If you’ve ever wanted to take a trip to Lubbock, Texas, and who hasn’t, really, this might be the time to go.

Lubbock is home to Texas Tech University, the school that brought us John Denver, Josh Bard, and John Hinckley, Jr. And Texas Tech is going to be party central this week, if it isn’t already.

The celebration probably started Friday night, after the Red Raiders pulled off the greatest comeback in college bowl history in a 44-41 win over Minnesota. Never mind that this occurred in the Insight Bowl, a meaningless game lost in an endless schedule of meaningless bowl games, which makes it college football’s equivalent of the Miracle on Ice happening at the Lake Placid Winter Carnival. They don’t get to enjoy bowl victories very often in Red Raider-land (all-time bowl record, 9-20-1). Let the corks pop and the champagne flow.

Lubbock’s liquor stores will have to restock the bubbly quickly, not just for New Year’s Eve, but for what could be an historic New Year’s Day. The Red Raider basketball team takes on New Mexico on Monday, and head coach Bob Knight only needs one win to pass Dean Smith on the all-time career victories list with 879.

The highly anticipated milestone has allowed Knight’s apologists and enablers to pay homage to their hero virtually without challenge for the last couple of weeks. As we speak, Dick Vitale is probably applying lip balm so he doesn’t chafe during Monday’s broadcast. Time to give it up for “The General,” babaaaay!!!

The Knight sycophants are using a lot of oxygen and ink defending their guy. A lot of them do so while protesting that they shouldn’t have to defend him so much. This often includes a rant about how American society is going soft. The words civility and dignity are conspicuously absent, though.

Mr. Red Sweater has his admirable qualities. He can obviously coach. He runs a clean program. He graduates his players. Numerous former players credit him with turning their careers or their lives around, and he remains loyal to most of them (re: the ones who didn’t publicly complain about being choked) through thick and thin.

Isn’t this what coaches are supposed to do? Aren’t they supposed to win, without cheating, and mentor the players to bigger and better things after school?

It’s not easy to do, certainly, but many others have been able to do it without bullying, degrading, threatening or abusing others in the process. and they’ve done it without bringing shame to their institution or profession.

Unfortunately, Knight seems to think it’s the only way of doing business.

“If I didn’t yell, if I didn’t demand, if I wasn’t tough, if I didn’t have the stringent rules, my kids wouldn’t be as successful,” Knight said in a recent Yahoo.com story. “You don’t graduate players today in college without getting on their ass. You don’t make kids better people without getting them out of their comfort zone.”

Oh, so throwing furniture, assaulting players and police officers, berating school officials, staff, referees and the media, that’s just the General’s way of showing how much he cares.

Knight certainly has compassion. If you’ve followed his career, you’ve no doubt heard the story of Landon Turner, who played for Knight at Indiana in the early 1980s who was paralyzed in a car accident. The coach was among the first to be at his side, raised money to help Turner with life in a wheelchair, and has inspired his former player to live a productive life. There have been other stories about the coach reaching out to other former players in their time of need, and Knight’s defenders are always quick to point them out, as if they excuse his otherwise boorish behavior.

It’s not in the job description, like winning and graduating players, but this is something else coaches do. It’s called leadership.

We’ve seen it right here in Lewiston this week, under the most unfortunate of circumstances. Lewiston High School athletic director and former coach Jason Fuller and football coach Bill County were among the first to reach out to the friends, former teammates and schoolmates of their former players who were killed in a car accident last week.

Fuller and County have raised their voices to a player or two. I’ve seen it. I can also report they could probably take on Knight in a referee stare-down and hold their own. But just as they’ve done throughout their coaching and teaching careers, they’ve represented their school and their community with grace, dignity and class in the last week, when those qualities were needed most. Somehow, I doubt their supporters will ever be put in the position of having to remind us of this.

There are many other coaches, in this state alone, who care for their players, who instill discipline, who mold successful young men and women every day. They earn their players’ respect and life-long loyalty and gratitude. And yes, some even do it by “getting on their ass,” yet they somehow manage not to lay a hand on them or embarrass them.

Bob Knight may set a new standard on Monday, but that does not make him the standard-bearer for coaches. He is anything but.

Randy Whitehouse is a staff writer. He can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]

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