In the world of sports, it isn’t often that fans get to see one of the all-time greats at work.
Yet with Texas Tech head men’s basketball coach Bobby Knight barking at officials during Wednesday night’s game against the Bearkats, those in attendance – which happened to be the third highest in school history – were able to experience something special.
Knight patrolling the sidelines, a task which has put him in infamy in the sports world, may not be as visually appealing as watching Michael Jordan shoot a basketball or Tiger Woods swing a club, yet the mystique still remains.
Some may remember the Bearkats’ 56-54 win over “The Generals'” Red Raiders as one plagued with poor offensive execution and questionable officiating, including some critical calls near the end of the game. Others will view the game as one won despite a poor offensive outing by forward Ryan Bright, forcing Shamir McDaniel to make critical shots towards the end, enabling the home court team to continue their non-conference winning streak and earn a hard-fought victory over a Big XII opponent.
But none of these statements would be accurate; what should be remembered about Wednesday night’s game is the fact that those in attendance were able to watch an all-time great.
Like our parents who have reminisced about watching Hakeem and Clyde during the “Phi Slama Jama” days at the Universty of Houston or Earl Campbell run over linebackers and defensive backs alike at the University of Texas, one day we can tell our children that we got to see Bobby Knight yell at players and officials and watch him do something he is unaccustomed to doing, lose a game.
Maybe it’s an overstatement to believe that Knight’s arrival to Huntsville is the least bit significant and it’s asinine to believe that people will tell their children that while in college they were able to watch Knight coach a game at their university. But if you saw the amount of passion the student population had towards the game, you will remember the game for many years to come.
Over a thousand orange-clad fans arrived at least an hour prior to start of the game, waiting outside, eager to get a good seat to the much-hyped matchup that had been talked about since it was announced earlier this year.
Sad to say, we weren’t interested in watching the Red Raiders basketball team; we were eager to see the infamous and polarizing coach known as much for his off-the-field antics as for his coaching accomplishments.
Some wore shirts that read “Throw a Chair at me Bobby!” while others waved headshot of a yelling Knight attached to a popsicle stick.
During the hour between entering Johnson Coliseum and waiting for tip-off, fans eagerly waited for Knight’s emergence from the tunnel. Students could be heard asking one another, “You see Bobby out there?” “Where is Bobby?” Finally, when the white-haired legend emerged, he was greeted with a chorus of boos coupled with a fair amount of applause. It was a bit of a surreal moment with flash bulbs popping as though a famous celebrity were walking down the street.
Knight is up on the “Mount Rushmore” of college coaches, sitting alongside famed coaches Adolph Rupp, John Wooden and Dean Smith. Winning 891 games and three national championships, he has experienced a lot through his coaching career spanning five decades. For Knight, in the grand scheme of things, this game has very little significance. He will use this game as a learning experience for his young team, to show them all the silly turnovers and fouls they committed throughout.
It wasn’t the first loss he has experienced and it certainly wont be his last, so once the disappointment over this road loss fades, he’ll move on from this game and remember this as “just another game”.
Yet for the thousands of Bearkat fans there to witness the victory Wednesday night, it was far more than just anther game; it was the chance to watch the winnigest coach in college basketball lose on our home court, defeated by our Sam Houston State Bearkats, on a night many will never forget.