I said it three years ago. To be exact, it was in the March 31-April 6, 2011 edition of The Examiner that I said Pat Knight was not a good candidate for the Lamar men’s basketball job. He was fired from Texas Tech after having a 16-42 record in the Big 12. In that particular column, I wrote, “I don’t think Knight is a good fit at Lamar. I don’t see him staying long in Beaumont, and we’d be right back to where we are now — searching for a coach. Plus I’m not sold on last names.” I was laughed at for making that state- ment. Many said, “You would be stupid not to want Pat Knight as your coach.” Well, who is laughing now? It’s not Lamar. Knight was fired last Sunday after his team lost again, this time to Northwestern State at home, falling to 1-11 in the South- land Conference and 3-22 overall. No other word to use than “embar- rassing.” What’s even worse is the fact Lamar had to send Knight packing with $400,000, which is what they owe him for the next two years.
Knight came in and lifted every- one’s spirits the day he was hired. He was replacing hometown boy Steve Roccaforte, who was fired for going 76-78 (.494), and Knight came to the press conference and said all the right things. He took over a team that went 13-17 the previous year and was getting plenty of seniors. “One of the reasons why I wanted to coach here is because of you guys,” said Knight in his first press conference with a few players in attendance. “I studied you guys. I got all your game tapes. You guys can play. That’s part of the reason why I wanted to come here. I want to coach you guys.” But then he hammered those same guys during the season and his rant went viral. After a loss to Stephen F. Austin, he called them every- thing under the sun. Embarrassing. Somehow, someway, Knight won the lottery and Lamar won the Southland Conference Tournament but then lost a NCAA play-in game to Vermont with the previous regime’s players. Then, his real nightmare began.
Knight had to bring in his own players, and it was a train wreck. The team finished 3-28 overall and had just one win in the Southland Conference. Let’s remember Knight interrupted senior Mike James while talking to the media and said, “OK, let’s go. I’m back. You don’t have a clue what it takes to win.” Apparently, Knight doesn’t either.
Year three in the Knight era was even worse. In the first exhibition game of the season, Lamar nearly lost to McMurry (66-62), a Division II program coached by Clif Carroll, who left Knight after two years as an assistant. This season was no different than last. So, he was fired.
Knight was perceived by many locals as an egomaniac. “Not a lot of guys that can call Coach (Mike) Krzyzewski and tell them he just got a job. I just did that,” Knight informed us when he was hired.
He also told us he wanted his face out in the community. Didn’t happen that much. I’ve read and listened to other media outlets say what a great guy Knight was. Maybe so, but who did the egomaniac call when he got fired? Not any media member in Southeast Texas, but senior college basketball writer Andy Katz of ESPN.
Katz broke the story on Sunday.
“I was told last night to meet with the president and the AD this morning at 10 a.m.,” Knight said to Katz via ESPN.com. “I knew it. There’s no talk. They said they want to go in a different direction. We struggled for two years. It’s all based on the record. It’s part of the business.”
This next statement is even more intriguing.
“I did what I wanted to do,” he said. “I coached a team in the NIT (at Texas Tech) and I coached a team in the NCAA. I wanted to prove I could do this for my last name. I should have gotten out after the NCAA. But you’re sitting there and have a chance to build a team from scratch. You decide to do it and didn’t get it done quick enough. So you get fired. That’s it. I have no regrets. I’m proud of what I did. I should have done it. You feel loyal to a place after you’re fired from a place. We lost eight out of our top 10. We tried it and didn’t work.”
Did you get that? “I should have gotten out after the NCAA.” That equates to him quitting Lamar after one season. You remember when Knight told us this when he was hired — “I look forward to being the coach here for a long time.”
Why was the last two years the worst in the history of Lamar? One of the reasons was recruiting. Knight was terrible at it. Remember he was reprimanded one time for letting a recruit talk to his father Bob Knight over the phone.
Knight told us another reason why he loved Lamar is because you can “drive everywhere to recruit” from Beaumont. How many players from Texas are on the roster? One, Amos Wilson who transferred from Collin County Community College in Plano.
What was even more laughable was when Knight said many players in the Big 12 aren’t happy where they were at and they knew him, so he wanted some transfers. How many Big 12 players are on Lamar’s roster?
He recently said “no one wanted to come to Lamar.” Again, embarrassing.
Knight won 29 games in less than three seasons. He came in like a slick, used car salesman and sold us a lemon.
Tic Price will be the interim coach, but he isn’t the answer. Only one person is, and that’s Terry Evans, who was the other finalist in 2011 but was pushed aside for Knight.
Evans is in his 12th year at the University of Central Oklahoma and has led them to seven national tournament appearances and plays an uptempo style — which Lamar desperately needs — averaging more than 80 points a game.
He basically has no recruiting budget yet is considered by many of his peers as one of the top recruiters in the sport.
He’s been a winner at every level and was a starting point guard for Billy Tubbs at Oklahoma where he still holds records for 3-pointers made, 3-point attempts and assists and ranks 13th all time in Sooner nation for most points scored.
So here is a plea to Lamar’s new president, Dr. Kenneth Evans, and Athletic Director Jason Henderson – do what’s right for the program. Hire Terry Evans and give fans a winner with an exciting basketball team to watch and be proud of.