It’s been five years since Bob Knight retired from coaching basketball at Texas Tech.
He still calls Lubbock home and is arguably the city’s most famous resident.
But he’s no longer connected to the university where he coached for six-plus seasons.
It’s not, though, because his son Pat was fired as Tech’s hoops coach two years ago.
Knight is unhappy with Tech because he feels former Athletic Director Gerald Myers should have had more support from the university’s leadership toward the end of his career.
Knight sat down for his first interview with the Avalanche-Journal in a few years before a signing at the Hastings on 50th Street on Saturday for his new book, “The Power of Negative Thinking.”
Knight talked about Myers, his son, telling Tech not to hire Billy Gillispie as Pat’s replacement and much more.
On the book’s genesis: “When I was just a kid … when I’d say ‘grandma I wish,’ her standard reply was, she’d look at me and she’d say, ‘You have to understand that if wishes were horses beggars would ride.’ It took me awhile to figure that one out when I was a kid (he laughs). … I kinda remembered that all my life … that instead of hoping and wishing … to get something done, we’re going to have to work to get something done. It was certainly the way I coached. I coached on how can we lose? What can cause us to lose? You can shoot well and still lose. You can play well and still get beat by a better team. But what can cause you to lose? … Where you don’t have a chance to win? So I always worked on those things like the block out and don’t throw the ball away and shot fakes and all the little things that enabled us to eliminate ways to lose. I did that right from the beginning in coaching and that lasted until I was done coaching.”
Addressing clichés: “We just got beat and you come in the locker room … and then you say ‘Hey, Bob, the sun is going to shine brighter tomorrow.’ What the hell good is that going to do? It’s going to be a hell of a lot hotter, that’s all. We got to figure out why the hell we lost. We got to figure out how we keep from losing. Or, ‘Susie, come here and let mommy kiss that scratch on your knee.’ Well, mommy better have iodine on her tongue ‘cause that kiss isn’t going to help any. I mean the whole idea of positive thinking is the antithesis of how I think you try to be successful. And I’ve thought that forever … and so I just thought we’d have some fun with it.”
Everything’s not OK: “We’ve hidden for years and years behind this false façade of everything’s going to work out or everything’s going to be OK. We hope it does, but how are we going to get there? Hope isn’t going to do us any good. Let’s figure how what we have to change. Why did we lose this game? Well, we lost it because we had 22 turnovers and they had 7. Well, we’ve got to cut down on the turnover ratio.”
Two words: “How many times would you have been better off in certain circumstances if you’da asked why? It’d be a lot. Why should I do this? Or how many times would you have been better off if you’d said no. There’s a jillion times. Why and no to me are unbelievably important words in being successful in anything.”
Everybody’s a winner: “The one thing we’re getting into that’s a terrible mistake with kids is everybody gets something for participation. Getting something … should really mean something that you participated better than other kids have. Your kids won the championship and the guys that didn’t get a ballcap or a baseball signed by Albert Pujols. Incentive is really important in success and incentive is not really a part of positive thinking. Positive thinking is things are going to take care of themselves and it may wind up being really (expletive) the way things take care of themselves.”
Vietnam: (In response to a question about hope and government, Knight addressed the Vietnam War.)
“Have we done anything worse in your lifetime and my lifetime than subject 60,000 people who were killed to go to Vietnam? Now think about that one. What have we done worse than that? What the hell were we going to get out of Vietnam? Why isn’t someone smart enough to say it’s the north vs. the south, let them settle it and we’ll try and set up whatever kind of relationship we need with whoever wins. … I thought Kennedy and Johnson should have been impeached for Vietnam. Sixty thousand deaths for what? That’s the kind of thing in government that drives me nuts. We make some of these decisions where we should just leave things alone.”
Why he still lives in Lubbock: “We like Lubbock; we think Lubbock is a nice city. The weather is basically pretty good. We have good friends here, we like the people here, there are things we like to do, nice place to go to places from, we really enjoy living here. We like our home, we like to go to movies, lot of neat little old places to eat around Lubbock.”
What people come up and talk to him about: “Well, I don’t bring a microphone … they ask me who I think is going to win the NCAA Tournament and I always say if I knew that I’d be working for Obama. People have been really nice. People will come and thank me for what we did for basketball while I coached. That’s always nice and something I really appreciate and that’s happened a lot. We went to NCAA four times, NIT once (at Tech) … so five of six times we went to postseason.”
West Texas is familiar: “My dad’s from Oklahoma; my wife’s from Oklahoma. The first time I came to Oklahoma I was about 8 years old. The first time I came to Texas I was about 10. My mom had two first cousins that lived in Texas.”
