Lamar senior Mike James was in the midst of explaining to reporters why his team played so miserably in a 62-52 loss to Stephen F. Austin on Thursday night when head coach Pat Knight stopped him mid-sentence.
"All right, let's go. I'm back," Knight said, basically shooing James from the news conference. "You don't have a clue what it takes to win."
What followed from there was maybe the season's best postgame rant.
Irate that his team didn't show the effort he expected either in practice or in Thursday's loss, Knight lambasted the senior class he inherited from former coach Steve Roccaforte for its lack of character and leadership. Knight's sometimes cringe-worthy rant criticized his seniors for everything from showing up late for meetings and practices, to not performing well enough in the classroom, to even having issues with drugs.
"We've got the worst group of seniors right now that I've ever been associated with," Knight said. "Their mentality is awful. Their attitude is awful. It has been their M.O. for the last three years.
"We've had problems with them off the court, on the court, classroom, drugs, being late for stuff. All that stuff correlates together if you're going to win games. You just can't do all that B.S. and expect to win games. And if people have a problem with me being harsh about it, I don't care. I came here to clean something up."
At a time when top basketball prospects are coddled from middle school on by coaches and handlers who need their services and can't risk making them unhappy, Knight's message was refreshing to hear. Perhaps he could have gotten his point across to his seniors by limiting their playing time rather than humiliating them publicly, but at least he didn't stand by idly as so many coaches do.
Those who already have condemned Knight for being too harsh probably do have a point that he went overboard in saying his players would wind up homeless without a job if they took this same attitude into the real world. Nonetheless, they're also neglecting that Knight almost certainly only went public with his frustrations because he didn't feel his message was getting through when he said these things behind closed doors.
Although Knight has helped transform Lamar (17-11, 8-5) from a sub-.500 team last year into a Southland Conference contender this season, the Cardinals have not played well the past two weeks. They've dropped three of four to fall two games behind first-place McNeese State in the Southland's East Division.
"We have a bunch of tin men out there right now. They've got no heart," Knight said. "I've never been around a team that's got so many problems as this one has. Usually you've got one or two guys that are a problem. We've got an infestation of guys that are hard to coach. I've never been around a group as a whole that are like that. Not one guy stands up.
"When I played, if you acted like the way some of these guys do, you got shoved in a locker with a forearm up against your neck and told you don't do that."
Although Pat Knight's everyday demeanor could not be more different than his father, it's clear he inherited some of Bob Knight's fire and willingness to hold his players accountable. He needed to get the attention of his players with less than two weeks to go in the regular season — and there's no doubt he has it now.
"These guys have got to learn, they've got to grow up," Knight said. "They don't need to be coddled. They don't need to be babysat. That's why we have problems in society. People don't make kids accountable. It's just frustrating. I feel sorry for the fans, I feel sorry for the school. These kids are stealing money being on scholarship with their approach to things."
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