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Knight still coaching with fire

Knight still coaching with fire

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LUBBOCK - It's been quite an unusual 40th season for Texas Tech coach Bob Knight so far. His successor has already been picked, and he's off to his worst start in a decade.

But the legendary coach still has the same intensity that helped him win three national championships with Indiana.

"I'm still coaching. My name is still on there as the coach," the 65-year-old Knight said. "My name's on there, then that's what I'm doing."

Knight, with 860 career victories, needs 20 to overtake Dean Smith for No. 1 on the all-time list. But with a team that's struggling and 19 games remaining before postseason play, passing Smith seems like it will have to wait for next season.

After last year's team made a surprising run to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament, this year's Red Raiders (6-5) are the most inexperienced team Knight has ever coached. Tech has seven freshmen and one junior college transfer, and the influx of newcomers coupled with the fact that several interior players have been hobbled by injuries has Knight off to his slowest start as a coach since 1995 at Indiana.

"We've got an awful lot of work to do to be competitive," Knight said. "Forgetting the injuries, we're not where I had hoped we would be at this point."

Knight said he's "disappointed" so far by this team, which plays Arkansas (8-2) for the first time since 1991 on Wednesday in Dallas.

Knight pointed to a leadership void and the departure of former walk-on Ronald Ross - one of the sparks during the NCAA tournament - as major factors in the team's struggles.

"That has been a huge," Knight said. "I did not think that replacing Ronald, as good as he was and as much as he meant to that team, would be as difficult as it is."

Pat Knight, who signed a contract in October that designated him as his father's successor as Texas Tech's coach, said the team has been inconsistent without a leader.

"We told our team it doesn't need to be one guy," he said. "It can be the whole team, just as long as somebody takes the burden off the coaching staff."

Tech started 10-1 in each of Bob Knight's first two seasons, and the Raiders have won at least 20 games all four years since he arrived - a first for the school. Despite Knight's first slow start in Lubbock, some who have watched him for years see him utilizing the same techniques he's been using since 1965, when Army hired him at age 24, making him the youngest coach in Division I history.

"I don't see any changes since they made the [successor] announcement," said Tech senior associate athletic director Steve Downing, who played for Knight in 1972-73 at Indiana and followed him to Lubbock. "He's doing exactly the same things that he did when he was at Indiana when I was a player."

Tech athletic director Gerald Myers said he believes that "gradually" his longtime friend and colleague would shift some of the head coaching responsibilities to his son. For now, though, Pat Knight is helping his father in much the same way he always has, though some of the players may view him differently.

"I would think that they would look at him as a person with a little more authority than maybe they thought he had, as far as having a lot of input in the program," Myers said. "He's always been active in workouts and practices."

The line of succession has "already had a positive effect" in recruiting, both for the players and Pat Knight, Myers said.

"The players can feel comfortable in that they would still be part of the program as far as why they were recruited," Myers said. "I think that now he will have a bigger interest in the players he's evaluating, not only trying to evaluate for his dad as the head coach but also looking at it from his own perspective."

Myers believes Bob Knight probably will stay in Lubbock after he retires. His contract, which was extended in September, expires in 2009.

"He likes it here," Myers said. "There's a lot of good recreation that he likes. Plus, his son will be coaching. He'll want to see him coach some."

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