If a winning record was all that required, Knight could have ridden the senior leadership he inherited and made few waves. As a first-year coach, especially one with a famous name, he was sure to enjoy a grace period even if the Cardinals couldn't manage a .500 mark. Instead, Knight was good as his word and made them play and behave his way right away, suspending three players during the season and when the moment called for it, calling out the seniors whose trust he needed most.
In short order, Mike James, the guard Knight dismissed from the podium before last month's tirade, went on to lock down MVP honors in the conference tourney and fellow seniors Devon Lamb and Anthony Miles started rebounding and handing out assists exactly the way Knight drew up the plays. For all the ways in which he was portrayed as being different from Bob, it wasn't until the moment he felt far enough away that he could be himself.
"When I told my dad I wanted to be a coach, he told me a story about going to see coach (Joe) Lapchick before he took his first job at West Point," Pat said. "Coach Lapchick asked him, 'Is it important for you to be liked?' My dad thought about it a second and said, 'No.' So coach Lapchick looked at him and says, 'Right. And if you have plans to be a coach for long, don't ever forget this: It's more important to be respected than liked.'"
Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org and follow him at Twitter.com/JimLitke.
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