Wednesday, February 4, 2004

Tech shakes finger at Knight

College basketball notebook: Coach avoids suspension for spat with chancellor

The Associated Press

LUBBOCK, Texas - Bob Knight was reprimanded, but not suspended, on Tuesday for his loud public outburst at Texas Tech chancellor David Smith.

After coaching his No. 19 Red Raiders over Baylor 83-63, Knight said there had been discussions about a suspension. The coach also admitted he could've avoided the episode by simply walking away from Smith.

"I regret that the situation turned out the way it did," Knight said earlier in a four-paragraph news release. "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."

Tech athletic director Gerald Myers said in a statement that "appropriate personnel action" was taken regarding Monday's verbal spat at an upscale grocery store.

As Knight left the court after Tuesday night's home win, the crowd cheered loudly and he acknowledged the fans by raising his right hand in appreciation.

After the game, Knight said he talked with his wife Monday night about how he would've handled a suspension.

Knight said he would have gone "through whatever means were available to fight that, but I would have stayed through the suspension simply because I feel so strongly about this situation, this school, this community and these kids and that would not have been easy for me to do, but I would have done it with them."

In his version of the spat, 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."

Before the game, Knight received a rousing ovation when he came onto the court a couple of minutes earlier than usual. Even a Baylor assistant, standing under the basket during warmups, applauded as Knight walked out and shook hands with the coach.

A row of students near the Tech bench wore red T-shirts with white lettering that read, "Lettuce Support Coach Knight" - a reference to rumors that lettuce had been thrown during the spat.

Armen Williams, a 20-year-old sophomore, painted his bare chest and arms in red acrylic and put in black: I (Heart) Coach Knight.

"There's been so many rumors it's hard to say if he got the right punishment," Williams said. "We'll definitely let coach Knight know we support him, so he'll stay and he can continue to work his magic."

Knight spent much of the day meeting with school officials.

This is the first time Tech has punished Knight in his three seasons at the school. He was hired in March 2001, six months after he was fired by Indiana for what then-school president Myles Brand called his "pattern of unacceptable behavior."

Myers, the only one of the three people most instrumental in hiring Knight who still works for the university, was with Knight on Monday when the spat occurred. Myers is a former basketball coach who has been friends with Knight for roughly three decades.

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

Knight has no behavior clause in his contract. At the time of his hiring, Myers and then-school president David Schmidly said they felt that none was needed.

Schmidly has been replaced by Jon Whitmore. Smith replaced John Montford, a former state senator from Lubbock and a prolific fund-raiser.

In the statement, Smith said he applauded how Whitmore and Myers resolved this issue.

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

The grocery-store incident occurred six weeks after Knight went into a profanity-filled tirade upon being asked by an ESPN reporter about his relationship with former player Steve Alford, now the Iowa coach, who was also participating in the interview. Knight later apologized for his behavior.

A Hall of Famer, Knight was hired at Tech to revive a downtrodden program. He did that by getting the Red Raiders into the NCAA tournament his first season, but wasn't able to get back last season. In response, he returned his $250,000 salary to the school, saying he hadn't earned it.

Tech won 12 straight this season, the school's best streak since reaching the Sweet 16 in 1995-96.

Knight's fiery temper has often overshadowed his on-court success.

In his 29 years at Indiana, he won three national championships and 11 Big Ten titles. Yet he's also remembered for throwing a chair across a court, punching a police officer in Puerto Rico and kicking a chair his son, then a player, was sitting in. He also was accused of choking a player.

Knight's hiring was widely hailed in Lubbock, except for a group of faculty worried about the possible problems his sometimes volatile behavior could bring. Many recanted and have since become supporters, noting the money he's raised for scholarships and the library.

There have been some run-ins, though.

In January 2002, Knight and the general manager of the Compaq Center in Houston exchanged words after Knight complained about the small size of the locker room. The GM later apologized.

Almost exactly a year ago, Knight earned win No. 800, one of his top moments in Lubbock. It was later reported that he kicked in a television screen during halftime of that game. Knight downplayed that incident, saying he was "apparently the first coach in the history of coaching to ever kick anything or break anything."

Stanford: Forward Justin Davis will miss at least three weeks for No. 2 Stanford because of a bruised bone and partially torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee. Davis, a senior and the leading rebounder and third-leading scorer for the Cardinal (18-0), will be re-evaluated before the team plays the Oregon schools at the end of February.

Sophomore Matt Haryasz will start in place of Davis, who was hurt Thursday at Oregon State.

SAINT JOSEPH'S: The Hawks have won 19 straight and face only two more winning teams before the Atlantic 10 tournament. If Saint Joseph's can win out, it will become the first team since UNLV in 1991 to go to the NCAA Tournament undefeated. Can the Hawks do it?

"I have no idea," Phil Martelli, coach of No. 3 Saint Joe's, said Tuesday. "But I'll tell you this: I think it's going to take a really good team to beat us."

The Hawks beat crosstown rival Villanova 74-67 Monday in a game they led by only four points down the stretch. They play La Salle - another Philadelphia Big 5 rival - Saturday. They have eight regular-season games left.

Saint Joe's faces only two more teams in the regular season with winning records: Dayton (17-3) and Rhode Island (13-8), which it plays twice. Their other five opponents are a combined 32-57. The Hawks then could face another three teams in the Atlantic 10 Tournament.

Jack Ramsay, the coach of the 1964-65 Saint Joe's team that set the school's previous winning streak record at 16 games, said the kind of intensity Saint Joe's faced at Villanova is what the Hawks can expect the rest of the season.

But Ramsay said he thinks this team is the best the school's had since his 1965-66 squad, and he pegged the Hawks' chances to make it to the NCAA Tournament undefeated at "good."

"I wouldn't say it's a lock by any means. Tough games remain," Ramsay, 78, said. "All these teams are going to rise to the challenge of being the team that knocked Saint Joe's off and kept them from having an undefeated season."

LOUISVILLE: Just two weeks ago, Louisville was winning easily and on its way to matching last season's 17-game winning streak.

The Cardinals won their 14th straight game Jan. 21, solidifying their No. 5 ranking with a 93-66 rout of then-No. 6 Cincinnati. It was Louisville's seventh consecutive double-digit victory and its third of the season over a top-10 opponent.

Since then, not much has gone right for the Cardinals.

Point guard Taquan Dean scored 21 points against the Bearcats, then said he played with a pulled groin. Leading scorer Francisco Garcia sprained his ankle late in the Cardinals' 65-62 win at Tennessee on Jan. 25.

A day later, coach Rick Pitino said he was leaving his team to address an undisclosed medical problem. He returned two days later with a clean bill of health.

Garcia and Dean, meanwhile, missed an entire week of practice.

The now sixth-ranked Cardinals (16-2, 6-1 Conference USA) play four of their next five games on the road, and their surprising season looks suddenly shaky.

"We've just got to get healthy and battle the best we can, keep playing with the same attitude and most importantly, improve," Pitino said Tuesday. "I'm not going to get frustrated by losses."

BRACKET BUSTER: Marshall (7-11) will play Western Kentucky (9-10) Feb. 21 in Huntington as part of ESPN's Bracket Buster Saturday.

CANISIUS: Point guard Dewitt Doss will miss the rest of the season with torn left knee ligament.

EX-WALSH COACH DIES: Steve Loy, the longtime head basketball coach for Walsh University, has died after an extended battle with liver cancer. He was 52. Loy died Monday night at a hospice at the Aultman Woodlawn Rehabilitation Center in Canton, Ohio.

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