Texas Tech's Knight, Hipsher Share History

FAYETTEVILLE -- When Arkansas meets Texas Tech this December in Dallas, legendary Red Raiders coach Bobby Knight will see a familiar face on the Razorback sideline.

It won't be Arkansas coach Stan Heath, who coached in the Big 10 against Knight while an assistant at Michigan State before Knight was fired at Indiana in 1999.

When the two-year series was agreed upon last year, Heath said he'd only spoken to Knight once, and that was when the outdoors-loving and often controversial coach called the Spartan basketball offices looking for some fishing recommendations from Michigan State coach Tom Izzo.

Instead, Knight will likely have a hearty greeting for newly hired Arkansas assistant coach Dan Hipsher, 50, who calls Knight one of his mentors after the two got to know each other while Hipsher was an assistant to longtime Dayton coach Don Donoher from 1981-89.

Hipsher was on campus Tuesday at Heath's basketball camp for his first in-person meeting with the media and he compared his last few days to those of a new college student.

"I'm getting my feet wet," Hipsher said. "It's kind of like going back to college. I had to get a new ID, a new parking pass, key to get in your room. It's been pretty neat, though. There's a great bunch of people here."

Donoher and Knight, an Ohio native, are close friends and Hipsher has several family ties with Knight, who offered a statement praising Hipsher and the decision by Heath to hire the former Akron coach last Friday.

During the year Knight was out of college basketball between his Indiana firing and his Texas Tech hiring, his son and current top assistant Pat Knight was an assistant to Hipsher at Akron for the 1999-2000 season.

Pat Knight, who played and coached at Indiana, rejoined his father when he landed the Texas Tech job.

Currently, Hipsher's son Andy Hipsher, who played for his father at Akron, is a color commentator on Texas Tech basketball games.

The elder Knight is considered a basketball revolutionary for his development of the motion offense that helped him win the 1976, '81 and '87 NCAA championships at Indiana and Hipsher said that was the style he tried to incorporate at Akron.

Heath, whose team struggled to score against a 2-3 zone defense for the final 10 games of the season, also mentioned Hipsher's motion offense credentials as an attractive part of his hire.

"We play his style of motion offense," Hipsher said of Knight. "We've had a good learning relationship. Coach Knight's style of play influenced my style."

Hipsher was the coach at Akron for nine years, compiling a 112-137 record and winning conference coach of the year honors in 1998 before being reassigned to a position in the public affairs office following the 2004 season, the fourth straight the Zips had finished with a .500 record or below.

He was one of the original candidates to replace Rob Flaska, who left March 30 to take the head coaching job at Centenary.

Heath hired former East Carolina head coach Bill Herrion on April 18, but Herrion decided to take the head coaching job at New Hampshire just more than a month later to put Hipsher back in the mix.

"It's funny how things work out sometimes," Heath said. "It's a great fit, especially with how things worked out. I'm excited about where we're going."

Arkansas was 18-12 last season after starting 13-1 and losing five of its final six games, including two so embarrassing to Auburn and Tennessee to close the season that Heath pulled the plug on a potential bid to the NIT, which would have been the Razorbacks' first postseason appearance since 2001 in the season before Nolan Richardson was fired.

Hipsher said one of his main duties as a former head coach on Heath's staff will be to provide perspective and temper the highs and lows of the game.

"I think having been around I can help Stan with the ideas that the sky isn't falling every day," Hipsher said. "Sometimes we beat ourselves up. I know I did."

Seven Southeastern Conference coaches now have former head coaches on staff and Heath said the benefits of such arrangements were the talk of the recent meetings in Florida.

"They liked it, enjoyed it and it took a load off their shoulders," Heath said.

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