Anti-Knight crowds can be intimidating to Texas Tech players

Monday, January 14th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ The days when Texas Tech could slip quietly in and out of town are over.

Now the Big 12 has the Bob Knight Traveling Road Show, a sort of basketball circus with you-know-who taking center stage.

Boisterous, curious crowds have replaced half-empty arenas when the once-lowly Red Raiders come calling.

Opponents are no longer bored with the lads from Lubbock. They and their fans are psyched-up to beat and if possible to pique the notorious new Tech coach who has won championships and tossed chairs.

``They're used to going out on the road and playing in front of 2,000 people,'' Pat Knight, Bob Knight's son and assistant coach said of the Red Raiders.

``This year, just about every game is sold out.''

Texas A&M's biggest crowd of the year showed up to see Knight's team win 72-70, padding its overall record to an unexpected 13-1.

Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson figures it's going to be that way everywhere the Red Raiders go in Knight's first season at Tech.

``There's bound to be a lot of curiosity. He's a living legend,'' Sampson said. ``Everybody's heard so much about coach Knight.''

Sampson's Sooners have been drawing well regardless of the opponent, thanks to a 13-1 mark and a long record of success.

But the crowd was perhaps pumped up more than usual when the Red Raiders came to town on Saturday and received their second loss of the year.

``In the Big Ten, he was there for so many years, he wasn't a novelty,'' Sampson said. ``But his reputation precedes him in this conference.''

Knight sat out a year after being fired for violations of a zero-tolerance behavior policy at Indiana, where he won three NCAA championships. He is resuming his career at a place that's never experienced the kind of attention it's getting now.

The players have even been taken aback.

``Sometimes when we go into these new arenas it's like a deer looking in the headlights. At Oklahoma, we only had two guys who looked like they wanted to be there,'' Pat Knight said.

``We're hoping if they get used to it they can feed off it. Our kids just have to learn.''

It wasn't such a problem with Knight's Indiana teams.

``But you always had guys in the program who could tell the new guys how to feed off the excitement, where we have 13 new guys,'' said Pat Knight.

Andy Ellis, the Red Raiders' leading scorer with a 17.9 average, had just eight points on 2-of-7 shooting against Oklahoma. As a team, Tech was 22-of-62.

It was this intimidation that bothered Ellis, Pat Knight said.

``He's just got to give a better effort. With coach Knight being head coach, everybody is going to give you their best shot. I think it was kind of a shock to them. Last year when they played Oklahoma, probably only half the crowd was there.''

Sampson says there's nothing Knight can do to deflect attention away from himself.

``There's always going to be a very, very small segment for your fans who will come and get on coach Knight, for lack of a better term. It's unfair to him. It's unfair to his team. The story should be what a great year this team is having.''