Pat Knight Calls Out Texas Tech Seniors
Most coaches talk in general when the subject is poor play.
Texas Tech coach Pat Knight took the unusual route Monday of naming names, his seniors in particular. Still fuming from the poor play of forward Mike Singletary and guard Brad Reese -- both seniors -- and the role they played in Saturday's Big 12 opening loss at home to Baylor, Knight didn't hold back during Monday's Big 12 Men's Basketball Teleconference.
The Red Raiders start as many as four seniors and can play as many as six.
"Maybe it's my fault just because I have been around such good seniors my whole life," said Knight, who is in his third season since taking over for his father, Bob Knight, at Tech. "I got spoiled being at Indiana. I didn't see this problem coming from the seniors. I just thought the way things have been transgressing the last two years, getting better each year it's just a given these guys were going to show up and play.
"But they just haven't. Instead they have been so sporadic, it's just been tough. But that's part of coaching. It's a good lesson for me not to take seniors for granted because I got spoiled."
The problem has been the inconsistency of his four senior starters, John Roberson, David Tairu, Reese and Singletary. During Saturday's 71-59 loss to Baylor, in which the Red Raiders rallied from a double-digit deficit to take a one-point lead in the second half only to fall apart, Singletary went 2-for-10 from the field to finish with 12 points in 38 minutes while Reese went 0-for-8 from the field and didn't score a point in 14 minutes. Roberson led the way with 14 points, while Tairu added 13.
The inability to get his senior leaders to play well together prompted Knight to call a meeting with them Saturday. Coming into the season, Singletary and Roberson seemed destined to be the best scoring tandem in the Big 12. But it hasn't played out that way.
Knight seems at his wits end trying to light a fire under what is his most veteran team, which likely led to Monday's venting session.
"The seniors have been a problem," said Knight, whose team is off to a disappointing 8-8, 0-1 Big 12 start in what is a critical year in his tenure. "I called them in and talked to them because the main scorers are our seniors, David Tairu, John Roberson, Singletary and Reese. You look at our stats all year long and two of them will play well and two of them won't. Then we will get the other two who aren't playing well to play well and then the other two that were playing well won't play well. It's just been a roller coaster.
"For us to do well, I have to have all four of those guys playing good together at once. There was some good play for about 10 minutes there but we need 40 minutes and I need all the seniors playing well together."
The Red Raiders, who opened non-conference play last year with a 9-0 record that got them into the national rankings before becoming unglued, were expected to make a push for the NCAA tournament this season. But to this point, Tech hasn't looked like a team worthy of even another NIT bid.
That's what prompted Knight to call the meeting with his seniors. Knight seemed to feel his point came across well in their meeting.
"They agree because they are disappointed," said Knight. "This isn't the way any of us saw the season go but there is still a lot left. But it's on them. They are all in the starting lineup. We go as they go."
Knight's point was made easier by the performance of Baylor senior guard and leading scorer LaceDarius Dunn during Saturday's game. The Bears' lone senior put his team on his back much of Saturday, finishing tied for the game-high with 20 points on 6-of-17 shooting.
"I've talked to them and told them if you look at all the top teams in the country, the seniors show up night in and night out, just like Dunn," Knight said. "You look at his stats, that kid shows up night in and night out and he always hits big shots and he doesn't take a night off. If we could get our seniors just to be that way it gives us a better chance. But it's tough for us when two of them don't show up and two of them do."
Texas coach Rick Barnes, whose Longhorns travel to face the Red Raiders Tuesday night, empathizes with what Knight is going through. Barnes' Longhorns fell apart last season due in large part from a lack of leadership from Damion James, Dexter Pittman and Justin Mason though he never indicated they were the problem then.
"It's one of the hardest things that you deal with. People just think it's natural that older players, senior players are always just by the fact they have been here will always be able to lead. Sometimes it just doesn't work out. It's difficult because I've said before about our team right now, the best thing that has happened to our team is the seniors and the way they've set the tone from the end of last season to where we are right now, the way they go about their business.
"It's hard, it really is hard. Everybody makes it sounds like leadership is something that is easy to get and if it were we would never talk about it. But it's not as easy as you think sometimes. Sometimes you get caught off guard, you think you are going to have it but it doesn't materialize the way you think it will and it's tough."