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Texas Tech Athletic Director Says Basketball Coach Bobby Knight Didn't Slap His Player

Texas Tech coach Bob Knight says there were times he was wrong when his hot temper got the best of him on a basketball court. Not this time, however.

This time, everyone from the player he confronted to the player's mother and school officials say what Knight did was no big deal.

It all started Monday night when Knight went after Michael Prince, forcefully pushing his chin upward and telling him to look him in the eye, during a timeout late in the Red Raiders' 86-74 victory over Gardner-Webb.

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Athletic director Gerald Myers defended Knight on Tuesday, saying he did nothing wrong when he "quickly lifted" Prince's chin. The president of the school's faculty senate, James H. Smith, said Knight's action was not "physical abuse or violence."

Knight, with a history of chair-throwing, referee baiting and run-ins with school officials, was not available for comment to The Associated Press before Tuesday night's home game against Arkansas-Little Rock.

"I'm sure there were some cases where I have been wrong, but (Monday night) wasn't one of them," Knight told ESPN.com. "I was trying to help a kid, and I think I did.

"I flipped his chin up and told him to look me right in the eye so he could do the job we want. I said, 'Can you?' And he said, 'Yes,' and I said, 'OK, sit down and let's go.' If that's an issue, then I'm living in the wrong country."

Prince told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal after Monday's game that what happened with the coach "was nothing."

"He was trying to teach me and I had my head down, so he raised my chin up," said Prince, who was seen moving his jaw around as he sat on the bench after the confrontation. "He was telling me to go out there and don't be afraid to make mistakes. He said I was being too hard on myself."

Prince's mother, Suzette Prince, told the Avalanche-Journal that she was sitting with her husband, Mike, across from the Tech bench. She said she didn't think this episode should be an issue.

"We talked with Michael, and he had just committed two fouls in a row," she said. "He told us that Coach Knight was asking him if he's ready to play. He said they needed him ready to play."

She said she didn't think Knight should be reprimanded, and the school made no reference to disciplinary action against Knight.

Prince's father played for former Purdue coach Gene Keady when he was at Western Kentucky. Mike Prince is listed as Western Kentucky's 30th all-time leading scorer with 1,120 points.

"Coach Knight did not slap Michael," Myers said in a statement. "Michael came off the court with his head down, and coach Knight quickly lifted Michael's chin and said, 'Hold your head up and don't worry about your mistakes. Just play the game."'

Knight drew loud applause and cheers when he walked into a half-full arena for Tuesday night's game. He exchanged pleasantries with Arkansas-Little Rock coach Steve Shields and briefly spoke with officials.

Several students said they supported Knight and his brand of discipline. Some brought signs, and Garrett Welch's black-and-red one read, "IT WAS JUST A LOVE TAP."

Welch blamed the media for blowing the incident out of proportion.

"It happens everywhere, junior high, high school," he said. "Just because it's Bobby Knight, they're making a big deal out of it."

Knight gave a brief statement at his post-game news conference Monday, then answered one question before exiting the room. He did not address what happened with Prince.

It was win No. 871 for Knight, who is five shy of tying Adolph Rupp for second place on the men's career list. He needs nine more victories to surpass Dean Smith for the most victories in men's Division I history.

Knight's career has featured three national championships, all at Indiana, but plenty of outbursts.

In 1992, Knight kicked a chair on the bench while son Pat, then a player for him at Indiana and now his assistant and successor-to-be at Texas Tech, was sitting in it. When fans behind the team bench booed, Knight turned and responded with an obscenity.

He was accused of grabbing a player by the throat during a practice in 1997, an incident that was caught on videotape and created the whirlwind that eventually led to his firing from Indiana in September 2000.

Knight was fired for what Indiana officials called a violation of a zero-tolerance behavior policy shortly after he grabbed the arm of a student who greeted him on campus by saying, "Hey, what's up, Knight?"

His most infamous moment came in a game against Purdue in 1985, when he threw a chair across the court after being given a technical foul.

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