Texas Tech basketball: Bob Knight’s most memorable moments as a Red Raider

Texas Tech basketball: Bob Knight’s most memorable moments as a Red Raider
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Mar. 9, 2006; Dallas, TX USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders head coach Bobby Knight talks to his team during a time out against the Kansas State Wildcats in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. Texas Tech beat Kansas State 73-65. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports(c) Copyright 2006 Tim Heitman

Though it has been a few days since legendary former Texas Tech, Indiana, and Army basketball head coach, Bob Knight, passed away at the age of 83, people around the nation are still taking time to remember the unforgettable life he lived.  Because Knight passed away on Wednesday, the night the Texas Rangers clinched the World Series and a day before the Red Raiders took on TCU at Jones Stadium, I didn’t immediately have as much time as I would have on a normal week to reflect on what he meant to Texas Tech and to me as a Red Raider.

However, over the weekend, as I watched coverage of his passing and the numerous tributes to his life and career, I came to realize that he was one of the pillars of my Red Raider fandom.

I was a student at Tech when Knight was hired in 2001.  As a freshman in 1999, I was at the first game ever held at United Supermarkets Arena when he brought Indiana to Lubbock (just weeks after he accidentally shot a friend in a hunting accident leading thousands of students to show up in hunting gear and wearing or holding shooting targets) and in the time between that night and his debut as Texas Tech’s head coach, I probably attended only four or five Red Raider basketball games.  Tech was just so awful those two years that it wasn’t worth the effort to support the program.

However, I remember seeing the news online that Knight was likely to be James Dickey’s replacement and I remember running into the living room of our rental house to tell my roommates.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that we embraced and jumped around as if Tech had just won the Big 12 title on a last-second buzzer-beater.

From then on, I’ve been hooked on Texas Tech basketball.  Just like Mike Leach helped me fall in love with the football program, Knight gave me a reason to emotionally invest in Red Raider hoops for the first time.

Almost two decades before I sat in U.S. Bank Stadium watching Tech play in the 2019 National Championship game, I used to line up hours before tip-off in the January and February cold of West Texas to get seats as close to the Red Raider bench as possible because my friends and I wanted to be as near to Knight as we could.

We wanted to hear every profanity, we wanted to see all of the facial contortions, we wanted to know what he said when berating an official.  He was larger than life and we wanted a front-row seat to the circus.

Red Raider fans certainly received the full Bob Knight experience.  There were dozens of unforgettable press conferences, plenty of off-court drama, and controversial actions.  There was also a bunch of winning.

Knight’s .672 winning percentage at Tech is the third-best of any coach in program history behind Chris Beard and Mark Adams.  What’s more, his 138 wins are fourth in Red Raider history despite the fact that he was head coach for only six and a half seasons.

There’s so much I’ll never forget about the Knight era.  I will always remember the cheesy television commercials he’d do for local businesses, ads that were all shot with him sitting on the same stool in the same place in the arena with scripts he was obviously reading off of a cue card, scripts that were noticeably similar sometimes with only the name of the business or product changing from ad to ad.

I’ll never forget the reality television show he had on ESPN for one season.  Called “Knight School” the premise of the show was to have a number of players go through what was essentially a training camp with Knight in order to win a spot as a walk-on with the program.

Most of all, though, I’ll never forget how much he made me love Texas Tech basketball.  He was a character with a controversial reputation who you couldn’t turn away from regardless of how you felt about him.  That was important for the program given that, at the time, Tech football was in the hands of “The Pirate” Mike Leach, also a character in his own right and a man who was revolutionizing the sport of football with his “Air Raid” offense.

Tech needed someone engaging and interesting to be the face of the basketball program as well and no one at the time could have drawn more attention than Bob Knight.  When he was hired, I was taking a public relations class with legendary former Texas Tech professor, Dr. Bill Dean, who was also the head of the alumni association at the time, and he spent a week’s worth of classes using Knight as the subject of his lectures and teaching.  Those were some of the most hotly debated and memorable class discussions I can remember having during my college career.

Knight was a complicated figure and putting his legacy into a nice, tidy box is impossible.  You can’t ignore what happened on the court nor can you gloss over what happened away from it.

