Originally created 03/25/01

Texas Tech a good fit for Knight

Gerald Myers gushed gleefully as he lathered the congregation with some old-fashioned West Texas hyperbole.

"Texas Tech will be a better place for hiring Bob Knight," the Red Raiders athletics director declared.

It's not certain what Myers' definition of "better" is, but Lubbock, Texas, certainly became a lot more interesting on Friday when college basketball's winningest bully regained his pulpit after a six-month timeout.

Love him or hate him, Knight makes college basketball more colorful - and he doesn't have to get rid of his red sweaters to do it. He's the best thing to happen to Lubbock since Buddy Holly had the misfortune of being born there.

Move over, Lady Techsters. There's a new sheriff in town. He came out with guns blazing - albeit the kinder, gentler Knight used his fingers instead of pistols.

"I'm not right all the time," Knight told the 7,500 fans assembled at the school's United Spirit Center. "But when it comes to this game, I'm right most of the time."

That's the kind of misguided outlook on his world that has made Knight one of the most fascinating figures in sport. The polarity between his morality and profanity is mesmerizing. He might not be the right guy to teach your children manners, but he certainly makes them tougher.

Knight's wife, Karen, euphemistically describes his temper as "a huge passion for living."

People appreciate Knight for the very same reasons they love Bill Parcells, Steve Spurrier, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors - champions who possess unedited passion yet don't let their style outshine their substance. This should not be confused with sad representatives of style, such as Dennis Rodman, who would quit on any team faster than he could pierce another body part.

Sure, Knight's a miserable son of a working class Ohioan much of the time, but boy he's fun to watch. Waiting for the meltdown is as entertaining as wondering whether he can coach his way to a fourth national title.

That's what Texas Tech willingly got itself into - in spite of the petition signed by 100 of the school's 900 faculty urging the institution to refrain from hiring Knight.

Texas Tech doesn't want Knight to turn into some kind of coaching choirboy. His notoriety is the attraction. It's telling that there are no behavior-related clauses for dismissal in his contract.

Trust me - Knight hasn't changed one bit. If the mood strikes him, he might throw another chair across the U-Knighted Spirit Center. If Neil Reed crosses his path, Knight just might reach for the throat.

Already, Knight resumed his cursory abuse of the media, urging the rabid Red Raider crowd to stick around for the press conference and feel free to heckle the journalists trying to do their jobs.

When one reporter asked Knight about his past transgressions, the General barked his reply: "The horse is dead; get off!"

Knight is far from dead. By the time his five-year contract expires, he might have erased the 116-win gap between him and Dean Smith. That's if Georgia State's Lefty Driesell - one win back of Knight's fifth place on the all-time coaching victory list - doesn't get there first.

Texas Tech is recovering from NCAA sanctions that have cost the men's program nine scholarships since their Sweet 16 appearance five years ago. Knight is recovering from his first season off in 29 years.

In a bland city of big hair and bigger belt buckles, the big bully will fit right in.

Welcome back, General.

Reach Scott Michaux at (706) 823-3219.


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