LUBBOCK, Texas – In 2001, Bob Knight quickly stole the hearts of the Red Raiders when he became the new Men’s Basketball coach at Texas Tech University (TTU) after a lengthy and storied career at Indiana University.
TTU legend Bubba Jennings (1980-1985) was an assistant coach under the general from 2008 – 2013. He called him the ultimate motivator.
“Coach Knight is a bigger-than-life figure,” Jennings said. “When he enters a room, the whole atmosphere of the room changes. Everybody gets on their toes, everybody’s alert to what’s going on. I’ve been around a lot of famous people, but none of them have the effect that Coach Knight has on a room.”
There were certainly well-documented negatives from Knight’s behavior.
“He was his own man, no question about it,” Jennings said.
However, those who worked with him and learned from him often described him as a dedicated person who changed the game and everyone around him.
“To be able to get to know Coach behind the scenes when the cameras were off, I thought that’s where we all came to love him and get to know him because he was just a regular guy with a sense of humor,” said Jesus Arenas, who played under Knight at TTU from 2001 – 2002.
Knight made huge strides with Red Raider hoops, making March Madness four times in his first six seasons with the team.
“Coach Knight just did so much for Texas Tech, and for all of basketball,” Jennings said. “Everybody today does something that coach did and that he came up with.”
Those who knew the coaching giant shared stories of his generous nature.
“Sometimes for Christmas, we would get a bonus that was half of our salary from him,” Jennings said. “He just really, really took care of us.”
“He thought I’d make a good coach and he paid for my education during that summer to get certified to be a teacher and then a few months later, I was working in Lubbock ISD at Dunbar and then I kind of just worked my way up,” Arenas said. “Sometimes when I have time to breathe and think, I think of coach. I’ve got his picture in my office, and a poster of our team that year. He had a big part of where I am today, so I’ll always be grateful for that.”
The coaching legend died Wednesday just six days after celebrating his 83rd birthday.
The Hall of Famer is amongst the winningest coaches in college basketball, surpassing 900 wins. His coaching career, which spans over four decades, makes for a legacy that will be everlasting.
“I don’t think there’ll ever be another coach like Coach Knight,” Jennings said.