LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — Pat Knight seems to have coached himself out of an identity crisis.
Knight acknowledged he had a difficult time adjusting in his first full season at Texas Tech last year. Players said he may have tried to please too many people — his bosses, fans, his team.
Maybe even his famous father, Bob Knight.
Pat Knight, who took over after nine years as an assistant to his dad at Texas Tech and Indiana, said he was unsure how to act at first. Should he be subdued, the antithesis of his father?
"Then finally, toward the middle of the year, I’m, ‘To hell with it, I’ve got to be me.’ And that’s getting after people," Pat Knight said. "So there’s just too much stuff I worried about that I shouldn’t have."
The transition wasn’t easy, said the younger Knight, who claims he’s more like his father "than anybody knows."
Bob Knight, who resigned midseason in 2008, didn’t come to practices last season when Texas Tech finished 14-19. That left Pat Knight to forge his own way.
He chose to abandon his father’s man-to-man defense and use a zone, which he said he truly didn’t "know the first thing about." The Red Raiders won only three games in Big 12 play.
"We didn’t really know how to approach each other," Pat Knight said of the relationship with his father. "Just strange. It wasn’t bad. It was just odd. He didn’t want to overstep boundaries, but now we got that all straightened out."
The two now talk regularly and, when the elder Knight is in town, he comes to practices and offers input to his son and to players.
The father understood his son’s approach last season.
"You get your first job and you think you can reinvent the wheel, instead of going with what works for you and what you know," Pat Knight said his father told him.
Pat Knight has a more athletic team this year and there is greater depth off the bench. He’s returned to the man defense and seems more comfortable leading the team.
It seems to be working. The Red Raiders (10-1) are ranked No. 23, having entered the AP poll at 16th earlier this month following a 99-92 overtime home win against then-No. 12 Washington. They fell seven spots this week after a 85-83 road loss at Wichita State.
Leading scorer Mike Singletary said players like the way Pat Knight coaches them. The junior won’t be pulled out of a game for missing a shot or committing a turnover, Pat Knight told him. Bob Knight did it otherwise, Singletary said.
"Pat just makes us feel comfortable," Singletary said.
Singletary said he often felt stymied while playing for the elder Knight.
There was "kind of a fear factor," he said. "But with Pat, (it’s) just go out and play your game and play with effort. I can live with that.’"
John Roberson, who came to Texas Tech with Singletary at the start of Bob Knight’s final season, said Pat Knight seems more "cool, calm and collected" during games and that he wants players’ input.
When Bob Knight told him to do something, Roberson said, the player "couldn’t really say anything about it because it’s his way or the highway."
"Pat’s more, ‘Tell me what you think.’ He allows you to go to him to tell him what you think."
That happened late in the win against the Huskies. During a timeout Pat Knight told his players to shift into a zone on an inbound play. Roberson said he told his coach he thought the team should stick with man-to-man.
His coach agreed and the decision brought Roberson a steal and an easy layup that sealed the win.
"I think we are just more mature," said Roberson, the team’s point guard. "Last year, when things weren’t going our way, we just kind of pouted and we were just playing individually and not as a team. This year we are more of a family and I think we just always have each other’s back."
Roberson believes Pat Knight can build a powerhouse program in West Texas
"I didn’t even expect for us to be this good this year," he said. "What he has done in a year is ridiculous. Years down the road, he can get this place to be a very good program.