Tech Family

Knight has developed a friendship with many of his fellow Red Raiders coaches

Larry Hays admits he was emotionally torn the day Texas Tech hired Bob Knight five years ago.

Joe Don Buckner / Staff
Bob Knight gets his 'guns up' after being formally announced as the new Texas Tech coach in March of 2001 at the United Spirit Arena.

As a former basketball coach himself, Hays had always admired Knight's coaching philosophy and success. But at the same time, Hays had also heard about Knight's personality and the volatile nature he had shown at times throughout his career.

"I believed everything the media said about him, so I wasn't so sure how much I would like him as a person," Hays said.

That perception quickly changed.

In the last five years, Knight and Hays have gone from admirers from afar to close friends and colleagues. It's a relationship Knight has developed with several members of the Tech athletic family

"He's just one of those persons that just helps people, and that's what he's all about," said Hays, who added that Knight is his program's biggest financial contributor.

Of course, Knight's love of baseball also made him an instant hit with Hays.

Hays said Knight has opened doors that have allowed him to meet a variety of baseball stars he wouldn't have met otherwise.

One of those instances allowed Hays to meet St. Louis Cardinals great Stan Musial. The two were able to talk in Cardinals manger Tony LaRussa's office.

Hiring timeline

The events leading up to hiring Bob Knight as men's basketball coach at Texas Tech:

• March 5, 2001: Texas Tech President David Schmidly meets with Knight in Florida.

• March 9, 2001: Tech announces that James Dickey, Red Raider coach for the past 10 seasons, has been fired. The announcement comes shortly after Tech's loss to Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Tournament.

• March 15-18: Knight spends four days in Lubbock for official interviews, meetings with various members of the Tech community and to attend a Lady Raider NCAA tournament game at United Spirit Arena.

• March 21, 2001: Schmidly meets with Tech's faculty senate to address concerns about Knight's past behavior and a small faction of university professors who oppose Knight's hiring.

• March 22, 2001: Tech athletic director Gerald Myers recommends Knight to replace Dickey. Myers' recommendation is endorsed by Schmidly, Tech Chancellor John Montford and the university's board of regents.

• March 23, 2001: Knight is introduced as the 12th head coach in Tech men's basketball history during a news conference at United Spirit Arena. Knight regales the crowd by putting on a Tech sweater and saying, "This is, without question, the most comfortable sweater I've had on in six years."

From staff reports

"Meeting Stan Musial was an unbelievable moment for me," Hays said.

Knight also helps the Tech athletic department by being a great ambassador for the university.

Nowhere is that more apparent than in recruiting.

Hays and Tech coach Wes Kittley said they've both had potential recruits who have wanted to meet Knight during their visits. Knight has done his best to sell the school to the recruits, many of which soon say yes afterward.

"He's great at selling the school," Hays said. "I even sit there and hear him talk, and I just say 'Wow.' "

Kittley admits that he was surprised the Red Raiders were able to land such a high profile coach as Knight in 2001. Five years later, the two also have developed a strong friendship.

"He just really took me under his wing the first day we met," Kittley said. "We have mutual respect for each other, and even to this day, he introduces me as the best track coach in the country."

Tech football coach Mike Leach said he's shared coaching philosophies with Knight throughout the years and that Knight once let him borrow a book on Red Auerbach.

"I'll tell you the hardest thing isn't really this game or that game; it's the long haul," Leach said. "Being able to do what he did for the long haul ... I think is real impressive."

But it was Knight's friendship with Tech athletic director Gerald Myers, a relationship that started more than 30 years ago, that helped Knight land the job at Tech.

"He is quite simply one of the best coaches who has ever been involved with the game of basketball,'' Myers has said. "There aren't many people at all who can equal him in terms of his accomplishments both as a coach and as an educator. There's not anybody whose credentials compare to his in the game today."

New Tech basketball coach Kristy Curry, who spent the last seven seasons at Purdue, said Knight and his staff have been unbelievably helpful since her arrival.

Soon after she accepted the head-coaching job with the Lady Raiders, she received a phone call from The General.

"He told me, 'I didn't think I could ever work with somebody from Purdue, but you might be the one exception,' " Curry recalled. "I took that as a compliment."

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