Intense coaching methods and belief in coaching philosophy keep Knight sold on players
Mike Gyovai was considered by Bob Knight to be the toughest player that he ever coached.
Knight even brought Gyovai into Lubbock to meet the players that tried out for the reality show, "Knight School."
Gyovai is one of many players that have gone through Knight's program and most of them say the same thing.
When you're a player for Knight, he is as tough on you as he can be, but you later learn to appreciate what he has done because you learn more from him than anyone else.
"He was my coach and I love him. I did not have a love/hate relationship and I was not afraid of him," said Gyovai, who played for Knight at West Point. "He provided me with the best opportunity to play and made it up to me to take advantage of that opportunity.
"I made a lot of great friends and had a lot of great experiences. There will never be another coach in this business like him. He brought our program to fruition and I am very fortunate to consider him my friend, my coach, my mentor and a hell of a guy."
Many of the players return that loyalty that Knight shares with his players. The Army players meet wherever Knight is coaching for a reunion weekend. The group met this year for the opening round of the College Basketball Experience Classic.
Some coaches send Knight tapes, some call him on the phone, and some - like Steve Alford - make a yearly trip to Lubbock to see Knight.
Alford won an Olympic gold medal with Knight in 1984 and a national championship in 1987. He began attending Knight's summer camp while in the third grade and never envisioned playing college basketball for another coach.
After Alford's brief professional career ended, he turned to coaching, now leading the Iowa Hawkeyes.
"I've been doing this for 15 years and it's not easy getting the players on the same page that you're on," Alford said. "It's not easy bringing in good players year in and year out. It's a difficult job and the fact that (Knight's) been doing it consistently for so long is more of a credit to him."
Alford said he ventures to Lubbock about two or three times per year.
"I relish that time," he said. "There are very few people that mean more to me and are as special to me as Coach Knight is."
Another trend with former players, echoed by Alford, is that the player begins to appreciate Knight's lessons more after they're finished playing for him.
Some players, though, don't need a long time to appreciate what they've learned.
Andy Ellis played just one season for Knight at Texas Tech, but he said Knight's lessons have been invaluable as he continues his basketball career in Japan.
"He changed my career," Ellis said. "I liked Coach (James) Dickey, but we didn't have a really good team or enough good players.
"Coach Knight helped me become the player that I am, a player that is still able to play professional basketball. I've become a more well-rounded player because of Coach Knight and he taught me so much about how basketball has a lot to do with life. The situations on the court can be the same as in real life."
Isiah Thomas said he wouldn't be the president and head coach of the New York Knicks if it wasn't for Knight.
"It just would not have happened," Thomas said. "If I had to do it all over again, I would never, ever want to play for any other coach."
While many of Knight's former players have gone onto different careers, some have joined his staff.
Stew Robinson played for Knight at Indiana and is now an assistant coach at Texas Tech.
"He prepares you for things to come," Robinson said. "He shows you that there are much tougher things in life than playing basketball - paying bills, and things like that. He prepares you for life while he's teaching you about basketball."
Steve Downing was on one of Knight's first teams at Indiana. Knight pulled Downing into his office and spoke to one of his best players about his academics.
Downing was quickly sold on the new head coach.
"We had a player, George McGinnis, who was thinking about going pro," Downing said. "I told him to think about it because this guy (Knight) knows what he's doing and he really cares.
"I've learned a lot from Coach Knight. He's part of the reason I came here. There are a lot of things he teaches you that you don't appreciate until you're gone from the program. I trust what he says and he also gave me more confidence as a person."
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