Cardinals in SLC tourney for 1st time since 2008
Pat Knight’s epic rant after a recent loss by Lamar made it
sound like he was coaching the worst team in college
The reality is Knight’s Cardinals are good. The coach didn’t
like the way they were slacking off and the premeditated tirade was
an unconventional way to get them back on track.
”These guys respond to drastic measures,” Knight said in a
recent interview with The Associated Press. ”I told the staff:
`I’m going to call them out and I’m going to take a bunch of heat
for it. But it doesn’t matter.”’
It would seem unlikely that saying he had the ”worst group of
seniors” and accusing them of ”stealing money by being on
scholarship” after a 10-point loss to Stephen F. Austin on Feb. 22
would motivate a team.
But it did.
The Cardinals have won three straight since then to finish with
the Southland Conference East Division title and the school’s first
20-win season in 24 years.
In his first season at Lamar, after being fired by Texas Tech
last March, Knight has led Lamar to its first appearance in the
Southland tournament since 2008.
”We’re a little hardheaded and you have to handle situations
differently,” said senior point guard Anthony Miles, the
Southland’s player of the week for last week. ”He said what he
said and some of the words were surprising, but … he got our
attention and we responded in a good way. Am I glad that he said
it? No. But he motivated us in a way that we hadn’t been motivated
in a (long time).”
Many thought Knight’s rant made him sound like his hot-tempered
father, Bob Knight, the former coach at Indiana and Texas Tech.
But even the man who became infamous for throwing a chair across
the court while protesting officiating during a game in 1985,
wasn’t exactly on board with his son’s antics.
”`I don’t necessarily agree with what you did, but I understand
why you did it,”’ Pat said his father told him. ”He was so happy
it worked but said: `Don’t do it again.”’
Lamar is 20-11 this season, a seven-game improvement from last
Knight followed his father at Texas Tech but couldn’t replicate
his success in three full seasons with the red Raiders.
He was hired by Lamar, a Gulf Coast school of about 14,500, in
April. He said there was a ”huge negative mind frame” around the
program when he arrived and he wanted to erase that with fans,
recruits and most importantly players.
”They’re going to leave here winners,” he said. ”When people
look back they’ll be like: `Hey that team got their heads in the
right direction. They made Lamar basketball relevant again.”’
His senior-laden team likes being Knight’s first at Lamar and
the players hope they can add to their accomplishments this
”It’s been kind of a bumpy road,” senior Mike James said.
”We’ve gone through our ups and downs, but at the end of the
season we’ve came alive so you can’t complain. It’s definitely good
to be remembered and it’s just a lot of stuff that we can be proud
of after we leave.”
Knight knows he didn’t win enough at Texas Tech, compiling a
50-61 record in three-plus seasons. Still, he believes there were
things he did that were as damaging as the losses.
”I put up with too much B.S. around my program and I coached
scared,” Knight said. ”What I mean when you coach scared is that
you’re worried about the consequences instead of the result, so you
sometimes won’t do some things. And I said I would never do that
That’s why he didn’t hesitate to call out his players when they
were not only not playing hard, but also missing meetings and study
sessions and showing up late to other team functions.
He knows he probably would have been suspended or his team would
have rebelled if he did anything like this at a bigger school.
”But here at a smaller level, these kids are tougher kids and
they appreciate it more,” he said. ”I knew deep down that they
would respond and I happened to be right.”
The freedom to run a program his way is something he never
experienced at Tech, where he worked as an assistant to his father
for seven seasons before being promoted. He said taking over that
program wasn’t a ”good deal” for him.
Knight saw what was coming when the Red Raiders were heading for
a 13-19 record last year and cleaned out his office in January
because he didn’t want to come back and do it when he was
Though it didn’t work out, the 41-year-old learned many lessons
from his time at the school.
”Never take over for a legend and never take over as the
assistant, especially at a bigger school,” he said. ”I was the
good guy for seven years and everyone comes to me. Now I’ve got to
switch roles. Everybody still looks at me as the good guy, so
administration doesn’t treat you like a head coach, players
He was done with being an assistant after he was let go, but
knew he had to choose his next head coaching job carefully because
”if you screw the next one up, you’re done.” Knight picked Lamar
because he thought the Cardinals had the talent in place to win
immediately, and he loves the chip on the shoulder attitude of
lesser recruited players.
He’s much happier at Lamar and he considers it his ”first
real” head coaching job and says he’ll never coach at a big school
”Coming in here as the head coach you get totally treated
differently,” he said. ”There’s a respect level that’s different
and what you say goes. Plus I’m not following my dad. I have a
chance to put my own stamp on the program. This program is
That doesn’t mean he doesn’t lean on his father for help and
advice. He’s had him visit the team a couple of times and even put
him on the phone with Miles a few times last week to reiterate
points that he’d made to the senior.
”My dad is probably one of the biggest allies I have when it
comes to feedback and just how to deal with things,” Knight said.
”Some people may think that I don’t talk to him. But I don’t have
an ego. I’m trying to win so I use him even more so than I probably
did at Tech. It’s nice having him in my corner. He understands and
the great thing is he’s not a yes man.”
The Cardinals face Northwestern State in the first round of the
Southland tournament on Wednesday and are looking to win the
tournament to secure an automatic NCAA bid, which would be the
school’s first since 2000.
Knight was already thinking about the conference tournament when
he attacked his team and needed to make it understand that goals
remained after earning a spot in it.
”If we play that way once we’re in the tournament we’re done,”
he said. ”I thought I needed to do something drastic because I
know how good these guys can be. Now if they were a mediocre bunch
or we weren’t having a very good year, there would have been no
sense in trying to do this. But these guys still had a lot to play