Coach Knight becomes all-time wins leader

Coach Knight became the winningest coach of all-time with a 70-68 victory over New Mexico.

Knight earned career victory No. 880 the hard way when his Texas Tech Red Raiders blew a 20-point lead but withstood a 3-point miss at the buzzer to beat New Mexico 70-68 on Monday.

None of Knight's famous friends made it to West Texas to see him break the men's Division I record he shared with former North Carolina coach Dean Smith. Steve Alford, John Havlicek and Fuzzy Zoeller were among about 30 buddies here when he tried Thursday night, but none of them stayed for a morning tipoff on New Year's Day.

The Red Raiders (11-4) trailed 64-60 with 6:25 left, but went back ahead 70-68 on a 3-pointer by Jay Jackson with 2:04 left. Things were tense the rest of the way - including a controversial call that didn't go in Knight's favor - and it wasn't until a long 3-pointer by J.R. Giddens bounced away at the buzzer that the celebration could begin.

Pat Knight, Knight's son and successor-in-waiting, put an arm around his dad's neck as they walked to shake hands with New Mexico coach Ritchie McKay. They looked as relieved to have won this game as to have the hoopla of the record behind them.

The crowd already was on its feet and the cheers turned louder. Knight did a television interview, then "My Way" by Frank Sinatra blared, a not-so-subtle reminder of Knight's personal and professional credo.

Soon, red confetti fell and a ceremony began. Knight singled out Alan Voskuil, who made a key play down the stretch, then tapped the chin of forward Mike Prince, the player who Knight made contact with in a game earlier this season. He then motioned to his wife, Karen, to join him on the court.

"The first 15 minutes of the game was Karen's game plan," he said of his wife, a former high school coach. "The rest of it was mine, unfortunately. I just say thank you."

School administrators praised him and he in turn thanked them. He even took a shot at the now-departed chancellor with whom he feuded, telling his successor, "I really appreciate what an improvement you are."

In a scratchy voice, he added, "I'd like to thank (administrators) for giving me an opportunity to coach at Texas Tech."

A series of video tributes followed, with former player and assistant Mike Krzyzewski of Duke saying, "You are the best there's ever been. I'm so glad you've been my mentor, you've been my coach and you've been my friend."

"On behalf of all the players and coaches who've been fortunate enough to be a part of your system, we want to congratulate you on this," Krzyzewski said. "It's really not surprising to the guys who played for you or coached with you."

As much as he takes pride in the record - some say it's what drove him to keep coaching after being fired by Indiana in 2000 - he had treated the hoopla surrounding the milestone like a necessary evil. He's maintained that his focus is getting the Red Raiders ready for Big 12 Conference play, which begins Saturday.

"I think it was fun at the beginning of the season," Pat Knight said. "These last two weeks have been nerve-racking for him. Same for the team. Now that we've got it over with, it's a great accomplishment, and we can get back to playing basketball."

Already a Hall of Famer, Knight's overall record is 880-354 with three national championships, including a perfect season in 1976 that has yet to be duplicated.

Only the color of his sweater has changed since moving to this college basketball outpost in 2001.

The chin-jerking of Prince is proof he hasn't mellowed with age. The locals don't seem to mind, not with his motion offense and man-to-man defense bringing unprecedented success, starting with his first season.

Knight has felt so at home that he's talked about settling down here permanently once he's done coaching - whenever that is.

Although Tech put in writing last year that Pat will be the program's next coach, the 66-year-old Knight is in no hurry to retire. He recently agreed to a contract extension through the 2010-11 season.

That doesn't bode well for anyone hoping to overtake Knight on the wins list.

Arizona's Lute Olson is second among active coaches with 772 wins. But at 72, and also under contract through 2011, he is not likely to make up enough ground.

Krzyzewski has 765 wins and is 59. However, Coach K would be 64 in 2011 and might still be 100 wins behind.

Even if Knight only bumps the mark to 900, it would take 45 years of 20 wins per season to match that. At the unlikely rate of 25 wins per season, it would take 36 years.

Knight had the advantage of breaking into the business at Army when he was only 24. Hence his nickname, "The General."

Also worth noting: Tennessee women's coach Pat Summitt has won the most NCAA games, 925; and Harry Statham of NAIA McKendree College in Lebanon, Ill., has won the most men's games at a four-year college, 925.

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