SI: You beat New Mexico on New Year's Day to break Dean Smith's record of 879 career victories. But your Texas Tech team blew a big lead, and for a while it looked like you might not get number 880. What were you thinking on the bench in the final minutes?
Bob Knight: I leaned over to my son [Tech assistant coach] Patrick, and said, "If we blow this thing, I have a loaded shotgun in the trunk of my car. Go get it and just shoot me because I won't be able to stand it if this thing with the record drags on any longer." Patrick looked at me and said, "The way this game is going, I'd probably miss." I thought that was pretty good. People kept telling me that all the stuff about the record was distracting to the team. I didn't believe it for a while; but now, looking back, I think it did distract them.
SI: All season you downplayed the record, yet you seemed genuinely touched by the postgame ceremonies and celebration.
Knight: I'd said all along it was for the players—every kid who had ever helped us win a game. When I was a player [at Ohio State from 1959 to '62], I didn't start many games. But whenever I played and made a bucket or did something to help us win, I was really pleased about that. So when I started thinking about all the kids who had done something to help us win a game—made a bucket or a free throw or steal, whatever—that's when I started thinking it was a neat thing.
SI: You once said, later in your career at Indiana, that you had never really stopped coaching at West Point. The world and the game have changed since then, but you haven't. Is that a fair assessment?
Knight: I made it hard and difficult for kids because they don't get anything out of it if it's easy. Kids have to get used to somebody telling them what to do because, when you leave college and go to work, there's always somebody telling you what to do. By learning that, they learn how to tell others what to do when they get into positions of leadership. I always laugh at people who get on me for getting on a kid. I wonder how many of them have ever gotten anything back from a kid saying, "You were the biggest positive influence in my life." That's why I never changed.
SI: Earlier this season, you were criticized for chucking a player under the chin as he came to the bench. Naturally this gave your detractors reason to trot out all the old stories about throwing chairs, grabbing players, etc. Your thoughts?
Knight: That was really a bunch of crap. Just ridiculous. When I was a young coach at West Point and we'd play in the Garden, I'd always catch [late St. John's coach] Joe Lapchick's eye as I was walking off the floor. He'd always put a thumb under his chin and push it up. The kid had his head down, and I was telling him to get his head up. A couple of days after that, I saw another coach do far worse than that. But nobody mentioned that.
SI: Considering how basketball and society have changed since you became a head coach in 1965, would you still go into coaching if you were a young man just getting out of college?
Knight: Had I played for the same kind of coaches in high school and college that I played for then, had my mom been a school-teacher, I probably would do the same thing. Nothing really has ever intrigued me as much as coaching has, although I could see myself being in charge of the DEA or the counterterrorism effort. Those are jobs where you really have to think and come up with a lot of options.