What do we know? Not much. At least not right now. We know that Knight has resigned, that according to the Lubbock Avalanche Journal, this happened this morning, Coach Knight talked with legendary big man coach Pete Newell for an hour on Sunday, and told his team Monday morning that he would no longer be the coach.
I think the biggest question that we're all asking is "why now"? I'm going to try and think this through, but I'd love your two cents as well.
We could take Knight at his word when he says that he thought that this was the best time for his son, and new head coach of Texas Tech, Pat Knight, to begin coaching this team. That he wanted to give Pat time to consider, recruit and see how this team reacts to Pat. On some level, I certainly believe that this is part of the reason, but I don't think it's the only reason. I would think that Knight wants Pat to have a good team and this opportunity certainly does give Pat the opportunity to maybe stretch his wings a bit and coach on his own. He wants Pat to be his own man for the remainder of the season, give him the time to grow with these kids over the spring, and summer and through recruiting season. But that still doesn't explain why it happened in the middle of the season.
Part of me thinks that he was a little dismayed at the attendance, or lack thereof at Texas Tech. I know that this doesn't sound like much of a reason, but the one thing that rings when I think of win #900 for Coach Knight is his admonishment of the crowd for finally showing up to cheer. I get that this sounds like a bad reason to resign in the middle of the season, but I really think that Knight was a little disappointed that he couldn't draw a bigger crowd. It was noticeable that the rafters in the upper deck were empty for win #900. That's got to be somewhat of a hollow feeling, especially for a man that once filled arenas with the mere mention of his name.
This of course insinuates that he was all about ego and I don't believe that for a second. I'll be the first to tell you that it wasn't easy to defend Knight for some of his actions, but what I can say is that I don't think he cared about the records, he cared about the program and he cared about winning basketball games. I believe that with all of my heart. I know that's not an easy statement to make considering he resigned after win #902, but if he was really about the records, he would have quit over the summer. It's highly doubtful that anyone catches him. Even then, I don't think that he really cared about 880, I think he just wanted to coach.
I'll be honest, after spending some time looking at Knight's past recruiting classes last week, I believe that Knight knew that he could still coach his ass off, but something changed. I think that Knight could still recruit players, but something happened with that 2005 recruiting class that changed Knight. Knight recruited eight talented players and five of them transferred after one year with Knight. It was after this mass exodus that his next class, 2006, consisted of five JUCO's and one freshman. Of those five JUCO's two transferred (Benny Valentine and Jay Mitchell) while the freshman (Decensae White) transferred to Santa Clara. That 2005 class was a wake-up call to Knight for what had happened to a program that was starting to build some stability. With those five players transferring, Knight scrambled to get players who could fill the gaps.
Last year may have been Knight's most impressive coaching job at Texas Tech. For those of you familiar with the program, had any other coach had that group of players, they would have struggled to make the NIT. I think he grabbed those JUCO players to prove to himself that he still had it. There's no way in hell that a team with a frontline of Jon Plefka and Darryl Dora should have even so much as sniffed the NCAA tournament, but they did. With signature wins against Aggie and Kansas, Knight willed that team to a tournament birth. If Knight leaves a legacy on the court at Texas Tech, then give me the 2007 version that couldn't get a win in the NCAA Tournament. I'm not being the least bit sarcastic when I say that. I too recognize that I'm probably going to sound like I'm disparaging some past and present Red Raiders, but I'm trying to be honest in my assessment of what that 2007 team really was. Again, consider the talent on that team, which mainly consisted of marginal talents in Jay Jackson (who did not get drafted) and Martin Zeno (and who I do not think will get drafted) - they were good, but certainly not great, a point guard that couldn't shoot (Burgess) and a freshman small forward who was limited offensively (White), with the above mentioned frontcourt and convince me that some other coach in America could have led that team to a NCAA tournament birth. No way in hell should that team have even come close to 20 wins last season.
I reckon that after the numerous transfers of 2005 and the quick fixes in 2006 Knight then figured that he owed it to Pat to get the program back on track. With the influx of John Roberson, D'Walyn Roberts and Mike Singletary in Texas Tech's 2007 recruiting class, this program is much closer to being pointed in a positive direction than it has been in a long time. You can see the young core, so long as they all stick around, and I tend to think that they will, that there is certainly some talent at Texas Tech. The program is in the best place it's been for years, at least in terms of going forward. I guess he thinks that this team has turned a corner with the youth. Zeno, Voskuil and Burgess barely registered on the radar on Saturday afternoon. It was the freshmen, notably Roberson and Singletary, that led the way. If there was ever a sign that the program was back to a place where Pat Knight had a chance, then this was it. That was the sign.
So, after all of that, do I believe Knight? On some level I do. Bottom line is that I think Knight really cares about the program and he wanted to give his son a chance. A real chance to coach a program that, so long as these freshmen come through, will eventually have a chance to compete for a Big 12 Title. I know, it's awfully lofty aspirations, but none of the three are good enough to leave early for the NBA, but all are talented. These are four year players who, if they stick around, could do something special if given time.
Perhaps we talk about the legacy that Bob Knight left or if Pat is equipped to do the job after a day or two, once the dust settles. I think we need to give this time to sink in.