Texas Tech Seeks New Coach

Saturday, March 10th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) _ Texas Tech officials plan to launch a nationwide search for a new basketball coach. But the nation's attention is focused on someone they've already interviewed.

Tech's firing of James Dickey on Friday possibly cleared the way for Bob Knight, who was fired by Indiana on Sept. 10 for a ``pattern of unacceptable behavior.''

``We are trying to find the best person, the person we feel will take us back to that competitive level as quickly as possible,'' athletic director Gerald Myers said Friday.

Myers said officials decided to fire Dickey, who had been at the school 10 seasons, about a week ago. The announcement came at the end of Tech's fourth straight losing season, 9-19.

Texas Tech will buy out the final three years on Dickey's contract, which is expected to exceed $1.3 million. Dickey signed a $3 million, six-year contract in 1999. His assistants also were fired.

Myers and school president David Schmidly met with Knight on Monday in Florida.

``We felt it was necessary for us to talk to Bob Knight to assess his interest and also our interest,'' said Myers, who preceded Dickey as Tech's coach. Myers is a longtime friend of Knight's.

The athletic director said he did not have a list of candidates, but he does have others in mind. The vacancy must be open 10 business days by state law.

``No contract has been offered to Bob Knight,'' Schmidly said. ``Nothing has been given to him in writing, nor has he indicated to us that he would necessarily accept any offer we might make in the future.''

Knight won three national championships in 29 years at Indiana, but his tenure was marred by emotional outbursts and physical attacks.

Since leaving Indiana, Knight has been rumored for several college coaching positions. He's also discussed TV jobs and has been seen at NBA practices.

Knight has notified Indiana he plans to sue the university over wrongful termination. A letter he sent accuses the school of slander, libel, inflicting emotional distress and interfering in his subsequent job search. It claims the university's actions cost him more than $7 million.

Knight would certainly bring attention to Tech, which lost 11 of its last 12 games. The 9-19 record was the Red Raiders' worst record under Dickey.

Texas Tech opened the 15,050-seat United Spirit Arena in November, 1999, but attendance has been poor, often about 4,000 per game _ although official attendance was in excess of 9,700 per game.

Coincidentally, Knight and Indiana were part of the first game at the facility when it opened.

``We didn't build a $68 million facility and we didn't join the Big 12 to finish at the bottom,'' Schmidly said.

Tech's losing seasons came after a run of three solid years, which included going 30-2 and reaching the NCAA round of 16 in 1995-96.

The program derailed shortly thereafter because of NCAA sanctions that stripped nine scholarships in the past four years. The school's violations included recruiting and unethical conduct.

As the losses mounted, attendance plummeted. The men were consistently outdrawn by Tech's highly ranked women's team.

Tech endured four straight losing seasons before Dickey arrived. The Red Raiders went 15-14 his first year and didn't have a losing record until the recent skid began in 1997-98.

Dickey leaves his first Division I head coaching job with two NCAA tournament berths.

``I appreciate my excellent staff and all the players who gave of themselves to me and this program,'' Dickey said in a brief statement. ``I also want to thank the fans and loyal supporters we've had over the years.''

Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton, for whom Dickey worked at Arkansas and Kentucky, defended Dickey's record.

``You can't ever criticize his coaching,'' Sutton said. ``I've had some great coaches and James is as good as any of them. A coach can only take you so far.''

Schmidly was well-versed on Knight's resume.

``I notice he ranks seventh on the all-time coaches list, he graduates a very high percentage of his players, his program was squeaky clean _ never had any NCAA problems,'' Schmidly said. ``So there are lots of credentials that make him an outstanding basketball coach.''

As for the various outbursts that have gotten Knight in trouble and ultimately cost him his job, Schmidly said: ``Those are other issues that we would have to take a look at the appropriate time. They would be looked at, but we're not at that point yet.''