Last Sunday, in a West Texas arena, hard by a street named Indiana
Avenue, Jean Duncan presented a $100,000 check to the Texas Tech
endowment fund in honor of Red Raiders coach Bob Knight. It was a
remarkable gesture, not least because the contribution--to say
nothing of Duncan and 80 other weary travelers on hand--had come
from Indiana. "When they fired Coach Knight, I felt like my
insides had been ripped out," says Duncan, a 50-year-old Hoosiers
alum who used to organize road trips for Indiana fans. "My
loyalties aren't divided. I'm pure Texas Tech now, and I'm so
glad he's at a place where he's respected. Leaving Indiana was
the best thing that could have happened to him."
For all of Mike Davis's success in Bloomington, Knight's rebirth
in Lubbock has been no less astonishing. It's as if MacArthur had
taken over Bill Murray's Stripes platoon and turned it into a
Delta Force unit. Thrust into an underdog role for the first time
in three decades (Could he win? Could he recruit? Would he
detonate on the sidelines like a latter-day Woody Hayes?), Knight
transformed Tech from a 9--19 Big 12 doormat into a 23--9 NCAA
tournament team last season, his first in Lubbock. Despite
Sunday's 79--70 loss to No. 13 Oklahoma State, this season's Red
Raiders were 11--4 and were strong contenders for another
postseason appearance. At week's end Knight needed just two more
victories to become the fourth men's college coach to win 800
games, joining Dean Smith (879), Adolph Rupp (876) and Jim Phelan
Amid this success, Knight has not sparked a single incident of
the kind that made him infamous during his 29 seasons in
Bloomington. Through Sunday he had received only one technical
foul as Tech's coach. "Bobby's a lot different than he was the
last few years at Indiana," says Hall of Fame coach Pete Newell,
a mentor and close friend of Knight's. "He's not in the
mainstream anymore, and he's more comfortable with the people
around him. He just wants to teach."
Knight's presence has also been a boon to Tech's bottom line.
Season-ticket sales for the 15,098-seat United Spirit Arena have
nearly doubled, from 5,761 two years ago to 10,600 this season,
while membership in the Red Raider Club has done the same,
jumping from 3,000 to 4,200. The athletic department estimates
that Knight--who has a five-year contract worth about $4
million--has increased the department's revenue by $7.5 million
since his arrival, thanks to increased sales of tickets,
sponsorships and personal-seat licenses, as well as the growth of
Texas Tech TV, which now broadcasts selected Red Raiders games
all over West Texas and in the Dallas--Fort Worth Metroplex. In
less than two years Knight has also raised $118,000 for Tech's
library fund, money its development director, D'Anne Harmon,
calls "manna from heaven."
In hindsight there was genius in the destination Knight selected,
for few places in America would better appreciate him. "He's one
of us," says Dan Pope, a Lubbock businessman. "This is a place
for hardy people, and we're not too caught up in political
correctness." An avid hunter, Knight likes loading up his Chevy
Suburban and driving his buddies for some R and R, and he and his
wife, Karen, have explored nearly every back road in the region.
On one trip they got lost while off-roading in Palo Duro Canyon,
finding an unlocked gate--and freedom--just before sunset.
When will Knight's own sun set in Lubbock? He's not saying. At
62, though, the General has the time, the environment and clearly
the ability to surpass Dean Smith's alltime record of 879 wins.
Lest anyone think he's planning a short stay, the Knights have
built a house just west of town, where workmen recently planted
trees in the front yard. Two seasons into his new life, in other
words, Bob Knight is putting down roots in West Texas. --Grant
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN W. MCDONOUGH GOOD KNIGHT In Texas the General has even been cordial with therefs.