Maybe the old coach has been out in the desert too long, but if there's anything to these rumors about Bobby Knight and Texas Tech, it sounds too good to be true.
We checked in well past midnight, but here, no matter the hour, perky-perfect staff of all sorts swarm to make us happy. We're immediately offered bottles of Evian and glasses of Arnold Palmer Ice Tea, as if we'd just come in from a set of afternoon tennis. The check-in lady conspiratorially whispers that she'd upgraded us to a one-bedroom suite. I was certain they thought I was someone else, but as I've often explained to my wife: I'm all about getting along.
Our "room" consisted of a large separate living room, two bathrooms (one more massive than my entire upstairs at home) an outdoor "garden shower," multiple fireplaces, a huge patio, and our own private "dipping pool." The fact that it was raining and close to freezing didn't diminish the filthy-rich feeling of donning our perfect bathrobes and dipping into our own little pool in the process catching nasty, lingering colds. The rate card said this room cost $1200 per night. I was sure they had the wrong person.
Kelly initially wasn't crazy about attending the condo meeting, but our upgrade status made her an attentive and interested prospective customer. It wasn't such a strain. As I've often explained to my wife: I'm all about sacrifice.
When golf and dinner reservations measure time, calendar days can lose meaning. This can lead to spatial problems for a weekly columnist. When we left Austin, an unlikely story was circulating. As far as I could tell from conversations with bartenders in the desert, it's still a crazy story. Writing a column four days before publication, where controversial news today might be stale, or worse, completely incorrect by the time you see it here, is fraught with danger. Still, I can't resist noting the persistent, almost insanely incomprehensible rumors of the imminent arrival of Bob Knight on the dreary plains of West Texas, to its remote capital city, Lubbock. Why, I ponder, would Knight, no matter how desperate, want to coach at Texas Tech?
The commentary on this most unlikely pairing, like the mating of a common squirrel and a wildebeest, has been negative. It seems nobody can understand why Tech would want to couple with Knight, the ugly, battered wildebeest. These folk, I'd suggest, lack the broad stroke of the artist.
The Red Raider administration and athletic department (keeping the good old SWC's memory alive) has long been nothing but a lurid, old, toothless whore, winking from a dark doorway, without even the redeeming quality of a heart of gold. Tech's football and basketball programs are routinely -- seasonally! -- rocked with wide-ranging scandals of one sort or another: from football stars with 0.00 GPAs, to basketball players with majors in West Texas Sunsets and The History of Sand, to graduation rates abysmal even by NCAA standards. The grotesque spectacle of the tawdry draw-and-quartering of James Dickey, fired to clear the decks for Knight, says all there is to say about the Red Raiders.
With this in mind, if Texas Tech can conspire to get Knight out to Lubbock, they'd be crazy to let the opportunity pass. It is, in every way, a win-win deal for them. As I mentioned, this isn't Stanford. But divining Knight's motives, if this comes to pass, is difficult. Let it suffice to illustrate, at least, the abject desperation of the big jackal in the red sweater: a frightful glimpse of his downward free-fall. Still, for Tech, it's a deal too good to be true.
If there's a better example of a Division I backwater than Texas Tech University, 500 miles from anywhere, I'm not certain where it is. For good or not, Bob Knight will put Tech on the sports map. For a university starving for big school recognition, the only thing worse than bad publicity is none at all -- which is what it gets now. In the first week of fall drills, Knight will bring more national attention to the Tech basketball program than any other coach would garner in five years. Even as the losses pile up, Tech highlights will be on CNN. If I were a Tech administrator, I could rationalize away many things. Knight will graduate players, a drastic change in previous modus operandi. He will recruit better basketball players. Texas Tech will play better basketball. Maybe Knight's been sufficiently humbled by his rapid descent to the lunar landscape of West Texas to have finally learned a lesson in humility. Maybe a good General will emerge to finish out a long, occasionally distinguished career in the hometown of Joe Ely and Waylon Jennings.
One thing is certain, though: Bob Knight will put Texas Tech above the thick jungle canopy of Division 1 sports.