INDIANAPOLIS – To Pat Knight's credit, he seemingly has taken the positive virtues, and a lot of the basketball knowledge, of his famous father, yet somehow has proven intelligent enough to know how to utilize those attributes without the volatility.
The first-year Lamar University men's basketball coach put on a news conference this past February that was more memorable than any of the thousands that his father had conducted, but almost anyone that viewed the incident had to have come away impressed – not disgusted – with Knight. And they would be even more fascinated to learn the whole story behind the news conference.
Following his team's lethargic defeat at home against Stephen F. Austin, Knight unleashed a frustrated, but not venomous, tirade on his senior class during the post-game session with the media.
“You don't have a clue as to what it takes to win,” Knight said as he directed one of his seniors out of the room. “We have the worst group of seniors that I have ever been associated with.”
And it only got worse for those at fault from there as Knight lambasted the offenders for lack of effort on the court, in the classroom and even accused some of having problems with drugs.
“Their mentality is awful,” Knight said. “Their attitude is awful. It has been their M.O. for the last three years.”
Most viewed the news conference and probably felt that Knight was snapping following his team's third defeat in four games. However, it was far from a knee-jerk response on the coach's part.
“It wasn't like I did it off the cuff,” Knight said. “First you have to have an administration that supports you. And you have to have players that can take that.”
Knight had informed his bosses and coaching staff that such an episode was coming and his instinct about how his players would handle the scathing evaluation proved prophetic. The Cardinal players that took the brunt of the verbal beat down were indeed worthy of such a tongue-lashing, but also were apologetic and responsive following the conference.
Lamar immediately turned its string of defeats into a six-game success streak that didn't cease until an opening round defeat to Vermont in the NCAA Tournament. Instead of Knight's brutally honest evaluation sending the program into a tailspin, it resulted in exactly what he had hoped for.
“It could've gone the other way,” Knight said. “I wouldn't have been surprised if I had a revolt and guys didn't want to show up. But the next day I had guys come in and apologize for how they had been acting.”
The Lamar program has a storied history, but this year's trip to the NCAA Tournament was its first since 2000, as Knight led the Cardinals to 23 victories.
“Some people think that you can't call out kids,” Knight said. “They are not kids; they are 18 to 21 year old men. The funny thing is, I'll probably coach another 20 years and never have another team that I could do that to. It worked because I thought it could. If they were soft kids, I probably wouldn't have done it.”
One thing is for certain, if Knight does coach another two decades, he's going to do things the way that he sees fit, regardless of the repercussions.
Prior to his hiring at Lamar, Knight took over the Texas Tech program for his father, former Indiana coach Bob Knight. The younger Knight admits that he made mistakes in his three-plus seasons in Lubbock and vows to be true to himself from here on out.
“I have already gotten fired,” Knight said. “When you get fired, you kind of don't care about stuff anymore. There are some things that I should've done at Tech that I'd do differently, but you don't realize that until you get fired. I don't want to make the same mistakes.”