By Betsy Blaney: The Associated Press
LUBBOCK, Texas — Texas Tech fired Pat Knight on Monday, ending a disappointing three-year run for a coach who failed to lead the Red Raiders to the NCAA tournament after taking over for his famous father.
Knight will coach the Red Raiders at this week’s Big 12 tournament and then step down, school spokesman Blayne Beal said.
Knight is 50-60 in his first Division I coaching job and his third full year as head coach. He had only one winning season (19-16 in 2009-10) at Texas Tech after taking over for Bob Knight at midseason in February 2008.
Knight, who did not immediately return a call seeking comment Monday, seemed to know he might be dismissed in comments about the Red Raiders program following a 71-68 home loss to Colorado on Feb. 23.
“We’ve lost seven games in the last minute,” he said. “This program is competitive. But that’s not for me. I mean, honestly, I’m going to be coaching here, I’m going to be coaching somewhere else. I’ve proven I can coach. I run a clean program, I don’t cheat, my players graduate and we have discipline. So if you don’t want me here there’s going to be someone else that wants me.”
Knight met with Texas Tech president Guy Bailey early Monday, associated head coach Chris Beard said on the Big 12 conference call. Bailey said it was time for a change.
“I appreciate everything Pat has done for our university, not only as a head coach, but also throughout his career as an assistant,” Bailey said in a prepared statement. “I wish him success and the best moving forward.”
Knight played under his father at Indiana University from 1991-95 and later worked as a scout for the Phoenix Suns. He was an assistant for the CBA’s Connecticut Pride and was a coach in both the International Basketball Association and the U.S. Basketball League.
Pat Knight also was on the staffs at Indiana and at Akron University before joining his father as an assistant at Texas Tech in 2001.
The elder Knight took the Red Raiders to the NCAA tournament, but the success didn’t come as easily for Pat Knight. The Red Raiders got to the quarterfinals of the NIT last season, losing at Mississippi 90-87 in double overtime.
Bob Knight declined to comment, ESPN spokeswoman Keri Potts wrote in an e-mail Monday.
At the beginning of the season, with six seniors on his squad, Knight said he didn’t deserve a contract extension if he did not get the team to the NCAA tournament. Going into the league tournament, Texas Tech is 13-18 overall and 5-11 in the Big 12.
Beard said he hasn’t had much time to reflect on the firing.
“Right now, we really are just concerned about the players’ well being, concerned about our families, make sure everybody’s on the same page,” he said. “That’s all you can do. We’re still the coaches here. We’ve got some guys we owe that to. We’ve got six seniors on this team that have been playing some really good basketball down the stretch. We can be a factor in the Big 12 tournament, we believe.”
The Red Raiders are seeded 11th in the tournament in Kansas City, Mo., and play No. 6 seed Missouri on Wednesday night.
Knight’s team won just three Big 12 regular season games in 2008-09 — one was against No. 9 Kansas — and he openly criticized officiating twice in a three-week span. The Big 12 slapped him with a public reprimand and a one-game suspension.
Last season, the Red Raiders won just four regular-season conference games.
In his comments Feb. 23, Knight said he’s never shied away from his famous pedigree.
“I’d have been smart if I’d just played baseball and never got into coaching,” he said. “The two things I’m most proud of that I’ve done: I went to Indiana and played at Indiana, for my dad. And I took over for him here. So people can write and say whatever they want about me but the one thing they can’t say is that I ever took the safe or easy way out.”