Knight gains his record his way

January 02, 2007|By Tim MacMahon | Tim MacMahon,The Dallas Morning News

LUBBOCK, Texas -- Bob Knight cared about breaking the NCAA wins record enough to select the song that celebrated the accomplishment.

Frank Sinatra's "My Way" played over the loudspeaker as red and black confetti fell to the floor and the United Spirit Arena crowd roared, reveling in the 880th win of Knight's career.

The final step past North Carolina's Dean Smith didn't come easy. Texas Tech blew a 20-point lead before coming back for a 70-68 win yesterday over New Mexico.

Knight, perhaps the most polarizing coach in college basketball history, became the winningest one in men's Division I play when New Mexico guard J.R. Giddens' 40-footer bounced off the back rim at the buzzer.

"I did it my way," Knight said. "And when I look back on it, I don't think my way is all that bad."

Knight's way is, of course, controversial. He's famous primarily for two things: basketball genius and an explosive temper.

The temper led to Knight's firing at Indiana after a successful but tumultuous 29-year tenure highlighted by three national championships. Former Indiana president Myles Brand cited a pattern of "hostile and defiant" behavior as the reason for Knight's September 2000 dismissal.

"I don't expect you people to have agreed with what I've done," Knight said, "and if I did, I would have asked your opinion. I have never asked the opinions of very many. I've simply tried to do what I think is best in the way that I think you have to do it to do what's best."

Knight hasn't changed since Tech athletic director Gerald Myers, a longtime friend, hired him before the 2001-02 season. He's as brash, ornery, defiant and demanding of his players as ever.

"He's been the same since I played for him that first year at Indiana," said Tech associate athletic director Steve Downing, who starred at Indiana from 1971-73. "He hasn't changed one bit when it comes to discipline and what he believes in. It's almost like I'm in a time tunnel."

Knight, who had repeatedly insisted that the record meant nothing to him, appeared to get choked up during an on-court ceremony that began immediately after the final buzzer. The fans from an announced sellout crowd - hundreds of seats were empty - stayed for about 30 minutes to shower Knight with adulation.

Knight's voice was hoarse after Tech guard Jarrius Jackson scored the game's final points on a three-pointer with 2:09 remaining. Knight acknowledged that the hubbub surrounding his record chase was probably a burden for the Red Raiders (11-4).

He thanked Myers and university president Jon Whitmore for the opportunity and support they've given him. He also thanked his wife, Karen, a former high school coach, and joked that the game plan that gave Tech a big lead was hers.

Knight held his grandsons and listened with his head down as a video tribute played on the scoreboard.

"You're the best damn basketball coach ever," Texas coach Rick Barnes said in a recorded statement.

Jackson and wing Martin Zeno, who each scored a game-high 22 points, spoke on behalf of the team. Jackson said plans to celebrate by dumping the water cooler on Knight were foiled when the players couldn't find the cooler. Zeno told Knight his players loved him.

"If you guys love me after everything I say to you and everything I put you through," Knight said, "that's a helluva compliment to me."

Knight addressed the media for 18 minutes after the ceremony and walked out of the room without taking any questions. He spent most of the time reminiscing about the players, coaches and others who helped him succeed at Army, Indiana and Tech.

"Regrets? Sure, just like the song," Knight said. "I have regrets. I wish I could not necessarily have done things different, I wish I could have done things better."

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