- Andy Katz, ESPN Senior Writer
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Hall of Fame coach Bob Knight told ESPN.com on Tuesday afternoon that he was trying to raise Michael Prince's confidence when he flipped his chin up during Texas Tech's game with Gardner-Webb Monday night in Lubbock.
And, if he were faced with the same situation Tuesday night against Arkansas-Little Rock, he said he would do the same thing.
"I'm sure there were some cases where I have been wrong but [Monday night] wasn't one of them," Knight said Tuesday. "I was trying to help a kid and I think I did.
"If I was confronted with the same set of circumstances I would do the exact same thing," Knight said.
Knight coached Tuesday's game without any discipline.
"I have said nothing publicly about it, nor do I intend to, and that's the attention it deserves," Knight said following his team's 93-59 win over Arkansas-Little Rock.
Texas Tech athletic director Gerald Myers issued this statement Tuesday:
"I have discussed this with Michael Prince, his parents and Coach Knight. Coach Knight did not slap Michael. Here is what happened: Michael came off the court with his head down and Coach Knight quickly lifted Michael's chin up and said, 'Hold your head up and don't worry about your mistakes. Just play the game.' In my opinion, Coach Knight did not do anything wrong."
Knight said that Prince is an "energy kid and brings energy to every play and practice and a valuable player for us." He said the Red Raiders were faced with a crucial part of the game and Prince had made a bad pass. He said at the subsequent timeout he put his hands on Prince's shoulders.
"Mike has a confidence problem," Knight said. "He wants to play so badly that it hurts him. I told him, 'Mike we've got to have you playing in these circumstances.' I said, 'Are you OK playing in these circumstances?' He had his head down.
"I flipped his chin up and told him to look me right in the eye so he could do the job we want. I said, 'Can you?' And he said 'Yes,' and I said, 'OK, sit down and let's go.' If that's an issue then I'm living in the wrong country," Knight said.
Prince was quoted in Tuesday's Lubbock Avalanche-Journal as saying, "He was trying to teach me and I had my head down, so he raised my chin up. He was telling me to go out there and don't be afraid to make mistakes. He said I was being too hard on myself."
Associate head coach Pat Knight said Prince's parents, who were at the game Monday night, came by the office earlier Tuesday wondering what they could do to offer support.
"His parents were in total shock that anything was made out of this," Bob Knight said. "If Mike had his head hanging over a mistake again I'd flip his chin up tomorrow. I'm trying to get him to be the best player he can be and his parents' answer was that they didn't expect anything else."
Knight said Prince's parents told Knight that they have had problems with Michael not looking people in the eye.
Pat Knight said the staff was unaware there was an issue until someone had called him after the game. He said he went to his father and told him that there was a video they had to see.
"I could have sat there for an hour and I never would have come up with the problem," Bob Knight said.
Pat Knight said he was right there and didn't think twice about it at the time, either.
"I've spent a lifetime doing what I think is best for kids collectively and individually," Bob Knight said. "I've done it my way and while my way irritated some people, so be it. I've turned out a lot more kids over the years."
Knight said he watched the video one time and added at the beginning with his hands on his shoulders that he's "not screaming at him, not yelling at him and earnestly talking to him. If someone wants to make an issue out of this then that disappoints me."
Knight said he thinks back to when former St. John's coach Joe Lapchick called him down from West Point early in his Army career in the mid-1960s.
"He asked me, 'Is it important for you that people like you?' And I thought for a second and said, 'Coach, I hope people respect me but I don't think I can worry whether people like me or not,'" Knight said. "His response was, 'Bobby, my boy, if it's important that you be liked then don't get into coaching.' That's why I say if I were confronted with the same circumstances with a kid who feels badly about a mistake my reaction would be the same."
It was only two weeks ago that Knight dismissed leading scorer Jarrius Jackson because the senior guard wasn't on the road to being eligible for the second semester and Knight didn't want him playing if he wasn't going to be available past December.
"I kept him out of practice for a week and he progressed well and then I let him practice for a week and he progressed well and now I'm letting him play for a week and then we'll see how he's doing," Knight said of Jackson, who is averaging 24.5 points in two games so far this season.
"He's made every stop to this point," Knight said.
Knight wasn't afraid to discipline Jackson for poor academics. And he added this final thought on Monday's incident.
"You'd have to be an idiot to slap a kid under any circumstances," Knight said. "I've been called a lot of things and idiot isn't one of them. I'll always remember what Mr. Lapchick told me: 'Do what is best for kids.' I'm proud of the fact that his parents are in total agreement with what I did."
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.
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