The Cash Machine

Forget about winning basketball games. Texas Tech hired Bobby Knight for one reason: to raise money. For him, that should be a slam dunk.
KNIGHTLY NEWS: In 48 hours fans snapped up 12,000 seats.
Photograph by Artie Limmer

When I stepped out of the calm of the Lubbock airport and into the second day of a West Texas dust storm, the first person I met was Raegan Sisemore. Sisemore, who was shuttling travelers to their rental cars, took no time to give me the scoop on Texas Tech’s newest coach. “Bobby Knight has turned this town upside down,” he said, his words slow and deliberate. “I went ahead and got my season tickets now so that I wouldn’t be left out.” When I asked him if that was unusual, he looked at me and said flatly, “No one in Lubbock has ever had to buy basketball tickets in March.”If I had forgotten that Tech had landed the biggest sports story in the nation when it hired Knight, Sisemore was a good reminder. So were the billboards that had sprung up all over the city, as numerous as pump jacks, proclaiming “It’s Knight Time in Lubbock.” Each one is sponsored by a local company like Scott’s Complete Car Care, and they were all part of the welcome Knight had received. On the day that he was hired, an editorial cartoon ran in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal that presented the coach with a choir on one side and admiring fans on the other. The heavens had parted, and angels had descended to usher him into the spotlight. The caption read “And Bob came unto The Plains, To Saveth Men’s Roundball. And it was Good. Amen.” The metaphor was apt. The town couldn’t have been whipped up into a bigger frenzy than if Christ himself had chosen Lubbock to kick off the Second Coming.

Of course, not everyone sang hosannas after Tech announced

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