Monday, January 7, 2013

Backtime Memo-Random: Lubbock

As a veteran documenter of Big 12 basketball, I can tell you there was a tipping point in my seasonal travel patterns: when Bob Knight became head coach at Texas Tech. So for years I regularly visited this lonely West Texas outpost, and it ain’t bad.

Lubbock is difficult to get to. There are a handful of commuter flights each day from Dallas and Houston, as well as a Southwest from Austin. That’s it. Unless it times out perfectly, you will spend the better part of a day getting to and from Lubbock. And there are no alternate airports that give you more options – Amarillo is pretty much the same.

When we had an “incident” with Coach Knight (I won't get into specifics but it happened in November 2006) that made national news, the network tried to assign a stringer to complement our game production and flush out some news. The problem, they told me, was that they’d have to fly in someone from Houston or Dallas. My amused response to the cost-conscious news editor was, “Why do you think Bob Knight lives here?”

But unlike most other Big 12 schools, once you land in Lubbock there’s no 1-2 hour drive. You’re there. It’s a city on a grid, so you couldn’t get lost if you tried, and it’s probably the flattest city in America so the wind gusts are constant.

It’s one of those self-contained cities on the map, where people choose to live there. They get up early to go to work at their small businesses, and are great at personal service and attention. “Sir” and “Ma’am” are drilled into every local.

Here are a couple of events that stand out the most:

February 14, 2005

Texas Tech hosted #2 Kansas on a Valentine's Day Big Monday. 

In the second overtime, trailing by 2, 6-10 forward Darryl Dora launched a contested 3-point shot that must have made Coach Knight cringe. But it went and the Red Raiders had one of the landmark wins in their history.

A number of us wound up at the Fox & Hound, where we drank with assistant coach Pat Knight well into the morning. 

I was more than a little surprised to see (assistant) Coach Knight next to me on my daybreak commercial flight a few hours later. I asked why he was getting out so early.

"The day after the Kansas game? I wanted to get away from Coach as soon as possible." The younger Coach Knight had pre-scheduled a recruiting trip to avoid the wrath of Coach after a game he was pretty certain they'd lose.

November 16, 2002

In a classic western shootout, Kliff Kingsbury (473 yards, 6 TD passes) and Texas Tech knocked off Chris Simms (345 yards, 4 TD passes) and #3 Texas 42-38. This was before the Big 12 went to the spread offense across the board, so the numbers were astounding back then.

After getting the go-ahead score with 5 minutes left, the Red Raiders picked off Simms, and then Mike Leach's offense ran out the clock with three straight first downs on the ground.

The TV crew was in full scramble mode after the game for the multi-pronged escape. A caravan of golf carts took about a half-dozen of us to our waiting vehicles which were parked clear of stadium traffic. We got to the airport barely in time to make our Southwest flight from Lubbock to Love Field in Dallas.

As we were the last ones on the plane, we sat in that strange train-like configuration they sometimes have on SWA flights. So I sat across from Brad Nessler and Lynn Swann as the flight attendant poured drinks.

Upon landing, some of us jumped in a cab and went from Love to DFW. I made the last flight back to Omaha and was home with the family by Midnight.

It was just over 10 years ago, and wouldn't you know who was just named Texas Tech head coach a few weeks ago?

Kliff Kingsbury is now better known as Johnny Football's offensive coordinator at Texas A&M than a record-setting QB at Tech. So now he is back in Lubbock, as the man in charge.

Alright, getting ready to watch the BCS Championship here - I'm going to say Bama 34, Notre Dame 17. I'm sure a breakfast burrito from Market Street (another Bob Knight incident happened here) is in the offing, as well as a postgame meal at Cafe J, after the Texas Tech/Baylor hoop game tomorrow night.

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