Archive for Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Woodling: Knight’s Lubbock exile ends

February 6, 2008


Napoleon Bonaparte had it better than Bob Knight.

After being deposed by the French government, Napoleon spent less than a year in exile on the remote island of Elba.

Knight spent seven long years in exile on the vast Llano Estacado of west Texas after being deposed by Myles Brand, then the president of Indiana University, because of a "pattern of unacceptable behavior."

Later, Knight was hired by Texas Tech where he became little more than a one-year curiosity. In 2001-02, his first season on the pancake-flat plains, the Red Raiders averaged 13,743 fans a game, second only to Kansas in the Big 12 Conference.

Yet a year later, Tech's average attendance dipped to around 8,000. Then it slipped below 7,000. This year's average home crowd has been a piddling 6,610, and that's in a classy, contemporary arena that seats 15,098.

Adding to the ignominy, Texas Tech's women's team, coached by a non-legend (Kristy Curry) and with a win-loss record not that much better than the men, is averaging nearly 9,000 fans a game.

In other words, the great Bob Knight, the winningest coach in college basketball history, was just spinning his wheels at Texas Tech, and we must assume he finally realized it.

After Knight's abrupt abdication Monday, I saw a comment from Don Haskins, another legendary coach, and a Knight friend.

"Bob told me one time he had no idea how difficult it is to recruit to Lubbock," Haskins said.

It is??? Seems to me Mike Leach hasn't had much of a problem recruiting football players. And Marsha Sharp built a women's basketball powerhouse there before retiring. Was it Lubbock? Or was it Knight?

I'll never forget the Kansas-Texas Tech game in Lubbock three years ago. The Red Raiders squeezed the Jayhawks, 80-79, in double overtime on a three-point goal by Darryl Dora, a sophomore who had made only nine three-pointers all season.

Kansas had been unbeaten in the Big 12 at the time, so this was a big, big win. Moreover, the Raiders had done it in front of a Monday night national cable TV audience.

This was a chance for the Raiders - Dora, in particular - to bask in the postgame limelight, to tell everyone through the print and electronic media how it felt to knock off the mighty Jayhawks.

Except for one thing. Knight wouldn't let them. He said they had curfews to meet.

Are you kidding me? Sure, the game had started at 8 p.m. and had gone into double OT, adding nearly an hour to its length, but rules can be bent on certain occasions.

I'm sure old-schoolers agreed with Knight's anachronistic decision to stick to the curfew, but what message did that send to potential recruits?

In Knight's first season, Texas Tech tied for third place in the Big 12. The Raiders haven't finished any higher since. Texas and Texas A&M; have surpassed them, and now Baylor is breathing down their necks.

While Knight has treaded water at Texas Tech, the man who had the courage to fire Knight at Indiana has ascended to the presidency of the NCAA. Brand, asked to comment about Knight's sudden retirement, declined.

But Brand, who was vilified unmercifully by Knight boosters when he pulled the ripcord, must have been privately pleased Knight languished all those years in Lubbock.


Martin Shupert 10 years, 4 months ago

If he was pleased at the misfortune of another, what would that say about Brand? Maybe he has moved on. I really doubt that Coach Knight felt he was languishing. Most of his Indiana teams were made up of second tier players who had been taught to play as a team. This article ignores the fact that Bob Knight was happy to struggle against the odds and enjoyed battling the sports media machine. He's simply getting too old to continue those pointless battles. What say we give him credit where credit is due and wish he had displayed more self discipline and oh, I don't know... wish him well? There are countless coaches who showed rage, but once Bobby became the icon, every slammed phone, every chair thrown, was another brick in the wall. Let's all hope Coach Knight finds a little peace if peace is what he deserves or desires.

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