Fans who went to Wednesday’s game to see Texas Tech coach Bobby Knight throw one of his infamous temper tantrums were sorely disappointed.
Not a single player was choked. Not a single chair was thrown. No punted basketballs went sailing through the air at Mizzou Arena.
Knight prefers to let his team do the talking nowadays. The message: disciplined basketball is enough of a show without the antics.
The Red Raiders certainly put on a show, clobbering the Tigers 78-62.
“They just looked really comfortable out there tonight,” Missouri sophomore Thomas Gardner said. “They are a really well-coached team and they managed to do a lot of things to us tonight. It’s hard to pinpoint why. We let down defensively on some possessions, but we stepped up on others. They were just able to do pretty much what they wanted to us. They have a tough coach and they’re a tough team.”
Knight’s actions were barely a footnote to the game. He emerged from the tunnel only 20 seconds before the tipoff. He was escorted out by a uniformed police officer.
When he was announced over the loud speaker with the starting lineup, it elicited a mix of boos and cheers.
That’s the way it goes for one of the most polarizing figures in sports.
Knight went to Texas Tech in 2001, after he left Indiana University amid varying allegations of misconduct including attacking a player. In his 29 years at Indiana, Knight coached the Hoosiers to three NCAA championships.
On Wednesday, Knight spent most of the game seated on the Red Raider bench. When he did rise, it was usually to pace with his hands on his hips and his head at a slight slump. The pose may have looked menacing, but a deep breath and a benign return to the bench usually followed.
At times, he seemed almost sedate. When he had a complaint about a Missouri shooting foul, Knight told it to guard Ronald Ross who then relayed it to a referee.
The only crack in Knight’s reserve came with 5 minutes left. Knight pulled Texas Tech forward Curtis Marshall aside after Marshall committed an unnecessary foul. Knight gave him a passionate lecture for about 15 seconds, during which time fans in the Missouri student section began chanting, “Throw a chair.”
Knight sent Marshall back on the court, flashed a glance at the stands, and returned to his seat.
When asked what he thought of Mizzou Arena and its crowd, Knight refrained from mentioning the baiting. He was terse but complimentary, sort of.
“I think it’s a nice place,” Knight said. “It’s a lot like Hearnes Center. Same color. Same size … somebody’s got a lot of money around here to build a duplicate.
“It’s cleaner than Hearnes,” Knight shouted over his shoulder as he bolted out ofhis postgame press conference.
While Knight showed only flashes of his occasionally eccentric behavior, his fingerprints were all over the Red Raiders’ win.
“I thought the most crucial thing for us was to get ahead and be able to keep the second half where we didn’t have to play from behind,” Knight said.
Texas Tech jumped all over Missouri, playing to a 10-point lead in the first 12 minutes. Tech never trailed.
The lead gave the Red Raider offense room to operate. It did so efficiently, victimizing the Tigers almost at will.
“This team has just developed a great chemistry,” Ross said. “We know the cuts we’re going make. We know what each other are capable of. That’s 100 percent due to coaching. Coach teaches us everything we do. It’s just up to us to execute.”