Knight certainly not restrained in return to college basketball

Posted: Sunday, November 18, 2001

LUBBOCK, Texas -- In the first three minutes of his first game at Texas Tech, Bob Knight smacked his players on the behind, chewed out his point guard and questioned calls by officials.

Right away, Knight proved that 20 months away from college basketball certainly hasn't restrained him.

Knight was as animated as ever Friday night, watching his Red Raiders beat William & Mary 75-55 in his debut. He kept it up Saturday night when Tech beat San Diego State 81-71 in the finals of the Red Raider Classic.

In the opener, Knight's cobbled-together team of six holdovers, four junior college transfers, two freshmen and a walk-on proved they've come a long way in learning his motion offense and man defense in a short time.

They led 22-11 midway through the first half and were up by 21points just before halftime. When the Tribe used a 10-0 run to get within nine, Knight remained calm and the Red Raiders snapped back to form, keeping the lead in double digits the rest of the way.

''We moved the ball, set good screens and that gave us open shots,'' said Kasib Powell, who had 13 points and eight rebounds. ''It's hard to play defense on us because we're moving so much.''

William & Mary coach Rick Boyages said Tech reminded him of Knight's Indiana teams -- and not just because of the new, Knight-designed home uniforms that are awfully similar to the white and red outfits of his Hoosiers teams.

''I think they were a little more physical than I expected from the tape,'' said Boyages, who coached against Knight and IU eight times as an assistant at Ohio State and Boston College. ''They played hard.''

Knight used all 12 players who suited up, although six played at least 19 minutes. He'll probably be substituting a lot in the first few weeks while figuring out which guys play best together.

He learned a lot about his guards against William & Mary as the starters combined for nine points, one assist and three turnovers in 30 minutes, compared to 17 points, 11 assists and one turnover in 48 minutes for two reserves.

Knight reacted only to mistakes. He screamed ''Grab the ball!'' several times when players juggled rebounds, and he often called over his guards to discuss plays that didn't turn out as planned. He was especially upset that Tech allowed five points in the final minute of the first half.

''There were some things we could eliminate that would make us a much better team,'' he said after praising his club for playing ''12 or 13 minutes as well as we're capable of playing.''

He badgered officials some, but not to extremes. Both he and an official walked away from one early exchange laughing.

Knight walked off the court the same way he entered it: Head down, pretty much ignoring the fanfare and hoopla that surrounded the start of his 36th season and first at Tech.

He downplayed the significance of his return, saying he knew he'd coach again -- if he wanted to -- after being fired by Indiana in September 2000 for violating a zero-tolerance behavior policy.

More special, Knight said, was having more than 40 friends from across the country attend the game. The group included former basketball great John Havlicek, former college basketball coach Abe Lemons, horse racing trainer D. Wayne Lukas, golfer Fuzzy Zoeller and John Ryan, who hired Knight at Indiana.

Whatever emotions Knight felt about this weekend hit him during a party with his pals Thursday night.

''When I got up and talked, I really had a difficult time telling them how much I appreciated them being here,'' Knight said. ''I had to sit down.''

Knight's debut sold 10,444 of the 15,050 seats at United Spirit Arena, a poor showing considering fans filled the building for the news conference announcing his hiring and have bought the full allotment of season tickets.

Because the first two games were part of the Red Raider Classic, they weren't included in the packages. Fans had to shell out another $40 for games Friday and Saturday nights, or $25 for one.

While Knight said he was ''fairly disappointed that we didn't have a larger crowd,'' returning players considered it a packed house after averaging about 4,000 last season.

''It makes it a lot better to play when those students are making noise and raising Cain,'' senior Andy Ellis said. ''Last year it was dead out there. I felt tonight there was electricity the whole night.''

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