Archive for Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Alford, Knight cross paths again

Pupil and teacher will meet on Saturday

December 12, 2007


— No matter where he coaches, New Mexico's Steve Alford ends up with mentor Bob Knight on the schedule.

He's not doing it on purpose and, frankly, he doesn't like it. Saturday's fifth meeting between Texas Tech's Knight and his former player will be about the same for Alford as the previous four - "not fun."

"I want them to be successful, and I want us to be successful," Alford said. "Nobody pulls for coach Knight more than I do."

Knight doesn't like these matchups either, and he's won three of them. The first two came when Knight was at Indiana, where Alford helped him win the last of his three national championships in 1987.

Alford lost the first meeting as coach at Southwest Missouri State in 1997-98, and a year later he lost again in his first season at Iowa.

After Knight was fired at Indiana and hired at Texas Tech, the pair split two games, with Alford getting his only win in 2004 when nationally ranked Iowa routed the Red Raiders 83-53. Alford said the victory was "huge" for the Hawkeyes but "a little bittersweet" for him.

Alford left Iowa for New Mexico in the offseason, putting himself back on Knight's schedule and setting up Saturday's meeting between the Lobos (8-2) and Red Raiders (6-3) in Albuquerque, N.M.

"That's a game that we prepare for just like any other game that we play," Knight said. "If I had to give special consideration to everybody that we play that I've either coached or coached for me, that's all I'd get done."

This relationship is special, though. Knight and Alford won 92 games at Indiana and the 1984 Olympic gold medal together, so it stands to reason Alford can't help but notice the Red Raiders.

Last week he was working in his office when he glanced at the TV and caught a partial score for Texas Tech's 86-31 victory against Louisiana Tech. That win included a 42-1 Tech run.

"I started bugging my assistants when I saw their score come up," Alford said. "I told them, 'I've got to know if that's the right score.' It came up 72-19 or something like that."

Knight didn't hesitate to recommend Alford for the New Mexico job. And he had the ear of one of those making the decision. David Schmidly, New Mexico's president since February, held the same post at Tech and was instrumental in hiring Knight in 2001.

"When you understand how to play, then you can coach," said Knight, in his seventh year at Tech and the winningest Division I coach with 896 victories. "He's worked at coaching very hard, and he's been able to get kids to play hard."

The Knight-Alford series is probably best known to this point for Knight's profanity-laced interview with ESPN that aired at halftime of Tech's 65-59 victory against Iowa in Dallas four years ago.

Sitting next to Knight, Alford barely spoke while Knight unloaded on Fran Fraschilla, a former New Mexico coach who was interviewing them about their relationship. Knight later apologized to Tech officials.

Moments like those haven't changed Alford's regard for Knight, who's as famous for his tempestuous nature as he is for winning games and championships.

"He's definitely been my closest friend in college basketball," Alford said. "If there's ever an issue I have, on or off the floor, he's the first one I call."

Not Saturday, though.


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