Knight never far from conflict

Incident at Texas Tech part of a pattern, results in reprimand from school

February 04, 2004|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

The employer has changed, the campus has changed, and so has the team Bob Knight coaches. The only constant is the coach's boorish behavior.

Instead of an Indiana student outside the school's basketball arena in Bloomington, there was the chancellor of the Texas Tech University system at the salad bar of a grocery store in Lubbock.

The result was similar: Knight got into a heated altercation after the person made a seemingly innocuous remark. This time, Knight received only a reprimand instead of getting fired.

After it was reported that a loud, public confrontation with Texas Tech chancellor David Smith would cost the Hall of Fame coach five days' pay -- and two games on the bench -- the university backed away from the suspension.

"I regret that the situation turned out the way it did," Knight said in a four-paragraph statement released by the university. "I look forward to finishing this season in a strong fashion and I am glad the situation is behind me so that I can return to the business of coaching."

Knight was back on the bench for the 19th-ranked Red Raiders last night in their 83-63 win over Baylor in Lubbock.

The incident, which took place Monday at an upscale food store near the campus, came during what had been a fairly quiet season for Knight.

In his version of the spat -- described during his post-game news conference last night -- Knight said Smith followed him to the side of the salad bar and said, "You've got issues. What are they?"

"Right then is where I think I was at fault," Knight said. "I should have shook my head, walked away, done a lot of other things, and I didn't. I went on to tell him what one of those issues was and then it got back and forth a little bit.

"But the one thing there was, that I absolutely did not instigate anything."

The confrontation with Smith reportedly began after Smith praised Knight for what he believed was an improvement in the coach's demeanor.

Earlier this season, Knight had to offer a public apology after an expletive-laced interview with ESPN's Fran Fraschilla, a former college coach.

Former athletic director Gerald Myers, who has been friends with Knight for three decades and hired him to coach at Texas Tech in the spring of 2001, was with the coach when the latest incident took place.

"This is a misunderstanding and has now been rectified," Myers, who still works at the university, said in the statement. "The matter has been resolved in the best interest of the university."

Said Smith: "We look forward to the continuation of what is already a successful season."

There had been some speculation that Knight's latest tirade might have forced Texas Tech officials to fire him. Despite winning three national championships, Knight was fired after 29 seasons at Indiana by former president Myles Brand when Knight violated a "zero tolerance" policy for behavior.

The policy was implemented in 2000 after a former player, Neil Reed, charged that Knight choked him during a practice in 1997, a claim later supported by a videotape taken of the practice by former Hoosiers assistant Ron Felling. Knight was fined $30,000 and suspended for three games.

But Knight never coached another game for Indiana. In early September 2000, Knight was accused by a student of accosting him, grabbing his arm and lecturing him on manners after the student walked by the coach and said, "What's up, Knight?"

Navy coach Don DeVoe, who has remained close with Knight since being one of his assistants at Army, said last night that his longtime friend is often difficult to figure out.

"Bob is going to be a person who's going to say what he thinks, and it doesn't matter what the circumstances are," DeVoe said. "He's going to be very direct. It comes across many times as being very offensive to people, but that's just Bob Knight. People either love him or they hate him."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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