School comes to coach's defense in incident with Compaq Center general manager

Texas Tech adopts new ethics: Knight makes right

Posted: Tuesday, December 18, 2001

So now we know how Texas Tech is going to handle outbursts by Bob Knight.

Unlike Indiana, which fired Knight the last time he spouted off after minor provocation, the folks in Lubbock are vehemently defending their coach against an accusation that he cursed at Compaq Center general manager Jerry MacDonald, then challenged him to a fight.

Tech officials are even taking things a step further by launching their own accusations against MacDonald: He acted unprofessionally by seeking out Knight, exaggerated their conversation then went hunting for publicity.

Shortly before tipoff of the Red Raiders' 89-72 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette on Monday night, Texas Tech released a letter from MacDonald apologizing ''for my behavior and remarks regarding my response to your comments on the Compaq Center locker rooms.'' His letter did not back down from any of the facts.

At a post-game new conference, Knight said he had conveyed through Tech sports information director Randy Farley what had happened and would not discuss further the conversation he and MacDonald had.

''I get a little bit tired of the media frenzy,'' Knight said. ''I think the key in that whole situation is that the guy at the top of the whole thing looking into exactly what happened and then feeling without any question that he owed us an apology for what had happened.''

The scene unfolded Friday while the Red Raiders were in Houston taking part in an annual charity doubleheader at the Compaq Center, home of the Houston Rockets.

Because Tech was playing the Houston Cougars in the late game, those teams were temporarily assigned small locker rooms until the teams playing the early game were gone. Knight was outraged by the cramped conditions, so Red Raiders athletic director Gerald Myers got a friend with the Rockets to let the team use their locker room. Doing so circumvented MacDonald and his office.

At Tech's postgame news conference, Knight was asked how he liked the event and the arena. He ripped the 26-year-old place for being outdated and said his first dressing room ''would have been very, very cramped with four midgets.''

MacDonald was in the room and, when asked for comment by KRIV-TV sports director Mark Berman, said he didn't know what to think. Berman then heard that MacDonald had spoken with Knight, so he asked MacDonald how it went.

''It wasn't pretty,'' MacDonald said, providing few other details.

Berman called MacDonald the next day to see if he would discuss the exchange with Knight. MacDonald said he wasn't sure whether he wanted to make it public.

When Berman called back hours later, MacDonald said, ''At some point, somebody has got to stand up and hold him accountable for the things he does and says,'' and agreed to go on camera.

In that interview, and many since, MacDonald said a polite conversation quickly turned combative, with Knight spewing expletives and offering to go outside to settle things.

Farley, one of the few witnesses to what happened, tells the story differently. He described MacDonald as the aggressor and Knight as the victim.

Farley, who moved from Indonesia to Lubbock to do publicity work for the first time after his longtime friend was hired, said the coach tried calming MacDonald by saying, ''We don't need to make this personal. We're just talking about facilities.''

Both Farley and Tech spokeswoman Cindy Rugeley have blamed MacDonald for taking his story public.

Specifically, Farley said MacDonald made a premeditated attack to generate publicity and ''whined to the media.'' Rugeley said ''it's a little troubling'' and ''horribly unprofessional'' that MacDonald described the conversation ''to the media and (did) so in a way that is different from the way in which our coach reported it.''

Myers and Rugeley said a Texas Tech employee would be fired for going after someone the way MacDonald attacked Knight. Myers also suggested that MacDonald should have spoken up at the news conference -- which would've created a wild scene -- and that he ''provoked the whole situation by following Bob out to the bus.''

At this point, the problem is that all these people are speaking on behalf of Knight, instead of him doing it himself.

Myers, who initially told KRIV he knew nothing about it, could have asked Knight to talk about it. Or, as his boss, Myers could have demanded it.

Had Knight spoken Sunday, the story would have run its course within 24 hours. Instead, questions remained.

Funny thing is, there's not much more Knight can say.

Confirm MacDonald's account and Knight comes across as the bully his detractors say he is and his supporters love him for being.

Confirm what Tech officials are saying and it's left for the court of public opinion, which is probably the same as confirming MacDonald's account.

Think about it: Those who love him still will, maybe even more for sticking up for his team.

Knight bashers will say they knew a scene like this was inevitable. To them, the only controversy is whether the blowup occurred before or after midnight, Dec. 14 or 15, so they can best determine the winner of the ''When Will Bob Blow?'' pool.

Myers and school president David Schmidly have said they want Knight to be the same volatile, combative coach who won three national titles in 29 years at Indiana.

They put no behavior clauses in his contract and haven't minded one bit that he hasn't apologized for any of the misdeeds that cost him his job at IU, the final one being a run-in with a student who said, ''What's up, Knight?''

After this weekend, Tech officials should have a better idea what they're in for.

Maybe next time they'll be better prepared to handle it.

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