Everyone, though, had an opinion about the coach and that has not changed some two decades later.  But, what we all can agree on is that he’s likely to be the last of his kind.  There will never be another Robert Montgomery Knight and whether or not you think that’s a shame or a blessing is up to you.

Personally, I’ll always look favorably upon Knight.  Did he have his flaws?  Certainly.  Was he a choir boy?  Far from it.  But he was an original and he was authentic and that’s why he resonated so well with the people of West Texas.

I’ll miss Coach Knight because the positive values he represented seem to be disappearing from our culture and also because he was one of those symbols of my college years, who, like Leach, is no longer with us.  So today, on the eve of another Texas Tech basketball season, let’s take a look at ten unforgettable moments from Knight’s time as a Red Raider.

While the rest of the world is rightfully focusing most of its attention on what Knight did at Indiana (both good and bad), Red Raider fans also have fond memories of the legendary sports icon.  In a way, I like that the focus has not been on his Red Raider tenure because it allows us to keep those memories in the family.  So here are my top ten moments (in no particular order) of Knight’s time in West Texas.

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Unfortunately, that is the first thing many people think of when Knight is brought up.  Though he won two national titles and a gold medal, and though he left the game as the winningest coach in NCAA history, and though he was one of the pioneers of the modern college game, that chair toss in 1985 is often the defining moment of his career.

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Interestingly, while at Tech, Knight was rather subdued during games (at least by his standards).  He might have picked up only a handful of technical fouls as a Red Raider and there were never any in-game explosions that drew national attention.

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His chair toss in Bloomington will forever be legendary in college basketball realms.  However, his chair toss in Lubbock, while much less notable, was classic Bob Knight as well as he poked fun at himself and displayed the sense of humor that made him endearing to multitudes of fans.

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Nov 20, 2006; Kansas City MO, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders coach Bob Knight talks to his players against the Marquette Golden Eagles in the first half in the College Basketball Experience Classic Tournament at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, MO. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports Copyright (c) 2006 John Rieger

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Knight picks up win No. 800 Feb. 5 2003 as Texas Tech beats Nebraska

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In a way, Bob Knight’s career at Texas Tech was made all the more memorable because of all of the career milestones he accomplished during his time in Lubbock.  One such moment was when he picked up win No. 800 in February of 2003.

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That night in Lubbock, Knight’s team thoroughly dominated Nebraska 75-49 to help Knight pick up this notable achievement.  At the time, he was only the fourth member of the 800-win club.

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The game was a two-hour-long celebration given that an early 26-0 run essentially put things to bed in the first half.  That was encouraging given that Tech had come up short in Knight’s previous attempt to get to 800, a loss at Texas A&M just days prior.

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Maybe it was better that he got this win in Lubbock rather than in College Station, though.  Who wants to celebrate anything down there?  However, Knight was more concerned with getting Tech to .500 in conference play than he was with getting to 800 wins.

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“When I wake up tomorrow morning, the most important thing in my mind is we’re 3-4 in conference,” Knight said following the game.

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In the win, the late Andre Emmett led the team in scoring with 24 points.  Meanwhile, versatile forward Kasib Powell added 16.

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Unfortunately, that season would be a disappointment for Knight and the Red Raiders, though.  A year after reaching the NCAA Tournament in Knight’s debut campaign, Tech would go only 6-10 in Big 12 play and 18-12 overall, which was only good enough to qualify for the N.I.T., an event in which Tech would end up finishing third.

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Thus, the night when coach Knight got to 800 wins was the highlight of the season.  Though there would be more milestone wins to come, it was the first time Red Raider fans got a taste of what it was like to celebrate a career achievement for one of the game’s all-time greats.

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Texas Tech beats No. 2 KU on Valentine’s Day

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Romance was not top of mind for a sold-out crowd in Lubbock on Valentine’s Day of 2005 when Knight and his team hosted No. 2 Kansas.  Not having beaten the Jayhawks since 1999 when Rayford Young almost single-handedly took down the Jayhawks in Lubbock with a 41-point outburst, Red Raider fans were thirsty for another taste of success against the Big 12’s premiere program.

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KU entered the game 20-1 on the season and 10-0 in the conference.  Meanwhile, Tech was 15-6 overall and 7-3 in league play.

