and will speak to the media at an appropriate time," he said.

Tech had endured four straight losing seasons before Dickey arrived. The Red Raiders went 15-14 his first year and didn't have a losing record until the recent skid began in 1997-98. Dickey leaves his first Division I head coaching job with a record of 166-124 and two NCAA tournament berths. His final game was Thursday's loss to Oklahoma State in the first round of the Big 12 tournament.

"I appreciate my excellent staff and all the players who gave of themselves to me and this program," Dickey said in a brief statement. "I also want to thank the fans and loyal supporters we've had over the years."

The Red Raiders lost 11 of their last 12 games to finish 9-19, their worst record in his 10 seasons. This was Tech's fourth straight losing season after a run of three solid years, which included going 30-2 and reaching the NCAA tournament's round of 16 in 1995-96.

The program derailed shortly thereafter because of NCAA sanctions that stripped nine scholarships the past four years. The school's violations included recruiting and unethical conduct.

As the losses mounted, attendance plummeted. The men were consistently outdrawn by Tech's highly ranked women's team at the new United Spirit Arena.

Coincidentally, Knight and Indiana were part of the first game at the $68 million facility when it opened in November 1999. He called the arena "a great place to play."

Hiring the 60-year-old Knight surely would boost Tech's ticket sales. And for all his off-court transgressions, "The General" has never been punished by the NCAA.

Schmidly was well-versed on Knight's resume.

"I notice he ranks seventh on the all-time coaches list, he graduates a very high percentage of his players, his program was squeaky clean never had any NCAA problems," Schmidly said. "So there are lots of credentials that make him an outstanding basketball coach."

As for the various outbursts that have gotten Knight in trouble and ultimately cost him his job, Schmidly said: "Those are other issues that we would have to take a look at at the appropriate time. They would be looked at, but we're not at that point yet."

Hiring Knight could help Tech's recruiting and make the Red Raiders more of a contender in the Big 12, a deep basketball conference. Tech was third in the league's first season, but has been in the second tier ever since.

"We didn't build a $68 million facility and join the Big 12 conference to finish at the bottom," Schmidly said. "This institution is interested in having the best possible national image in everything it does, whether it's academics or athletics."

Since leaving Indiana, Knight has been rumored to be wanted by several colleges. He's also discussed TV jobs and has been seen at NBA practices.

Knight has notified Indiana that he plans to sue the university over wrongful termination. A letter he sent accuses the school of slander, libel, inflicting emotional distress and interfering in his subsequent job search. It claims the university's actions cost him more than $7 million.

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