Bob Knight promised that when he finally decided to call it quits at Texas Tech it would be hard to find him.
The Hall of Fame coach stayed true to his word Monday.
After telling his sons, his bosses and his team of his resignation, Knight spoke only to one local newspaper about his shocking departure in the middle of his seventh season in West Texas.
“He’s ready,” successor and son Pat Knight said during his weekly radio program. “He’s tired.”
Knight left during his 42nd year as a head coach with more wins than any Division I men’s coach. Pat Knight inherited a team that is struggling at 12-8 and has 10 games remaining.
“This is my team, that’s what he told me. He’s done,” Pat Knight said on his radio show. “He’s got a lot of life left to enjoy.”
Almost a decade after he was fired by Indiana, the school he led to three national championships – one an undefeated season not since matched – Knight walked away from college basketball.
It was a stunning midseason move by Knight, who gave no hint a change was coming.
“There’s a transition that’s going to take place here from me to Pat and I’ve dwelt on this all year long … how it would be best for him and for the team and for what we can do in the long run to make this the best thing for Texas Tech,” Knight told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, which first reported the resignation.
Pat Knight, whose personality is more subdued than his father’s fiery temperament, has been a head coach twice, a partial season with the USBL Columbus Cagerz and a full season leading the Wisconsin Blast, which went 19-15 under him.
He played for Knight at Indiana and has been with his father since his arrival at Tech in 2001. He was chosen as his father’s successor in 2005.
Tech athletic director Gerald Myers said Knight told the team before practice Monday. Though Knight won’t be part of the program, his input will be available.
“If Pat wants to talk to him and to run something by him, I’m sure he will accommodate him,” Myers told The AP. “Pat’s ready to be head coach.”
The 67-year-old Knight told Myers of his decision in a noon meeting Monday, Tech chancellor Kent Hance told The Associated Press. Knight then called Hance and told him.
“I think Bob is through with coaching. I think he got to the point where it wasn’t fun for him,” Hance said. “He thought about it Sunday all day and talked to his wife and decided ‘This is something I want to do.'”
The Red Raiders beat Oklahoma State 67-60 on Saturday, giving Knight his 902nd victory. He earned No. 900 last month against Texas A’M.
Texas Tech next plays Wednesday night at Baylor.
“I guess you can never be surprised at some of the things Bob does,” former UCLA coach John Wooden told the AP. “I don’t think there’s ever been a better teacher of the game of basketball than Bob. I don’t always approve of his methods, but his players for the most part are very loyal to him. I would say that no player that ever played for him would not say he did not come out a stronger person.”
Knight became the youngest coach at a Division I school in 1965 when he broke in at Army, but made his mark in 29 years at Indiana, including the perfect season in 1976.
He’s a complex package. He hit a policeman in Puerto Rico, threw a chair across the court, was accused of wrapping his hands around a player’s neck and allegedly kicked his own son (Knight claimed he actually kicked the chair his son sat on).
But he never got in trouble for breaking NCAA rules. He always had a high graduation rate and gave his salary back a few years after he arrived in Lubbock because he didn’t think he’d earned it.
In September, Knight signed a three-year contract extension that ran through the 2011-12 season.
“I didn’t know, I’ve never really known when I was going to step down from this job. As I thought about it, my first thought was at the end of this season,” Knight told the Lubbock paper. “My thinking was … the best thing for the long run for this team would be for Pat and his staff to coach these remaining 10 games.”
NCAA president Myles Brand, the former Indiana University president who fired Knight, declined to comment on the resignation, spokesman Erik Christianson said.
Knight arrived at Texas Tech in March 2001, six months after being fired by Indiana for what school officials there called a “pattern of unacceptable behavior.”
The most recent off-the-court action by Knight to draw headlines came last November, when two people accused the coach or his hunting buddy of hitting them with birdshot. Neither person was injured or required medical treatment, and no criminal charges were filed against Knight.
In Knight’s six full years at Tech, he led the Red Raiders to five 20-win seasons, a first at the school.
Knight passed former North Carolina coach Dean Smith as the winningest Division I coach Jan. 1, 2007, getting career win No. 880. To celebrate the milestone Knight chose the song “My Way” by Frank Sinatra, a mantra for how he navigated his personal and professional worlds.
Back then, Knight explained why “My Way” was so fitting.
“I’ve simply tried to do what I think is best,” Knight said. “Regrets? Sure. Just like the song. I have regrets. I wish I could have done things better at times. I wish I would have had a better answer, a better way, at times. But just like he said, I did it my way and when I look back on it, I don’t think my way was all that bad.”
What he did and how he did it made Knight a legend. However, the influence and discipline he brought to coaching made him special.
“Outside of my immediate family, no single person has had a greater impact on my life than Coach Knight,” said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who played for Knight at Army. “I have the ultimate respect for him as a coach and a mentor, but even more so as a dear friend. For more than 40 years, the life lessons I have learned from Coach are immeasurable. Simply put, I love him.”
Knight got his 100th victory at Army, then moved to Indiana, where his Hoosiers went 662-239 from 1971-2000. He won national titles there in 1976, ’81 and ’87.
“I am very fortunate and blessed to have played for him. He made me a better man and for that I am grateful,” former Indiana star and current New Mexico coach Steve Alford said.
Knight’s first NCAA title came in 1976 when Indiana went undefeated, a feat no team has accomplished since. In 1984, he coached the U.S. Olympic team to a gold medal in Los Angeles.
When he began his coaching career at Army, he was 24, the youngest-ever Division I coach. Knight won 20 or more games in 29 seasons.
“Today was the most relaxed and relieved I’ve seen him in a long time,” Pat Knight said during his show. “He thought about doing it a year ago but he didn’t want people to think he was just staying for the record. So he kind of pushed himself to go one more year.”