Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Pat Knight proving he's not quite like his father
By Tim Griffin ESPN.com
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- A few months removed from his first season as a college head coach, Pat Knight's sense of perspective has grown.
Texas Tech was just 4-11 under Pat Knight, including blowout losses to Texas A&M and Kansas.
Just like his legendary father advised him shortly after he took the job at Texas Tech, personal expectations and reactions changed after becoming a head coach.
"It was a blast, but the losing is terrible," Pat Knight said. "Dad told me before I took the job that you could come home, have a pizza and have an appetite. But just wait until you are a head coach."
After replacing his father on Feb. 4, Knight now understands what his father meant.
"People talk about this diet or not, but if you become a head coach, your appetite is nil," Knight said. "I didn't eat for the first two weeks I had the job."
Despite the pressure of his new job, Knight said coaching in college basketball provided many of the challenges he expected -- and more. Even if it came with a nutritional price.
The Red Raiders lost seven of their 11 games he coached and finished with a 16-15 record last season. Included in the defeats were a 44-point loss at Texas A&M and a 58-point defeat at Kansas that marked the largest margin of defeat in Big 12 history.
But two of Tech's victories had significance. In Pat Knight's first career win at the helm, the Red Raiders knocked Kansas State out of the top spot in the league standings with an 84-75 victory on Feb. 13. And they bounced back from their blowout loss to the Aggies to post an 83-80 victory over Texas, foreshadowing some of the problems the Longhorns would have against Memphis in the NCAA tournament's Elite Eight.
Knight initially said he would have preferred to not follow in his father's footsteps at Texas Tech, but his dad convinced him to try.
"I'm fortunate enough to get this job, and I'm not stupid," Knight said. "I don't know if I deserved to be a Big 12 coach right now. Probably not, but I was offered a situation, so I felt like I had to take it.
"I had an opportunity to leave over the last three years, but I really liked living in Lubbock, the university and the people. Because of that, why should I turn down a chance at this job because of what somebody might say or write? Maybe I haven't earned it, but I thought I had to take it because they were offering it to me."
The Knights will attempt to reconnect this month when they travel to Scotland on a golfing vacation this month that will include 19 friends, including Texas coach Rick Barnes. It marks Bob Knight's second European golfing vacation in the last two months after a previous trip with his former Ohio State teammate, John Havlicek.
After seeing his father recharge over the past several months, Pat Knight said he wouldn't be surprised if his dad opted to return to coaching some day.
"I still don't put coaching out of the realm of happening [for him]," Pat Knight said. "You have the best basketball mind out there just sitting out there. All of a sudden he gets re-energized. That's not why he retired. It had nothing to do with basketball. He was just tired, and I think he's refreshed."
But the pressure will be on Pat Knight next season. The Red Raiders program seemed to grow stale in Bob Knight's last several years on the job. And it will be even tougher because of how Bob Knight was linked with the program during his 6½ seasons there.
Bob Knight truly was bigger than the program during his Lubbock tenure. He had his own ESPN television show. The program received unprecedented coverage as national media members trekked to the High Plains for a glimpse of the bombastic legend, perhaps at his last coaching stop.
The challenge for Pat Knight will be immense to keep the spotlight on the school, and keep the Red Raiders relevant in a rapidly improving Big 12 that will feature defending national champion Kansas. And Tech's position in the state is tenuous, considering that the basketball programs at Texas, Texas A&M and Baylor all are at their highest levels in the past 20 years.
Pat Knight doesn't possess quite the same temperament as his father.
The Red Raiders have seldom been a player for top recruiting talent because most top recruits have never considered playing under Bob Knight's rigid coaching style. It will be up to his son to reach out to those better players and build the program's talent level.
Those struggles were most clearly evident last season in the Red Raiders' inability to match up with larger opponents in the paint. Tech ranked 11th in the Big 12 in rebounding margin and last in blocked shots.
But deadly outside shooter Alan Voskuil, point guard John Roberson and power forward Mike Singletary all return to provide a nice foundation for Knight to start rebuilding his team in his image.
It will never be easy to recruit in Lubbock, but Knight appears to have the temperament to succeed. That will be tested in the next several months as he hopes to implement a quicker pace, emphasizing more one-on-one play and scoring off the dribble.
Knight is counting on a boost from 6-foot-9 junior college transfer Darko Cohadarevic, who averaged 15.3 points last season for Seward County Community College. And 6-1 guard Nick Okorie from South Plains Junior College should provide depth in the backcourt and another perimeter scoring threat.
Already, Knight has shown some flexibility that his father rarely exhibited in his legendary career. His father preferred motion offense and man-to-man defense. But the Red Raiders under Pat Knight showed some zone defense and a willingness to try other strategies.
The best indication of the regime change could be seen during the recent Big 12 meetings at the sprawling Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs. Because of scheduling conflicts, several media members were trapped away from the room where Knight would speak during his press conference.
When the media arrived several minutes late, Knight didn't rage or bellow. He waited patiently and answered every question during an extensive 30-minute interview session. Before that, he even grabbed the headphones and appeared on an Austin radio station for several minutes while he awaited the media members' arrival.
Even in his most accommodating mood, it would have been hard to believe that Bob Knight ever would have been so obliging.
Tech's new coach also appeared to revel in the camaraderie of meeting with the league's other coaches -- a marked contrast from his father's attitude at those gatherings.
"We have a pretty good group of guys, and it was kind of like a boys' weekend for us to hang out," Pat Knight said. "We did get some things done, but it was pretty laid back. I don't know why my dad didn't like coming to these things. I kind of enjoyed it."
Tim Griffin covers college football and basketball for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.