From Army to Texas Tech
Ability to teach has led to unmatched coaching success for a man who did it his way
For the past 41 years, Bob Knight has been following in his mother's footsteps.
Hazel Knight was an elementary school teacher in Orrville, Ohio.
Whether it was at West Point, Indiana or Texas Tech, Bob Knight has been considered as much a teacher as he is a head basketball coach.
"He took me as a naive 18-year old and it wasn't West Point that taught me to be a man and accept responsibility, it was Coach Knight," said David Ralph, who played for Knight at Army. "West Point helped mold me, but Coach Knight taught me."
When Knight reached his milestone victory, he said he couldn't think of a more perfect song than Frank Sinatra's "My Way."
Jodi Miller / Staff
Texas Tech Coach Bob Knight reacts to a play during a win against New Mexico, while his son Pat, head coach designate, left, sits on the bench. The win was Knight's 880th career victory, setting the NCAA Division I men's record.
And now, the end is near,
And so I face the final curtain.
My friends, I'll say it clear;
I'll state my case of which I'm certain.
Knight said his interest in basketball began in the sixth grade, when a coach, David Knight (no relation), began to teach him about the game.
"I had been around teachers and coaches all my life," said Knight, who became the men's college basketball all-time winningest Division I head coach with his 880th career victory against New Mexico. "A lot of times at halftime, though, I wish I could be doing something else."
I've lived a life that's full -
I've traveled each and every highway.
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.
Knight's coaching career began after his playing days were completed at Ohio State, where he was a part of a national championship team in 1960.
His first coaching job was as an assistant coach at Cuyahoga Falls (Ohio) High School, a public school some 32 miles northeast of Orrville.
Knight didn't last long as a high-school coach. After enlisting in the Army, Knight was hired at West Point to be an assistant coach to Tates Locke.
"I watched him for several years working with the freshmen and the varsity. I just started noticing him and said, 'Boy, this kid's got a lot going for him.' He's obviously a real top-notch coach," said General Ray Murphy, who hired the 24-year old Knight when he was the athletic director at West Point. "When the head coaching job arrived, I said, 'Hell, we've got a head coach here already.' I thought he had great talent, great coaching ability and (he) produced great results."
"The reaction from everyone on the board was, "Hell, he's too young. He's just a kid.' And I said maybe he's young in years but he's damn old in ability and I don't think we can afford not to hire this young man."
Throughout his career, Knight has been a student as much as he's been a teacher. His strongest mentors included Clair Bee, Pete Newell, Henry Iba and Fred Taylor.
Regrets? I've had a few,
But then again, too few to mention.
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption.
Knight still enlists the opinion of Newell, four decades after Knight began his collegiate coaching career. After Texas Tech played an exhibition game this season against West Texas A&M, Knight sent Newell video tapes of the game to his home in San Francisco.
Once Knight got to the U.S. Military Academy, though, he not only learned about basketball, he learned about the Army way.
General Richie Cardillo was assigned to be the officer representative for the men's basketball team. The coaches at West Point are normally civilians, so the representative is assigned to help teach the coaches the rules of the military.
Cardillo and Knight formed a friendship as the two shared their areas of expertise with each other.
"You sort of know when you've got something good on hand in terms of a coach and how he can relate to kids and how he can teach and how we can manage," Cardillo said. "You didn't have to be with Coach long to know he can do all those things."
Knight compiled a 102-50 record at Army, which included an NIT championship in 1970.
Other coaching opportunities came up for Knight while he was at West Point, but loyalty to the program that gave him his first job kept him at the academy. He turned down a job at Florida after his first season at West Point.
I planned each charted course -
Each careful step along the byway,
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.
In 1971, however, Knight was offered a job he couldn't pass up.
Bill Orwig, the athletic director at Indiana, offered a job to a coach whose philosophy started with defense in a time when the Big Ten was at a pinnacle for high-powered offense.
Knight became the first basketball coach since 1923 to be hired by the Hoosiers that didn't play basketball at Indiana, where he was given the name "The General."
"I'm no basketball coach, so everything I say should be scrubbed clean, but at Indiana and at all the schools that were contenders in the Big Ten, they were all fastbreak teams," said Dr. John Ryan, who was the president at Indiana when Knight was hired. "You had the Illinois team that was called the 'Whiz Kids' and Indiana was called the "Hurryan Hoosiers.' There was a coach at Minnesota that said to a newspaper that when we hired Knight we'd be embarrassed by his style of play. It wasn't three years before people started playing Bob Knight basketball."
Yes, there were times, I'm sure you knew,
When I bit off more than I could chew,
But through it all, where there was doubt,
I ate it up and spit it out.
I faced it all and I stood tall.
And did it my way.
A year after the Hoosiers went 31-1, Knight's 1975-76 team went 32-0 to capture his first national championship. The Hoosiers became the 12th team since 1938 to finish a season unbeaten. No team has finished undefeated since.
Knight spent 29 years at Indiana before he was fired after the 1999-2000 season. He compiled 662 victories and three national championships.
His arrival at Texas Tech has brought four consecutive 20-win seasons, increased national exposure, four postseason appearances that included a berth in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament following the 2004-05 season.
Knight has agreed to a contract extension that will keep him at Tech for the next five years.
For what is a man? What has he got?
If not himself - Then he has naught.
To say the things he truly feels
And not the words of one who kneels.
The record shows I took the blows
And did it my way.