The Connecticut Pride of the Continental Basketball Association
had just beaten the Yakima (Wash.) Sun Kings with a shot at the
buzzer. But the Pride wasn't quite through with physical
struggle for the night. Its 10 players were changing into street
clothes in a locker room roughly the size of an airplane
lavatory, and the scene resembled a costume change backstage at
the Versace spring fashion show.
The makeshift coaches' quarters consisted of two wooden chairs
near the entrance to the showers. And that is where Pat Knight,
the Pride's assistant coach, was poring over game stats and
thinking about Connecticut's next opponent, the Rockford (Ill.)
Lightning. His reverie was interrupted by an irate voice.
"Damn!" yelled a player wrapped in an undersized towel. "They
ran out of soap in the shower again."
So what is a well-connected kid like Knight, the younger son of
Indiana coach Bob Knight, doing in a place like this? "Paying my
dues," he says with a smile. "When I made up my mind that I
wanted to coach, I was prepared to work my way up. All you have
to do is look at the coaches in the NBA who got their start in
this league--guys like George Karl and Phil Jackson--and you
know it's a great place for a young guy to start out."
The no-frills CBA combines high-flying hoops with bush-league
trappings. Here an assistant coach not only earns a
pittance--$20,000 for six months is top dollar--but also
moonlights as a scout, player-personnel director, video
coordinator and dime-store psychologist. Knight, who stands 6'6"
and is only two years removed from his reserve role in the
Indiana backcourt, frequently practices with the team as well.
If his father is the General, then Pat, 26, is a private on KP
duty. "Nothing beats this experience, because there's always
something that needs to be done," says Pat. "Luckily I haven't
had to suit up for a game yet, but in this league you expect
anything to happen."
The toughest task Pat has faced so far was convincing his
college coach--dear old Dad--that the right place to launch a
career in the family business was the CBA, a league filled with
wannabes, has-beens, never-will-bes and perhaps a handful of
players who will emulate New York Knick John Starks and
Charlotte Hornet Anthony Mason and graduate to the NBA. The CBA
is home to precisely the brand of renegade basketball that would
send a hoops perfectionist like Bob Knight into paroxysms.
"First of all, I didn't want him to get into coaching. I think
there's added pressure for him," says Bob. "He reminded me that
my father had tried to talk me out of my first coaching job at
Army. Pat had a good point, and I feel like he should get a
A long chat with his son and then with Flip Saunders, the
Minnesota Timberwolves coach who was with the CBA's Lacrosse
(Wis.) franchise from 1989 to '95, convinced Bob that this was a
good career move. Says Pat, "I told my dad that one main reason
this job appealed to me was that down the road, when people are
considering me for another position, I want them to say, 'This
guy has done everything, and he's had nothing given to him.'"
Pat knows firsthand the sting that attends perceptions of
nepotism. As a trigger-happy forward for Bloomington (Ind.) High
School North who then spent a postgrad year improving his game
at New Hampton prep school, in New Hampshire, he attracted the
interest of several Division I college programs. ("I was going
to recruit him," former Illinois coach Lou Henson once quipped,
"until I realized I'd have to make a home visit.") But right
before the young Knight was scheduled to make a recruiting visit
to Colorado, his father persuaded him to play at Indiana.
Pat was seldom used in his first two seasons, but he was a crowd
favorite, the last guy off the bench, exhorted to shoot in the
final minutes of blowouts. But when he worked his way into the
team's regular rotation as a senior, he was booed lustily by
some of the Indiana faithful, who were upset that the coach was
playing his own son. Though Pat performed his role well--he
would finish the season fourth on the team in assists--his
playing time became an issue of statewide interest, debated on
the editorial page of The Indianapolis Star. "I knew from the
start that I wouldn't have been playing basketball at a school
as big as IU if it weren't for my dad," says Pat, still rankled
by the memory, "but I always dreamed about being on one of his
teams, and I wasn't about to give that up."
Pat's career at Indiana was further tarnished by a bizarre
incident, replayed countless times on television highlights,
during his junior year in which his father kicked him in the
shin after he made a sloppy pass against Notre Dame. Pat, who
possesses the diplomatic sense his father lacks, says only, "My
dad and I definitely had our moments--like any player and coach
do--but looking back on it, one of the best parts about my
playing at Indiana was that it brought us closer. We're best
friends now." Indeed, after Pat's last game as a Hoosier, his
father, never the mushy type, pronounced him "my alltime
favorite player" and gave him a big hug.
Still, when Pat graduated from Indiana in 1995 with a degree in
sports management, he was ready to escape Bob's shadow. Rather
than follow the lead of Mike Krzyzewski, Dave Bliss and Jim
Crews, three of the nine Division I coaches who either played
for or coached with the elder Knight, Pat made a break for the
pros, accepting a position with the Phoenix Suns. After a year
of scouting college players, Pat missed being on the bench
during games, so he mass-mailed his resume in search of an
entry-level coaching position.
"With his connections I'm sure he could have landed a job with a
college program," says John Treloar, the Pride's head coach, who
hired Knight in September. "But I really respect the road Pat
decided to take. It was obvious to me from the start how
committed he was to coaching, and so far he's done very well at
this level. The professional game seems to suit him well."
"I may end up in college someday," Pat says. "Who knows? But I
really like the pro game because it's not a dictatorship, and
players are more mature, so they understand the game better."
Knight says he models his coaching style not after his old man's
but after that of Jackson, who led the Albany (N.Y.) Patroons to
the 1984 CBA title before joining the Chicago Bulls as an
assistant in 1987. "Also, there's a misconception that the CBA
is all run-and-gun," Knight adds. "We run almost all set plays
on offense. I'll watch an NBA game, and I'll write down plays I
like, and we'll try running them at practice the next day. Where
else would I get to do that?"
The quality of play in the CBA--which varies, often in the same
game, from NBA caliber to something resembling CYO ball--has
been better than Knight expected. And he doesn't mind that the
league is far removed from the big time. "Bull Durham is one of
my favorite movies, so I appreciate the small-town side of
things," says Knight, who's single and lives in Manchester,
Conn. "The way I look at it, basketball is basketball, and
coaching is in my blood."
If so, his father's propensity to spew lava appears to have
skipped a generation. Earlier this season Pat was called upon to
coach the team against the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Fury after Treloar
was ejected for arguing with the officials. The kid filled in
ably but didn't exactly go hoarse from berating his troops and
the refs. "Actually, he was like Little Bo Peep on the bench,"
joked Pride guard Ennis Whatley, who was an NBA rookie when
Knight was in seventh grade. (Responds Knight, "If they had
thrown me out, our trainer would have had to coach the team.")
And when, late in the Yakima game, the referee missed an obvious
traveling call in front of the Pride's bench, Knight merely
shook his head, tapped his clipboard and muttered, "Come on." No
threat of flying chairs here.
"Let's just say that Pat is a little less intense than his dad,"
says Pride center Todd Lindeman, a 7-foot rookie who also played
at Indiana. "He definitely has some of his dad's personality in
him, but I think he's going to be a different kind of coach. I
know it sounds like a cliche, but he's very much his own man."