IRVING, Texas -- Bob Knight was telling stories, cracking jokes and having fun.
And he was even spending his 61st birthday with reporters Thursday.
In his first meeting with a large media group since his contentious introduction as Texas Tech's coach seven months ago, Knight was relaxed and engaging during the Big 12 Conference basketball media day.
That other side of Knight wasn't evident, but also absent was the pep rally-like atmosphere of his introductory news conference in Lubbock when he answered reporters' questions by playing to a cheering crowd.
During Thursday's 42-minute session - more than twice as long as any other coach - Knight touched on many subjects, most basketball-related. He told how he missed coaching last season, the challenge of blending a new team and not knowing what to expect and his enjoyment of his new job.
And he shared anecdotes and some personal stories.
Knight talked about calling Darrell Royal when the former Texas athletic director was trying to hire a basketball coach in 1976. But Knight, who had just won his first national championship at Indiana, wasn't applying for the job.
"I told him there are a lot of really good players in Texas, and what a really good basketball job it could be," Knight said. "He asked me, 'If this job is so damned good, why don't you come down here?"'
It took 25 more years, and his firing from Indiana in September 2000, before Knight took a coaching job in Texas.
While Knight is the newest coach in the Big 12, Kansas' Roy Williams has been at his school longer than any other coach in the league. His Jayhawks were tabbed by the coaches as the conference favorite.
"I think this year it is hard to pick someone who is No. 1 because this league is the best it has ever been," said Williams, who is in his 14th season.
Missouri, which was 20-13 last year and went to its second NCAA tournament in two seasons under coach Quin Snyder, is expected to provide the biggest challenge for Kansas. The Tigers will be led by junior forward Kareem Rush, the league's top scorer (21.1) season year and the preseason All-Big 12 player of the year.
"We're obviously excited about the expectations. Capability exists that might not have in previous years," said Snyder, a former Duke assistant. "This year, we're capable of competing on a higher level. We have lots of learning to do, but hopefully some growth potential."
Most of the attention Thursday was on Knight.
Knight's hiring in March immediately raised the anticipation surrounding Texas Tech. But Knight said this is different from his jobs at Army and Indiana, where he won three NCAA championships.
"Our situation is one that I've not had exactly before," Knight said. "We've got two groups of kids, one group of holdovers and a group of new kids. They haven't seen each other play and neither group has been involved in how we want to play."
While saying his expectations don't vary much from one year to another, he also wouldn't make any predictions about this season.
"The most realistic expectation for our team is to show up everywhere we play. I'm not sure we can expect anything else right now," Knight said. "I have no idea. I don't know what would be realistic yet for this team."
Knight instructed his players to watch all postseason baseball games involving the New York Yankees. He considers Yankees owner George Steinbrenner a good friend, but he wants his players to see how that team handles competition.
"They don't complain. They just win," Knight said.
Senior center Andy Ellis, one of just four players remaining from last year's Texas Tech team, said he's had a lot of fun.
"I really didn't know what to expect," Ellis said. "You hear all of the stories about him. He's a great guy and like any other coach. He's a great teacher and knows the game well. I could have never imagined how it would be."
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