LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) – Bob Knight almost certainly is going to go over the top again this season.

In a good way.

The Texas Tech coach known for tossing a chair, berating players and throwing temper tantrums during a 41-year career needs 11 wins to become the winningest men’s coach in NCAA Division I history.

“That record has never even entered my mind,” Knight said. “I couldn’t have told you a couple of years ago what the number was or what I needed to get there.”

The number is 880.

Knight has 869 wins, third on the all-time list and seven behind Kentucky’s Adolph Rupp. North Carolina’s Dean Smith retired in 1997 with 879 victories, a number Knight could reach by the new year.

Texas Tech opens its season at home Saturday against Sam Houston State. The earliest Knight can tie Smith, however, is Dec. 6, at Louisiana Tech. His first chance to get the record comes at home Dec. 9, against Centenary.

Whenever Knight reaches the milestone, Smith said he’ll be happy for him.

“He’s an outstanding coach,” said Smith, who added Knight knows how to piece together the puzzle of five players’ assets, liabilities and personalities. “They get good shots. That’s the way he’s played for a long time.”

Throughout his career, the coach known as “The General” has been remembered for his sweaters and his temper. Although some say Knight has mellowed, former Indiana player and current Iowa coach Steve Alford doesn’t buy it.

Alford got a reminder a few years ago when the two did an ESPN interview. When Alford was asked about his relationship with his former coach, Knight interrupted and unleashed a verbal barrage for which he later apologized.

“I think kids have changed, and parenting has changed; he’s the same,” said Alford, who starred on Knight’s team featured in the book “A Season on the Brink.”

“He still has the same passion and the same competitive fire,” Alford said.

Want more proof? Just ask Knight whether he thinks he has changed.

“Hair got gray. Probably weigh more. Don’t like the press any better,” he said with deadpan face.

Anything else?

“Probably not.”

Knight’s accomplishments are impressive: three national championships, 11 Big Ten titles, an Olympic gold medal and membership in the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame. He hints there might be one thing he’d like to do in college basketball before calling it quits, but quickly dismisses attempts to uncover it.

“If I wanted you to know, I’d tell you,” he said.

But he’s quick to share snapshots from his long career. Knight knows his history and prides himself on recalling crucial plays with uncanny detail, including how much time remained. He jokingly explains the ability as “probably sheer natural brilliance.”

As proof he rattled off the heights of some players who started on each of Indiana’s national championship teams.

“I think I must have inherited it,” Knight said. “The thing is, you remember in far greater detail games you lost.”

He rebuffed a question about whether he’s a better coach now than earlier in his career.

“I’m not going to get into that,” Knight said. “Obviously, you’ve got to be better. … I think that’s an unanswerable question, and I never get into that end of things.”

Better or not, the season awaits.

After opening against Sam Houston State, the Red Raiders play Gardner-Webb on Monday in the opening round of the 16-team CBE Classic, a tournament that could produce a matchup between Texas Tech and No. 12 Duke, which is coached by Mike Krzyzewski.

Coach K was Knight’s captain at West Point and his assistant coach for a year at Indiana before he landed the Army head coaching job.

Krzyzewski noted that Knight won’t take all the credit when he gets the record for wins. Instead, players and coaches who were with Knight along the way will get their share, too.

“That’s the beauty of coaching, is you kind of share those milestones, and there’s a lot of memories,” he said. “I hope he doesn’t think and say, ‘Hey, if Krzyzewski didn’t turn the ball over against Manhattan I’d have had 880’ or ‘If he’d have been able to shoot better, I would have had this two years ago.”‘

Knight won’t say how much longer he’ll coach. He recently agreed to a three-year contract extension that would keep him at Texas Tech through the 2011-12 season.

No matter when he calls it quits, he’s content knowing his son, Pat, will take over the program. Bob Knight plans to remain in Lubbock after that.

“It just so happens that the things that are available here are the things that I really like,” Knight said, adding that he can drive 10 minutes from his home just west of Lubbock and hunt dove. “And my wife really likes it, which is another really important thing. If she didn’t like it, it wouldn’t be much fun being here.”

With his move to Texas in 2001, Knight has brought plenty of national attention to Tech and Lubbock. He required ESPN producers to showcase the school and the city in each of the six episodes of “Knight School,” which aired earlier this year.

“That’s a billion-dollar advertisement for this community and this school,” he said.

The publicity Knight generated during his 29 years at Indiana wasn’t always as positive.

His most infamous moment came against Purdue in 1985, when he threw a chair across the court after being called for a technical foul.

In 1992, Knight kicked a chair along the sideline while son Pat was sitting in it. When fans behind the Indiana bench booed, Knight turned and responded with an obscenity.

He’s had countless spats with officials and media. He was accused of grabbing a player by the throat during a practice in 1997, an episode that was caught on videotape and created the whirlwind that eventually led to his firing in September 2000.

Knight was fired for what school officials called a violation of a zero-tolerance behavior policy shortly after he grabbed the arm of a student who greeted him on campus by saying “Hey, what’s up, Knight?”

After a year away, he made a surprising comeback with the Red Raiders.

Less surprising was Knight’s immediate success: Four straight 20-win seasons, including his first trip to the NCAA regional semifinals in 11 years. Before Knight arrived, Tech had eight 20-win seasons in 76 years and hadn’t had a winning season in four years.

Last season turned sour, though. Tech finished 15-17, only the second losing season ever for Knight; the other was 1970-71 when his last Army club went 11-13. It was also only the second time a team of his hasn’t gone to a postseason tournament.

This season, he insists a better team, not win No. 880, will be the focus.

Knight’s enjoyment of coaching, he said, comes from knowing he’s having a “real effect” on young men’s lives. But he scoffed when asked what he believes his legacy will be.

Knight said he doesn’t think about it, but he does have a ready-made answer.

“Just write down ‘that he was honest and he didn’t kiss anybody’s (behind),”‘ Knight said. “That’d be perfect.”

AP sports writers Jim O’Connell in New York and Aaron Beard in Raleigh contributed to this report.

AP-ES-11-09-06 1412EST

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