Tonight is the Knight - New era begins at Texas Tech

Friday, November 16, 2001

LUBBOCK, Texas -- Bob Knight is about to start finding out if his way works at Texas Tech.

His players are about to see if the patience the Hall of Fame coach has shown in practice carries over into the regular season.

"The things I do, and that we'll do and try to do with these kids are things I've found to be successful and good, where kids have been responsive in the past," Knight said.

Knight's hiring in March immediately raised anticipation surrounding the Red Raiders. The real debut finally comes tonight at home against William & Mary.

While Knight has been in Lubbock eight months, he's had only about a month on the court with his players trying to teach his way. And many of the players, a mix of a few returners and mostly newcomers, haven't ever played together before.

"What we'll do isn't going to be any great change from what I tried to do at Indiana when I started there, in terms of getting things squared away so we can be competitive," Knight said.

A winning past

Knight was 662-239 in 29 season at Indiana, where he won three NCAA championships and went to the NCAA tournament in each of his last 15 seasons. He was fired in September 2000 after Indiana officials said he violated a "zero tolerance" behavior policy.

He was out of coaching only a season before he was hired at Texas Tech, where his old friend, Gerald Myers, is the athletic director.

Knight, who also coached at Army, has 764 career victories, a .726 winning percentage in 1,053 games over 35 seasons. He has had just one losing season.

Tech players are eager to showcase to fans, and Knight, what they have learned under his tutelage. They also believe they know what he expects.

"If we win sloppy, he'll take the win, but he'll be much happier with a well-played game," said Tech forward Kasib Powell, who is expected to be a top scorer. "If you miss a blockout, that's when you're going to get screamed at or taken out of the game. If you can't play defense, you can't play on this team."

Freshman guard Ronald Ross said a win Friday would boost the team's confidence. Especially against a team whose players average about 2 inches taller than the Red Raiders.

"We're quick, they're big," Ross said. "He always tells us winning is not easy. If we work hard and make things difficult for the other team, we'll win. People are going to judge us on this first game and we're going to try to do what he's shown us to do to win."

While Tech has sold about 12,000 season tickets, that package doesn't include this weekend's Red Raider Classic that continues on Saturday. Northern Iowa and San Diego State play in the other game today.

Several thousand tickets remain for the weekend tournament that was added to the schedule after season tickets had been sold. There will be plenty of people on campus because the Tech football team plays No. 3 Oklahoma on Saturday.

Last season, the Red Raiders averaged only about 4,000 fans a game at the $68 million, 15,050-seat United Spirit Arena.

Knight lost his opening games at Army and Indiana. But his initial teams at those schools finished 18-8 and 17-8, respectively.

Tech was 9-19 last season, and finished 3-13 in the Big 12. James Dickey was fired after the last-place finish in the Big 12 South Division.

Andy Ellis, a returning 6-foot-11 center, said the team is improved. But he's uncertain about its potential.

"I think we have better ballplayers who understand the game a little better," Ellis said. "But until you get in front of fans and have the pressure of a Big 12 game and everything, I don't think you can honestly say how good the team is or can be."

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