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Freshman Darryl Dora was the star of the game.  Though he had only 11 points and one rebound, he was without question the most memorable Red Raider from the 2-OT 80-79 win thanks to his game-winning 3-pointer with just 3.6 seconds remaining.

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Leading Tech in scoring that night was Martin Zeno who put up 24 points.  Meanwhile, point guard Ronald Ross contributed 21 points and 11 rebounds.

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It was Dora’s night to shine though.  Forever remembered by Red Raiders as the “Kansas Killer” thanks to this legendary shot and the night he scored 19 points to topple down KU in Lubbock in January of 2007, he stepped back and sank his game-winning shot without hesitation despite being 0-4 from deep at the time he let it fly.

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Following the game, Tech fans stormed the court and hoisted Dora onto their shoulders in one of the most chaotic moments to date in program history.  It was only the second time Tech had ever beaten KU and it was one of the most memorable regular-season wins of Knight’s career.

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Nov 20, 2006; Kansas City MO, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders coach Bob Knight talks to guard (5) Benny Valentine against the Marquette Golden Eagles in the first half in the College Basketball Experience Classic Tournament at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, MO. Marquette won the game 87-72. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports Copyright (c) 2006 John Rieger

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Texas Tech beats No. 17 OU in 2005 Big 12 Semifinals to get to first Big 12 Tournament final

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Later that season, the Red Raiders managed to do something that no team in program history had.  Beating No. 17 Oklahoma 69-63 in a rugged back-and-forth contest, Knight took Tech to its first Big 12 Tournament Championship Game.

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It was ironic given Knight’s disdain for conference tournaments in general.

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“There’s no greater opponent of postseason conference tournaments than I am, nor will there ever be,” Knight said after the game. “But it’s here to be played, and we played right from the very beginning.”

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That day, Texas Tech relied heavily on its dynamic backcourt of Ross and Jarrius Jackson.  Combining for 50 points (with 28 coming from Ross, the former walk-on from Hobbs, New Mexico), they accounted for 72.4% of their team’s scoring.

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OU was the top seed in the tournament and managed to rally from an 11-point second-half deficit to push the Red Raiders to the brink.  But after the Sooners cut the Tech lead to just three points in the final minute, Tech would hit five of eight free throws down the stretch to hang on.

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A night later, the Red Raiders would fall short of claiming the Big 12 Tournament Title.  Falling 72-68 to No. 10 Oklahoma State, they came up just shy of completing their improbable run in the tournament Knight wished they never had to play in the first place.

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But regardless of how the head coach felt about the event, it proved to be one of his crowning moments as a Red Raider as he got the Red Raiders as close as they have ever been to claiming the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

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Mar 27, 2023; Seattle, WA, USA; A detailed view of the March Madness center court logo during the first quarter between the Virginia Tech Hokies and the Ohio State Buckeyes at Climate Pledge Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

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Texas Tech upsets Gonzaga in the second round of the 2005 NCAA Tournament

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One week later, Knight would make an even bigger statement in the NCAA Tournament.  Leading his No. 6 seeded Red Raiders to a 71-69 win over No. 3 seed Gonzaga, he shocked the nation by reaching the Sweet 16 for the first time since he took Indiana there in 1994.

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Ross was electric that day in Tucson, Arizona.  Hitting the go-ahead 3-pointer with just over a minute to play, he ended the game with 24 points and nine rebounds.  Meanwhile, Jackson added 18 as the Red Raiders stunned the Zags who had won 13 games in a row.

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Making Tech’s win even more improbable was the fact that Gonzaga held a 38-29 halftime lead.  But in the second half, Tech would match Gonzaga’s intensity in the paint and when Jackson and Ross got hot, the underdogs stormed past the Bulldogs.

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This win was important for Knight for several reasons.  First, it showed that he still had the chops to succeed in March.

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Prior to that, he had not been able to get out of the Big Dance’s first weekend in his previous eight appearances in the event.  However, taking a team of upstart players led by a former walk-on to the Sweet 16 had to be a huge feather in his cap.

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Second, it would be the final time he would get that far in the tournament.  That meant that it was essentially his last time to make a true impact in an event that he had been a staple in for decades.

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Also, that team was special to Knight because of Ross’ ascension.  He would later say that Ross was one of his favorite players to coach because of his work ethic and intelligence and seeing the point guard evolve into one of the nation’s best players had to be extra satisfying for the grizzled coach.