Anything he’d change about Lubbock?: “I’d try and eliminate the wind.”
Montana: “We’ve spent a lot of time in Montana. I’ve been going to Montana since 1973. … Back when you couldn’t practice until the 15th of October; you couldn’t even be on the floor. There was nothing you could do with your team. I would go to Montana bird hunting for three or four weeks in September. I used to write letters to high school coaches in Montana to see if in their area there were any good fishing streams.”
Doing games for ESPN: “I like watching different approaches to basketball and when something goes wrong, what kind of changes are made. I’ve always enjoyed that and I have a lot of people come up and tell me they appreciate the way I explain the game. I feel good about that.”
“I love the game; it’s been a huge part of my life. I’ve been really lucky … basketball has been so good to me. I was thinking the other day how many European countries I’ve been in … every one of them was to conduct a clinic on the game of basketball.”
How long will he do TV?: “ ’Til I get tired of it. It gives me something to do. The people are great. ESPN has really good people. The producer and the people that work with him. The ones I’ve worked with have been great. If we get there the night before the game we go out to eat and go out after the game. And the whole group goes out.”
Pat at Lamar: “It’s a great situation for him. He had a great season last year. When they signed him to a contract they told him he’d have two really, really difficult years because they just didn’t have anybody. Well they turned that around a little bit with the three or four seniors they had last year and they ended up winning the league. There are three things they did that hadn’t been done in 20 years … they won the league tournament, they won 23 games and they went to the NCAAs.
“But they also told him how hard the second year is going to be and it’s been a nightmare for him in terms of wins and losses. (Lamar is 1-17 in Southland Conference play and 3-28 overall.) Their record is awful and yet he’s maintained a good, hard effort. The kids he recruited when he went there are the freshmen now and they’re just not good enough. The first year he recruited there was no reason to go to Lamar. It’s a beautiful campus … great basketball arena. With year they had last year the freshmen they have coming in will be really, really good and they’ll be good from this year on.”
Does he pick dad’s brain?: “He calls me a lot. He called me the other day and I told him I wanted to know when they were going to work out in the spring because I’m going to come down and watch them for three days and just see what I thought of his players.”
Was he upset at Pat’s dismissal from Tech?: “That’s up to Tech. Pat had some ideas about coaching that weren’t real solid when he started and I think he understood that to his credit. You got to win games. (Now) he got into a really good situation. The Houston area is one of the best areas in the entire country to recruit. So I think actually it’s a far better move than what he had here. This is a tough place to recruit here.”
Why West Texas is tough for basketball recruiting: (Knight pulls out a paper and draws Xs for Wichita Falls, Amarillo, Lubbock, Odessa, Midland, San Angelo and Abilene.)
“I recruited for six years and in those six years those seven cities produced one player.”
He told the story of going to Abilene to scout a kid and ran into former pro golfer Charles Coody, who’s from Abilene. About four minutes into the game, Knight knew the prospect would not work out and offered to buy Coody dinner.
Why Tech should have hired Ruffin McNeill when Mike Leach was fired: “I thought they made a terrible mistake when they didn’t keep Ruffin McNeill. Ruffin would have been great. The players liked Ruffin. They played hard and they played well. Ruffin was going to be a really good recruiter. I think Gerald wanted Ruffin as a coach and it didn’t work that way.”
Myers and respect: Knight said some members of Tech’s leadership were not supportive of Myers and it bothered him after all Myers had done for Texas Tech … as a player, coach and athletic director. He also felt Myers was unfairly blamed for Leach’s firing and should get more credit for the growth of Tech’s athletic facilities.
“Gerald was responsible for Leach being hired. He fought for Leach. Gerald was responsible for bringing (track coach Wes) Kittley in.”
On Billy Gillispie: “I told them under no circumstances to hire (Billy) Gillispie. They told me that they would never do that. So I just stayed away from it. He was not the right guy to hire.”
On hiring current interim men’s coach Chris Walker: “No idea. I wouldn’t know Chris Walker if he walked in the door.”
On Tech hiring Kingsbury: Knight commented on Tech’s hiring of Kliff Kingsbury as head coach with a left-handed compliment, saying, “I wondered where they had such a newfound intelligence to do something like that.”
What does he like about Kingsbury?: “I don’t even know him. But you watch A&M play and they obviously were good offensively and how he used people. I think he’ll probably do the same thing here … and I think his use of people will be very good here.
Tuberville a “terrible fit”: “I even told them that. He just didn’t fit in. I told them in the beginning I think it’s a terrible fit.”