Bob Knight's challenge: molding talent

Thursday, November 8th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) _ Bob Knight sees a lot of work ahead for his Texas Tech players and doesn't expect miracles in his first season back in coaching.

Knight said the most realistic expectation he has for his players, who are on a steep learning curve, is that they show up and perform to the best of their ability at every game.

``I have no idea whether we can win or not,'' Knight said. ``We may wind up the season winning six games and I may look back and say, 'I'm not sure we could have won any more than that.' We might win 23 games and I might not be happy because I thought maybe we could've won 26.''

Last season, Tech finished 9-19, costing James Dickey his job. Enter Knight, who has won three NCAA championships at Indiana.

Knight was out of coaching last season after being fired by Indiana in September 2000 for violating a ``zero tolerance'' behavior policy. His arrival prompted league coaches to rank Tech 10th in a preseason poll.

How well the Red Raiders do depends on their picking up on the Knight system. It's a new game to all the Tech players and many of them are new to each other.

They are learning a motion offense, which involves multiple passes and constant screens. Ultimately, it's about reading what's going on in the flow of the game on both ends of the court.

``Once we learn that, it's going to make it a lot easier for us,'' said senior center Andy Ellis. ``I think we're picking up on what coach wants pretty well, we're meshing together pretty well. Only games will tell.''

While players are learning Knight's way, he is learning their talents.

``When I look at the things we have to do to be a basketball team, I see a lot of those things in varied quantities,'' he said. ``I don't want to say this is as good as I've ever seen because it isn't. But it's good and I like what I see.

``They've got to learn how to play. There's no sense in me getting upset while they're trying to learn how to play. That's the same way that I was when I went to Indiana.''

Tech players are fitter than last year. All are stronger. Eleven gained 12 pounds or more. Freshman center Micky Michalec went the other way and lost 43 pounds.

Knight said the top challenge for the players is to be mentally tough.

``That will be more important to our team than shooting,'' he said. ``It'll be more important than quickness. It'll be more important than anything that we can do ...''

After a recent exhibition game, Knight said coaching again feels good, but it's not a mood-altering experience.

``When you've been there as much as I have, you know, it's nice to be back and trying to figure out things,'' he said. ``But I didn't really feel any mesmerizing aura overcome me while I was out there.''