Smith details confrontation in internal memo

Updated: February 6, 2004, 1:59 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

LUBBOCK, Texas -- Texas Tech chancellor David Smith said he was complimenting Bob Knight when the coach came "charging up behind me furious with fists clenched," during a public confrontation at an upscale grocery store.

A memo written by Smith was obtained by the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, which posted it on the newspaper's Web site Thursday night. The newspaper obtained the memo, written for a file at the school, through an open records request.

The newspaper also obtained a letter athletic director Gerald Myers wrote asking that Knight not be suspended, and a draft of a letter Myers wrote to Knight reprimanding him and informing him of a three-day suspension.

Knight was reprimanded Tuesday, but not suspended, after getting into a verbal spat with Smith on Monday. It was Knight's first punishment from Tech.

Members of the school's board of regents may have helped to prevent a suspension of Knight, the Avalanche-Journal reports.

Robert Black, chairman of the board, told the paper on Wednesday he spoke with Myers about Knight, but did not disclose details of the conversation.

According to the paper's report, an agreement was worked out to include a reprimand, but not the proposed suspension, when Tech's President John Whitmore took over the review of the incident from Smith.

In the memo, Smith wrote that he initiated a conversation with Knight in the store to compliment the coach.

"I expressed the same sentiment that I did with Gerald Myers that despite some tough losses I especially wanted to commend him on how he handled the last few weeks and in particular the student section at the University of Texas game," Smith wrote. "His demeanor and habitus changed drastically. With a red face his response was curt and angry as he responded, 'I always handle things well, and have always handled things well.' "

After a win against Baylor on Tuesday night, Knight admitted he could have avoided a confrontation by simply walking away.

In his version of the spat, Knight said 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," Knight said. "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.

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

Smith wrote that it became clear to him that the issue was that Knight was still angry at the chancellor for the way he handled the coach's suspension of Nick Valdez and Andre Emmett last season. At that time, during an encounter between the two men, Knight abruptly walked away from Smith.

At this point of Monday's encounter, Smith wrote, Knight "then began a very angry and confrontational outburst in public directed at me. He stated almost in a scream, I always misinterpret comments and that I called him a liar, apparently because I had contradicted his version of the locker room encounter," Smith wrote.

"He repeated yelling, 'I am not a Liar!' At this point he was red faced, physically confrontational and the entire area of the busy lunch crowd was watching."

Smith said Knight followed him into the store's parking lot Monday and accused Smith of calling him a "liar" last season.

Myers, who was with Knight, attempted to pull the coach away, according to Smith.

On Friday, Richard L. Butler, Tech's senior vice chancellor who witnessed the confrontation, said through university spokeswoman Sally Logue Post that "his version corroborates with Dr. Smith's memo."

Butler, through Post, declined to comment further.

After driving away, Smith said he saw Knight's car at an intersection. He then said Myers began yelling at the coach, who had left the car and walked across the street.

"Gerald proceeds to try to call Bob Knight but finally leaves the car across [the street] to the north. The car sat abandoned with the driver door open, stranded in the left turn lane," Smith wrote.

"Bob Knight abruptly returns to his car, turns left and appeared to be trying to get Gerald back into his vehicle. Several dozen cars and passers-by witnessed this event."

Myers and Smith have both said they will not comment on the verbal spat.

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

In 29 years at Indiana, Knight won three national championships and 11 Big Ten titles. 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.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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