State of the Hogs: Texas Tech

Dan Hipsher had already agreed to take up Stan Heath on his offer to become an assistant coach at Arkansas when the Razorback skipper mentioned a Dec. 21 trip to Dallas to face Texas Tech.

Hipsher raised his eyebrows and gave a little chuckle. He knew that would mean a visit with son Andy, a graduate assistant at Tech under legendary head coach Bob Knight.

It was Knight who helped Hipsher land the head coaching position at Akron. It was Knight's offense, as taught by Knight protégés Jim Crews and Don Donoher, that Heath wanted Hipsher to install at Arkansas.

"Stan didn't tell me about the Tech game at first," Hipsher said. "But I got excited when he told me. I knew it would be an interesting game from my perspective. Heck, I thought it was pretty funny when Stan finally mentioned that we had the Tech game."

Hipsher considers Knight a friend, but he downplayed that relationship when approached about it after Monday's practice in Bud Walton Arena.

"Bob Knight doesn't need me as a friend," Hipsher said. "He's got Tony LaRussa and Bill Parcells to talk to when he wants a friend. My friendship with Bob Knight is based on me calling when I need some help. Actually, I speak to him when spoken to and not anytime else. I will say that I've been around him in some capacity for about the last 30 years. Most of that is just watching and learning."

Actually, he does speak to one Coach Knight quite often and considers that Coach Knight to be a very good friend. Knight's son, Pat, an assistant at Tech, was on Hipsher's Akron staff. Most suspect that Pat Knight will follow his father as head coach at Tech.

"I probably talk to Andy about once a day and I do talk to Pat a lot, too," Hipsher said. "I do know a lot about them because of that. I know that they have seven freshmen who are learning their system and they've also had three or four key injuries. Unfortunately, for us, they are getting healthy now just in time for our game. They've had some injuries to their inside guys, but they have those guys back now."

It will be an interesting matchup since both teams utilize the motion offense – the motion offense that most credit Knight for bringing to the college game.

"They are better than us in the motion, that's for sure," Hipsher said. "We are teaching 13 new guys the motion. They just have seven new guys to teach."

Most of the Hogs know about Hipsher's ties to the Knight coaching tree and they know it's an important game for their new coach.

"Sure, it's a big game for him," said Pookie Modica. "Why wouldn't it be? His son is there. He learned this offense from Coach Knight. We know the circumstances. We sure do. I know it will be important to play hard for Coach Hipsher in this game. He coaches the motion and Coach Knight is the one everyone knows runs it the best."

How are the Hogs doing with the motion offense?

"We have intervals of good basketball with it," Hipsher said. "And there are times that we look very good in practice, but then don't do the same things in the game. We stop and start ball watching in games. You call that game slippage. We just aren't consistent with it as far as movement and shot selection.

"There are times that we really put the energy in our cutting and passing in practice and I think we are getting there, and then don't do it very well in games. Part of that is just getting a feel of it. We've had some good runs at certain times like in the first half of the Missouri and Missouri State games. And, we missed some layups in both of those games that were the direct result of good cuts in the motion. We are getting there.

"What you have to remember is that most teams will be further ahead on defense than on offense right now anyway. We aren't in great rhythm just yet. But we are working hard."

Heath sees the progress. However, he hopes an exposure to Tech's motion game will help the Hogs learn some of the tricks and finer points.

"Dan and I have talked about that," Heath said. "We'll see quite a bit of Tech on tape the next two days and then we'll see them in person, too. I'd be surprised if we didn't learn something in that process. Our players should be able to see some of the things we've been coaching them to do."

Hipsher is sure the Hogs are far from the finished product.

"We are starting to pick things up," he said. "The key is not to be satisfied. If we keep improving, we are going to be tough to guard. I see Ronnie Brewer and Pookie Modica starting to pick up some of the cuts. That's going to help them get some easy baskets."

Does Hipsher relish going against Knight?

"It's a player's game not a coaches' game," he said. "But I don't see anything but good in the fact that we are going against a coach that has eight hundred and fifty something victories. I'm excited about seeing Andy, too."

Andy Hipsher won't be on the bench. He is working this season in the broadcast media taking turns between providing color on the Tech television and radio broadcasts.

"It should be a fun night," Hipsher said. "Like I said, it's going to be good to be involved in this kind of a game."

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