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Tech would come up short in the Sweet 16 against West Virginia.  However, the 2005 run in March was the pinnacle of Knight’s time in Lubbock and the last time one of his teams made any real noise on the national scene.

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Texas Tech fans celebrate as Knight passes Dean Smith

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Knight entered the 2006-07 season needing only 11 wins to surpass former North Carolina head coach Dean Smith on the all-time wins list.  On January 1, 2007, he accomplished that feat with a 70-68 win over New Mexico in Lubbock.

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However, win No. 880 would not come easy.  In fact, he had to sweat it out as his team blew a 20-point lead and had to hold its breath as New Mexico had a 3-pointer at the buzzer to potentially win the game.

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That shot was off the mark and the celebration in Lubbock would ensue with red confetti falling from the rafters.

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After the game, Knight took to the arena microphone (as he frequently did during his coaching career) to address the crowd.  Of course, his remarks were dripping with humor and humility, two trademarks of his time in Lubbock.

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“The first 15 minutes of the game was Karen’s game plan,” he said of his wife, herself a former high school coach. “The rest of it was mine, unfortunately. I just say thank you.”

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He then turned his attention to the Texas Tech administration.  “I’d like to thank (administrators) for giving me an opportunity to coach at Texas Tech,” he said.

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Then, a video tribute featuring, among others, his former player at Army and then Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski.

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It was a celebration that had been delayed by a few days thanks to a loss to UNLV on December 28.  That forced the throng of national media that was assembled in Lubbock to hang out on the South Plains for a few more days.

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Knight’s coronation almost had to be moved to the January 6 home game against Oklahoma though.  That’s because Tech trailed UNM by four points with under seven minutes left in the game.

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However, one of the best players of Knight’s tenure in Lubbock would come to the rescue.  As part of a game-high 22 points, Jarrius Jackson would nail a clutch 3-pointer with just over two minutes to play to give his team the lead for good.  His teammate, Martin Zeno, would also score 22 points that day while only one other Red Raider, Charlie Burgess, would reach double figures in scoring.

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It had been nearly a decade since Smith had retired and just about every college basketball fan and observer knew that Knight would eventually overtake him on the wins list.  Similarly, most believed that Coach K would eventually pass Knight, which he did in 2011.

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So, while Knight’s time atop the all-time men’s win list was rather brief, it was an important moment in the history of the sport.  What’s more, it is one of the greatest accomplishments ever celebrated by a member of the Texas Tech athletic department.

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LUBBOCK, TEXAS u2013 NOVEMBER 02: A memorial for former Texas Tech menu2019s basketball coach Bob Knight is seen on the screen prior to a game between the TCU Horned Frogs and the Texas Tech Red Raiders on November 02, 2023 in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Getty Images)

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Texas Tech beats Texas A&M for Knightu2019s 900th win

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In some ways, Bob Knight was to Texas Tech what Hall of Fame pitcher, Nolan Ryan, is to the Texas Rangers.u00a0 Both men spent the bulk of their respective careers with other organizations but ended up in Texas where they would accomplish most of their career milestones.

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Also, each brought notoriety and legitimacy to the final organization they represented.u00a0 When Ryan signed with the Rangers in 1989, he was the first high-profile free agent to ink a deal with the franchise that had been a national afterthought up until then.

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When Knight came to Tech, the basketball program was just a few years removed from significant NCAA sanctions and it had become a punchline around the Big 12 and even inside of Loop 289.u00a0 Of course, his arrival brought instant credibility and interest and it kept Tech in the national spotlight until his retirement in 2008.

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Just four games prior to his in-season resignation, he would reach the final milestone of his career, his 900th win.u00a0 To the delight of many Red Raider fans, that would come at the hands of Texas A&M in Lubbock.

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Unlike win No. 880, this game was never in doubt.u00a0 Thanks to a dominant defensive showing in the first half, Tech would hold a 32-17 halftime lead on the way to a 68-53 triumph.u00a0 That was a big surprise, though, given that the Aggies entered the day ranked No. 9 in the polls.

