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Knight one victory from 800

Posted: Friday, January 31, 2003

LUBBOCK, Texas -- When Bob Knight had to clear out his locker at Indiana, his son discovered three balls buried under junk and stained by a soft drink.

Each was taped with a number -- 500, 600 and 700 to mark the coach's milestone victories.

''I took them back to the house,'' said Pat Knight, who emptied the locker after Indiana fired his dad in 2000. ''He just threw them in the closet.''

Yep, Bob Knight doesn't like to make a fuss about all his achievements. But he'll soon have another ball to add to his unwanted collection.

Knight won his 799th game Wednesday when his Texas Tech Red Raiders beat Colorado. One more victory will make him the fourth men's Division I coach to reach 800. His first chance comes Saturday night against Texas A&M in College Station.

For Knight, the milestone only proves he's coached a long time, since 1965. As for wins with numerical significance, he said he remembers only No. 1. The others ''just never meant anything to me,'' he said.

''I've gotten upset when I lost. When we won, that's just kind of what I thought we were supposed to do,'' said Knight, who has won three national championships.

While Knight won't step back and ponder this accomplishment, his peers are happy to do it for him.

''Eight-hundred means you've sustained excellence for a long, long time,'' said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who got his Division I coaching start as an assistant to Knight. ''I hope he gets a lot more.''

Kansas coach Roy Williams, who recently hit 400, said: ''Eight-hundred wins is just mind-boggling. I don't know if I could live through 800 games, much less 800 wins.''

Former Texas-El Paso coach Don Haskins knows Knight well and thinks his friend is bluffing when he says No. 800 won't matter.

''He probably will say it doesn't, but it's got to,'' Haskins said. ''The main thing is, he'll want to get it over with, because it kind of distracts from playing.''

Adding to the significance of the milestone is that it's happening at Tech, not Indiana.

Knight registered wins Nos. 200-700, and all three of his national titles, while coaching the Hoosiers from 1971-2000. Along the way, the silver-haired coach known as the General also became infamous for his temper.

He threw a chair across a court; kicked a chair on the sideline while his son, Pat, was sitting in it; had countless spats with officials and reporters; and was accused of grabbing a player by the throat during a practice. A videotape of that 1997 episode created a furor that eventually led to his dismissal in September 2000.

After a year away, he made a surprising comeback in West Texas. The Red Raiders hadn't had a winning record in four years but went 23-9 and reached the NCAA tournament in Knight's first season.

His triumphant return made even his harshest critics acknowledge his coaching brilliance. This season, the team is 12-4 and has spent time in the Top 25.

''I think it's great recognition for the university, for Tech, for our basketball program for him to win his 800th here,'' said athletic director Gerald Myers, who took a lot of criticism for hiring Knight.

Pat Knight, a Red Raiders assistant, believes his father returned to college basketball because he realized he could only fish, hunt and golf so much.

''I just really enjoy the game,'' Bob Knight said. ''I've always enjoyed what can be done with basketball. It's like something you can continually kind of tinker with and fiddle around with and think about and work with.''

Adolph Rupp of Kentucky was the longtime record-holder for coaching victories at 876. North Carolina's Dean Smith passed him in 1997 and retired with 879. Jim Phelan of Mount St. Mary's has 826 wins and is retiring after this season.

''Bob has a chance to become the winningest coach in college basketball,'' Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton said. ''I think that he still has a lot of good years left.''

Tennessee coach Pat Summitt and Texas coach Jody Conradt became the first women's coaches to reach 800 wins, both getting there this month.

Knight's 800th will come in his 37th season -- four more than Smith and eight fewer than Phelan. Summitt did it in her 29th season, Conradt in her 34th.

''I don't think any coach thinks of it as 'his' wins,'' said Smith, who occasionally plays golf with Knight. ''It's the team's. The wins belong to the teams and the losses to us, because they're doing what we ask them to do.''

Knight has had only one losing season, and he has one undefeated season -- 1975-76, when the Hoosiers went 32-0. No Division I men's team has done that since. He also coached the U.S. Olympic team to a gold medal in 1984.

''He's one of our great leaders in America,'' said Baylor coach Dave Bliss, one of Knight's former assistants. ''He just happens to be a good basketball coach. His ability to lead people into battle is tremendous.''



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