That red sweater must be feeling pretty comfortable right about now for old Bob Knight.
After trouncing top-10 opponents Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, Knight's Texas Tech team entered the polls at No. 20 this week, two spots ahead of Indiana.
For the Red Raiders, it marks the first time they've been ranked in the top 25 in five years. For a coach some say lost his edge near the end of a 28-year run as Indiana's head coach/living legend, it's proof-positive that he belongs as one of the greatest coaches to ever pace the sidelines. Or throw a chair.
But that's just the problem, Knight will be remembered more for his antics than for his genius. You hear Bob Knight and you think flying chairs; you don't think about more than 700 wins or three national titles.
You don't notice the fact that he's one of two coaches (the other being Dean Smith) to ever win a national title as a player and as head coach.
Maybe all that will change.
So far, Knight's job at Texas Tech has shown what's right about the General.
He's taken a team with little talent and made them believe they're the best team in the Big 12. Last year the Red Raiders weren't anything but the Redheaded Stepchildren, at 3-13 in the conference and 9-19 overall.
This season, Tech is 15-3 and 4-2 in the Big 12. The Raiders have notched three-straight sellouts at United Spirit Arena. There hasn't been this much to talk about in Lubbock since Buddy Holly.
"I've never seen a transformation like this, particularly the crowd at Texas Tech," said Tom Penders, a former Tech coach and current ESPN analyst. "It's gone from like a funeral parlor to Mardi Gras."
But don't look for Knight to throw beads or high-step down the main drag. He's been there before and he's the reason why the Red Raiders are there now.
"I didn't care when we were ranked No. 1 for two years in a row," Knight said of his 1975 and 1976 Hoosier teams.
Don't you just love him?
Knight understands that rankings don't mean (to borrow a phrase from former Colts coach Jim Mora) diddly poo. It's all about having your team ready for the NCAA Tournament. With the General in command, these boys have the chance to go a long way come March.
Sophomore guard Andre Emmett is a force, averaging 18.3 points a game. Center Andy Ellis patrols the lane, averaging 18.1 points and 7.5 rebounds a game. Guard Nick Valdez is one of the best passers in the country.
Point being, these guys were there last year, with the exception of Valdez (a juco transfer), but Tech still finished last in the Big 12.
It's Knight and day down in Lubbock.
But don't think the General's gone soft. He's still the same guy that asked to buried upside down so his critics could plant one on his arse.
Case in point:
"If I had a guard that could shoot like Jerry West and one that could defend like (John) Havlicek, and if I had Willis Reed setting screens for Magic Johnson and had (Larry) Bird just kind of doing whatever the hell he wanted to, we'd be better," Knight told the Lubbock Avalance-Journal after his squad dismantled Oklahoma on Jan. 26.
I think even I could win with those guys. But that's exactly what separates Knight from coaches like the Lakers' Zen guru Phil Jackson or the Rams' Mike Martz, whom we in small circles like to call the luckiest man alive next to the guy who gets to marry
Katie Holmes. Point being, Knight wins with or without talent. He wins with coaching. It's the same song, just a different verse - his commitment to hard-nosed man-to-man defense and a disciplined, pass-oriented offense put Tech on the map and in the polls once again.
Maybe Knight's tenure at Texas Tech will put memories of flying chairs and alleged choking incidents behind him. Maybe.
Knight's Texas enters at No. 20
Published: Wed Jan 30, 2002 | Modified: Sat Aug 06, 2005 04:02 p.m.