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u201cIu2019m happy that Iu2019ve been able to coach this long u2019cause Iu2019ve basically enjoyed coaching probably 70-30, anyhow,u201d Knight said to the crowd after the win. u201cThatu2019s a mark of longevity as much as anything so Iu2019m just glad Iu2019ve lived this long.u201d

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About two weeks later, following a 67-60 win over Oklahoma State in Lubbock, Knight would hand the reins over to his son, Pat, leaving the coaching profession in the middle of the season to give Pat time to build some momentum for the next season.u00a0 It was the end of what would be one of the most legendary coaching careers in the world of sports and the end of Texas Tech basketballu2019s relevance for essentially a decade.

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Sep 16, 2023; Boulder, Colorado, USA; A general view of the ESPN College GameDay set prior to the game between the Colorado Buffaloes and the Colorado State Rams at Folsom Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports

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Knight has epic moment on ESPN’s College GameDay as Texas Tech hosts Texas in 2008

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About ten months after his final game, Knight stepped back into the public spotlight to represent Texas Tech.  However, this time, it was Red Raider football that was the talk of the nation.

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Ahead of the showdown between No. 7 Texas Tech and No. 1 Texas in Lubbock, ESPN’s College GameDay broadcast from Lubbock for the first (and so far, only) time ever.  Knight was asked to be that week’s guest picker and he didn’t disappoint.

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After making picks on all of the other marquee games of the day, it came time to pick the Tech vs. UT game and Knight did so in a way only he could.

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“There are a lot of people at Texas that I like,” Knight said to host Chris Fowler.  “But this isn’t the time for that.  I mean, I deeply hope we beat their ass today.”

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Of course, that remark drew cheers from the thousands of Texas Tech fans gathered there there morning.  Then, ESPN’s Lee Corso would make his pick in another epic moment.

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Donning the headgear of Raider Red, Corso also fired off Raider Red’s guns causing his co-host, Kirk Herbstreit to duck for cover.  It was the start of what would ultimately be the most unforgettable day in Texas Tech history.

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Of course, the Red Raiders would beat the Horns thanks to a last-second TD pass from Graham Harrell to Michael Crabtree.  That would vault the Red Raiders to No. 2 in the national polls, the highest the program has ever been ranked.

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Knight set the tone for the day with a wild moment on national television and it kicked off a 24-hour period of celebration the likes of which Lubbock has not seen since.  It was fitting and satisfying for Knight to be able to put his stamp on a day that was all about the football program because Knight transcended sports.  He was a cultural icon who was relevant even outside the world of basketball.

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The Prime Restaurant and Whiskey Lounge is now open in Spartanburg. This is the salad bar at the restaurant.
Spa Prime09

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The salad bar incident caused Texas Tech fans to rally around Knight

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It wouldn’t be genuine to reflect on Knight’s time in Lubbock without acknowledging that not everything was blue skies and rainbows while he was in charge.  In fact, he had a rather infamous blow-up at United Supermarket on 50th and Indiana in 2004.

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Details about what happened that day are hard to come by because those involved stayed rather quiet on the incident.  What we do know, however, is that Knight and then-Texas Tech Chancellor David Smith got into a heated argument at the salad bar with some who claimed to have been present that day saying Knight even threw his salad at Smith.

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The following remarks from Smith, which were published in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal give us his side of the incident.

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“I placed my hand on his shoulder, kidded him about eating healthy, and stated that, ‘Most
nof us only hear the negatives, it’s important that sometimes someone remembers the positives.'”

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According to Smith, Knight’s “demeanor and bodily habitas (sic) changed drastically. With a
nred face his response was curt and angry as he responded, ‘I always handle things well, and have always handled things well.'”

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Last week Knight, probably not talking about lettuce, said, “I should have shook my head, walked away … and I didn’t … (but) I absolutely did not instigate anything.”

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With Knight not far removed from the controversial actions that led to his dismissal at Indiana, any negative incident involving the Red Raider coach was going to draw national opinions like flies to a garbage can and that’s what happened.  However, Knight was not suspended by the university, and at the next game, many students wore t-shirts that read “Lettuce Support Coach Knight”.

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This was by far the most noteworthy off-court incident involving Knight and it ultimately proved to be nothing significant.  However, it was a reminder that Knight was at times a loose canon and that the Red Raiders were taking a ride on the dangerous side by bringing him in to lead the program.  In the end, though, it was a ride well worth taking.

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