Texas Tech fires Knight as coach
Monday, March 7, 2011
LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — Pat Knight sat in the Texas Tech locker room and lauded his bosses for the way they let him go after three disappointing seasons.
It was, after all, different from the way his famous father was ousted at Indiana more than a decade ago.
“It’s not an ugly situation,” Knight said. “I mean, we left on good terms. I’m glad it ended like that, especially after being part of the deal at Indiana. That was tough. But this is different. It’s business.”
Texas Tech fired Knight on Monday, ending a disappointing tenure for a coach who failed to lead the Red Raiders to the NCAA tournament after taking over for his father in February 2008. He will coach the Red Raiders at this week’s Big 12 tournament and then step down.
Knight said he was glad his dismissal came before the tournament because of all the potentially negative media chatter about a pending firing.
“It’s not just negative toward us. It’s negative to the university,” Knight said. “It’s not good, even for the guy that’s following ... that’s why I just told them, when they told me, ‘You’re not going to get another year,’ let’s just get it out there now. It worked out for the best.”
Knight is 50-60 in his first Division I coaching job and his third full year as head coach. He had only one winning season (19-16 in 2009-10) at Texas Tech.
Sitting in the coaches’ portion of the Tech locker room, Knight said the situation felt “surreal.”
“I would have loved to have another year to prove myself because of recruits we have coming in but I understand it’s all based on this year and stuff,” he said. “You just got to move on.”
Knight seemed to know he might be dismissed in comments about the Red Raiders program following a 71-68 home loss to Colorado on Feb. 23.
“We’ve lost seven games in the last minute,” he said then. “I’ve proven I can coach. I run a clean program, I don’t cheat, my players graduate and we have discipline. So if you don’t want me here there’s going to be someone else that wants me.”
Knight met with Texas Tech president Guy Bailey early Monday and the announcement came a short time later. Bailey said it was time for a change.
“I appreciate everything Pat has done for our university, not only as a head coach, but also throughout his career as an assistant,” Bailey said in a prepared statement. “I wish him success and the best moving forward.”
Knight played under his father at Indiana University from 1991-1995 and later worked as a scout for the Phoenix Suns. He was an assistant for the CBA’s Connecticut Pride and was a coach in both the International Basketball Association and the U.S. Basketball League.
Pat Knight was also at Indiana and at Akron University before joining his father as an assistant at Texas Tech in 2001.
The elder Knight took the Red Raiders to the NCAA tournament, but the success didn’t come as easily for his son.
Knight’s team won just three Big 12 regular season games in 2008-09 — one was against No. 9 Kansas — and he openly criticized officiating twice in a three-week span. The Big 12 slapped him with a public reprimand and a one-game suspension.
In 2009, Texas Tech took 10 wins into its Big 12 opener. But one of the five losses included a 111-66 rout at Stanford, the third-worst beating in school history.
Last season, the Red Raiders won just four regular-season conference games but got to the quarterfinals of the NIT, losing at Mississippi 90-87 in double overtime. At the beginning of the season, with six seniors on his squad, Knight said he didn’t deserve a contract extension if he did not get the team to the NCAA tournament.
Going into the league tournament, Texas Tech is 13-18 overall and 5-11 in the Big 12. Associate head coach Chris Beard said he hasn’t had much time to reflect on the firing.
“Right now, we really are just concerned about the players’ well being, concerned about our families, make sure everybody’s on the same page,” he said on the Big 12 coaches’ call. “That’s all you can do. We’re still the coaches here. We’ve got some guys we owe that to.”
The Red Raiders, seeded 11th in the tournament, play No. 6 seed Missouri on Wednesday night.
Beard said Knight’s possibly firing was never discussed with the players.
“I can honestly tell you there hasn’t been a lot of sitting around wondering what’s going to happen,” Beard said. “Pat has been a great leader since he took over, and especially this year during a tough season. He’s been a real backbone through this. It’s been business as usual up until 9:25 this morning.”
Bob Knight declined to comment, ESPN spokeswoman Keri Potts wrote in an e-mail. In his comments Feb. 23, the younger Knight said he’s never shied away from his famous pedigree.
“I’d have been smart if I’d just played baseball and never got into coaching,” he said. “The two things I’m most proud of that I’ve done: I went to Indiana and played at Indiana, for my dad. And I took over for him here. So people can write and say whatever they want about me but the one thing they can’t say is that I ever took the safe or easy way out.”
Knight, who watched the attendance at home games wane in his tenure, said he leaves Texas Tech on an upbeat note.
“The people who did show up were great, so you can’t look at the negative,” he said. “I loved my 10 years here. It was great, a great chapter in my life. But I look forward to the next chapter basketball-wise. That’s why I’m not down.”