- Eamonn Brennan, ESPN Staff Writer
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So, hey, how's Pat Knight doing at Lamar? Let's go check, shall we? Let's see here ... actually, things look pretty good. The Cardinals are 17-11, already a four-game improvement over last year's 13-17 team. They have an 8-5 record in the Southland conference, which, OK, the Southland conference is bad. Still, the first-year coach, whose tenure at Texas Tech didn't exactly go well, has his team ranked in the top 140 in the KenPom rankings and No. 97 in the LRMC. At first glance, that's a pretty good year, right?
Apparently, Knight doesn't see things that way. After Thursday night's home loss to Stephen F. Austin, the Cardinals' third in their past four games, Knight let loose with a rather epic postgame rant. It began with Knight's entrance, when he stopped senior guard Mike James from finishing an answer, telling him: "OK, let's go. I'm back. You don't have a clue what it takes to win." Things just sort of took off from there.
You can see the video here. I recommend you watch it.
Knight directed his ire toward his seniors, who he blamed for poor energy and effort in practices and games. He called them out for attitude issues, for dalliances with drugs, for a lack of accountability -- you name it, Knight said it. He held nothing back. Some of the choicest selections:
"We have a bunch of tin men out there right now. They've got no heart. I've never been around a team that's got so many problems as this one has. Usually you've got one or two guys that are a problem. We've got an infestation of guys that are hard to coach. I've never been around a group as a whole that are like that. Not one guy stands up."
"When I played, if you acted like the way some of these guys do, you got shoved in a locker with a forearm up against your neck and told you don't do that."
"We've got the worst group of seniors right now that I've ever been associated with. Their mentality is awful. Their attitude is awful. It has been their M.O. for the last three years."
"We've had problems with them off the court, on the court, classroom, drugs, being late for stuff. All that stuff correlates together if you're going to win games. You just can't do all that B.S. and expect to win games. And if people have a problem with me being harsh about it, I don't care. I came here to clean something up."
Turns out, some people do have a problem with Knight being so publicly harsh. Among them is Rob Dauster, who wrote at Beyond the Arc that he has a feeling Knight "is going to regret this press conference," that the "house issues must stay in house," and that "blaming your players [for] a loss, in my mind, is unacceptable." I can dig that, but I can also see the other side: The whole point of Knight's rant is that he doesn't feel his players (and, as he says, kids in society in general) are held accountable. This may not be the prettiest way to do so, but if you're trying to drive the point home and you're in Month 4 of the season and nothing has worked, making them publicly accountable is one way to do so. It may not be the prettiest way, but it's certainly one way.
Indeed, this may be the freedom afforded to a coach like Knight at a place like Lamar, a Southland program with little in the way of annual national relevance. Could Knight get away with this in his first year in a power-six conference? Probably not.
But this is nothing new: The man is honest, sometimes to a fault, with the press. Two years ago at Big 12 media day, Knight said the 2010-11 season was a "get-fired or get-an-extension kind of year." His team went 13-19 and tied for 10th in the Big 12. On March 7, 2011, Texas Tech fired him. Knight could have soft-pedaled his status, could have said the right things about "building a foundation" and "seeing progress," could have peppered his news conference with mindless preservation-minded coachspeak nuggets. Instead, he told the truth. If only more coaches would do the same.
On Thursday night, Knight told the truth again. It wasn't pretty, and it would be a shock to see Lamar's players finish this season strong; Knight practically pushed them out the door already. But he said what he felt needed to be said. Harsh as it was, in a world full of coaches who treat their teams like nuclear codes, it's hard to fault him for that.
(Hat tip: The Dagger)