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Perfect fit for Knight


© St. Petersburg Times, published March 14, 2001

Bob Knight is headed for Texas Tech. If he stays, the General could be the biggest thing to hit Lubbock since Buddy Holly.

"I really like the people there," the exiled Indiana University coach said. "Rabid interest. Great place to play, with an outstanding (15,000-seat) facility.

"Tech was the best Southwest Conference basketball school when Gerald Myers played and coached there. They also have a tremendous women's program."

Myers is Knight's key.

With an unhappy split from the Hoosiers after 29 seasons and three national championships, for embattled Knight to coach again the best shot would be alongside a solid longtime pal who has considerable clout at the university involved.

"I've had a lot of contacts, with no lack of coaching jobs," Knight told the St. Petersburg Times. "It comes down to being comfortable with people I know I can enjoy working with."

So, on what could be an historic Thursday in Lubbock -- an isolated west Texas city that gave the world powerful musical impact with Holly, Waylon Jennings, Roy Orbison, Mac Davis and Red Raiders alum John Denver -- is expected to link with the old Ohio State bench warmer who became an IU legend with an overload of controversy.

"Who can get hired anywhere with everybody agreeing on it?" Knight said. "Not many, most likely." Will he change? "I always try to improve," the General said, "to make me a better coach and to make the situation better.

"I've spent a lot of time thinking on what can make things better. Make the basketball better. Make coaching better."

Eyes open, looking ahead.

It was reported that Knight intends to sue Indiana University for libel and slander. Not necessarily, comes word from his camp, although options do remain. Knight's attorney, Russell Yates of Denver, met a deadline by sending a letter to school officials that kept the door open for legal action. It involves items from the coach's contract in Bloomington.

Knight is working on a book with Indiana sports columnist Bob Hammel and has made about 20 speeches arranged by IMG, the Mark McCormack sports agent operation in Cleveland. One of his talks drew 6,000 at the University of Florida. A theater in the round at Warsaw, Ind., was sold out for three appearances.

"I've had a really good time every place I've gone," Knight said. "People have been incredibly good." Gone temporarily from the game, he does watch basketball on TV, including Hoosiers games. "I really want those kids to do well," he said. He recruited most of them.

Myers, 63, is as pure Lubbock as Holly or any of the Crickets. After starring for the Red Raiders, he was the Tech basketball boss for 20 seasons with a 326-261 record, although his final two years declined to 13-45 before he was replaced by James Dickey in 1992.

He was five times SWC coach of the year before the league dissolved and Tech accompanied Lone Star rivals Texas A&M, Baylor and Texas into what became the Big 12. Myers' best records were 25-6 in 1976 and 23-8 in 1985. Four years ago, he became Red Raiders athletic director.

So strong is the Knight-Myers bond that the General scheduled his Hoosiers for the Nov. 19, 1999, dedication game of United Spirit Arena, coincidentally located on Indiana Avenue. IU won 68-60.

School colors at Tech are scarlet and black, which could lead to Knight reappearing in his trademark red sweaters. Though basketball tradition in Lubbock is considerable, Double-T never has gone beyond the Sweet 16 in an NCAA Tournament. Reactions to a Knight hiring would surely be intriguing.

Dickey had a 30-2 record in 1996, beating Northern Illinois and North Carolina in the Big Dance before losing 98-90 to Georgetown in the Sweet 16.

I remember Lubbock.

My only trip there was in 1965, when Donny Anderson was a prodigious Red Raiders running back and TT's football team was accepting an invitation to the Gator Bowl game in my hometown, Jacksonville. Anderson went on to play for Vince Lombardi-coached Green Bay Packers who won the first two Super Bowls.

Lubbock is, let's say, out there.

It is a bit south of the Texas Panhandle and not far north of nowhere. More than 300 miles from Dallas-Fort Worth, 380 from Austin and 345 from El Paso. A place of lofty pride and well-saddled independence.

"A blend of western fact and fiction," Associated Press writer Mike Cochran said. "Old West and New West. A vast, diverse and wide-open land, sometimes very private and almost always very personal."

Lubbock's population is 190,000, with health care operations that employ 9,000. Texas Tech, born in 1923, has 24,000 students. Academics are stout, with an average SAT score of 1,127 among incoming freshmen three years ago, up from 875 in 1987.

There are heavy oil influences, with some derricks on golf courses. Big production of cotton, natural gas, sheep, goats, feed cattle and even wine, with three large vintners, including Llano Estacado.

Downtown, a statue honors Holly.

So this is where Robert Montgomery Knight, at 60, could re-nest. With his curious nature, especially about history, the General likely would drop by Lubbock Lake Landmark State Historical Site, where cultural remains of the Clovis Man can be checked, noting the earliest of American human presence, dating 11,500 years.

Now, the Bloomington Man might cometh.

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