History on Knight's side
Published: Monday, January 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 1, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.
LUBBOCK, Texas — The pursuit of history: Take two.
Bob Knight has never needed more than two games to reach the many milestones in his career. He doesn't want that to change now, especially after all the hoopla that went for naught in his first shot at record-setting win No. 880.
Texas Tech students and fans, who have been the brunt of Knight's admonishments for their sometimes spotty attendance over the past couple of years, packed the house Thursday night when the Red Raiders fell short of helping Knight pass Dean Smith to become the all-time men's Division I leader in victories.
The 74-66 loss to UNLV came before 15,098 — one of the largest crowds in school history — in part the result of an athletic department ticket promotion dubbed "Project 880 — Pack the House for Coach Knight."
And it was to be more of the same in United Spirit Arena this morning against New Mexico, Knight's second opportunity to surpass Smith.
Despite an 11 a.m. local start the morning after many folks were up well past their usual bedtime welcoming 2007, and that there are plenty of televised bowl games in football-crazy West Texas, school officials said that as of Sunday morning there were less than 300 tickets available.
Even though a romping, stomping crowd turned out in hopes of witnessing history Thursday night — including Knight's friends such as John Havlicek, Steve Alford, Jerry Tarkanian and Fuzzy Zoeller — the 66-year-old coach continued to downplay the record.
"My only interest in the next game is trying to get back and see what we can do to play better," Knight said after the UNLV loss.
Havlicek echoed Knight's take on the record.
"It wasn't anything that he sought or went after," he said before the UNLV loss. "It just happened to be something in the course of his career that has become monumental in the minds of the media because he could care less about it."
"The General" has never needed more than two tries to hit milestone wins such as 300, 400, 600, 700 and 800.
"I think it'll just be a relief when it's done because people, the talk about it will quit," said Knight's son, Pat, who will take over as the coach at Texas Tech whenever his father retires.
Knight came into this season with 869 wins. After getting to 875, he needed two tries to match Adolph Rupp for second place (876), then passed the former Kentucky coach in his next game.
A couple of wins later, he matched Smith, the former North Carolina coach, on his first try.
Knight, who's in his 41st season as a head coach, has been around long enough to understand that nonconference play can make or break the rest of a season. Last year, it broke it.
The Red Raiders dropped six nonconference games and finished at 15-17, giving Knight the fewest wins since 1970-71 when his last Army club went 11-13. It was three losses more than his previous worst and only the fourth time since then that a Knight-led team didn't receive a postseason invitation.
In his first four seasons at Tech Knight's teams lost no more than three nonconference games and went on 20-plus wins and the postseason.
New Mexico is last nonconference game on the schedule. The Red Raiders open Big 12 play Saturday at home against Oklahoma.
"We hope that we can get those games won before we start the conference season where we can really concentrate on the Big 12," Tech assistant coach Chris Beard said a few weeks ago. "It's something we want to get taken care of as soon as possible."
5p6 BREAKOUT COLUMN
· Who: New Mexico at Texas Tech
· ╩When: Noon
· On air: ESPN2
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