Knight reprimanded for spat with chancellor

Updated: February 5, 2004, 4:38 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

LUBBOCK, Texas -- After being reprimanded for his loud public outburst at Texas Tech's chancellor, Bob Knight acknowledged he was to blame.

Then, the coach said he didn't start the verbal spat.

Knight, who escaped suspension, acknowledged Tuesday that he could have avoided the encounter Monday at a Lubbock grocery store by just walking away.

Knight said Dr. David Smith followed him to the side of the salad bar and said, "You've got issues. What are they?"

"Right then is where I think I was at fault. I should have shook my head, walked away, done a lot of other things, and I didn't. I went on to tell him what one of those issues was and then it got back and forth a little bit," Knight said after his Red Raiders (No. 18 ESPN/USA Today, No. 19 AP) beat Baylor 83-63 on Tuesday night.

"But the one thing there was," he said, "that I absolutely did not instigate anything."

Smith, reached at home late Tuesday, declined to comment.

The explanation capped a bizarre Tuesday in Lubbock. Earlier in the day, Knight fully expected to be suspended three to five days, a fact confirmed for ESPN by his son and assistant Pat Knight. But after reviewing the altercation, officials in the school's president's office opted simply to reprimand Knight, a source told ESPN's Dick Vitale on Tuesday night.

Knight, greeted by a loud ovation from hometown fans before the game, could have been suspended for the verbal spat. He was issued the reprimand after spending much of the day with school officials.

Knight praised the role of athletic director Gerald Myers, who was instrumental in bringing Knight to Tech and witnessed the incident that led to the university punishing the coach for the first time.

"I don't think that anybody could have been better to a coach or for a coach than Gerald Myers. I don't know how this thing would have gone without Gerald," Knight said. "Gerald is the reason I came to Texas Tech. He's the reason that I stay at Texas Tech."

Knight said he talked with his wife Monday night about how he would have handled being suspended for the disagreement.

He said he would have gone "through whatever means were available to fight that, but I would have stayed through the suspension simply because I feel so strongly about this situation, this school, this community and these kids and that would not have been easy for me to do, but I would have done it with them."

Pat Knight told ESPN.com's Andy Katz that after the chancellor decided to suspend his father, Bob Knight spoke before the school's Board of Regents. There, Knight gave his side of the story, disputing reports that he followed Smith out the door of the store to his car.

"I regret that the situation turned out the way it did," Bob Knight said as part of a four-paragraph news release issued before Tuesday's game.

Knight was hired in March 2001, six months after he was fired by Indiana for what then-school president Myles Brand called his "pattern of unacceptable behavior."

Myers said in a statement that Monday's incident was a misunderstanding that had been rectified.

Pat Knight told ESPN that his father was upset over the incident and that his knee-jerk reaction was to quit. But Pat Knight said he told him "you've gotta stay the rest of the season" and then decide. Pat Knight also said his father and Smith have had a strained relationship.

Knight does not have a behavior clause in his contract. At the time of his hiring, Myers and then-school president David Schmidly said they believed one wasn't needed. Schmidly has since been replaced by Jon Whitmore. Smith replaced John Montford, a former state senator from Lubbock and a prolific fund-raiser for the university.

The grocery-store incident occurred six weeks after Knight went into a profanity-filled tirade upon being asked by ESPN's Fran Fraschilla about his relationship with former player Steve Alford, now the Iowa coach, who was also participating in the interview. Knight later apologized for his behavior.

A Hall of Famer, Knight was hired at Tech to revive a downtrodden program. He did that by getting the Red Raiders into the NCAA Tournament his first season, but wasn't able to get back last season. In response, he returned his $250,000 salary to the school, saying he hadn't earned it.

Tech won 12 straight this season, the school's best streak since reaching the Sweet 16 in 1995-96.

In his 29 years at Indiana, he won three national championships and 11 Big Ten titles. Yet he's also remembered for throwing a chair across a court, punching a police officer in Puerto Rico and kicking a chair his son, then a player, was sitting in. He also was accused of choking a player.

In January 2002, prior to a game Texas Tech would play at the Compaq Center in Houston, Knight and the arena's general manager exchanged words after Knight complained about the small size of the locker room. The GM later apologized.

Nearly a year ago, Knight earned win No. 800, arguably his best moment as Tech coach. It was later reported that he kicked in a television screen during halftime of that game. Knight downplayed that incident, saying he was "apparently the first coach in the history of coaching to ever kick anything or break anything."

Also last season, reserve Nick Valdez left the team after he and star Andre Emmett were punished for oversleeping and missing a morning shootaround before a game at Texas.

Knight's hiring was widely hailed in Lubbock, except for a group of faculty worried about the possible problems his sometimes volatile behavior could bring. Many recanted and have since become supporters, noting the money he's raised for scholarships and the library.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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