Knight earned career victory No. 880 the hard way when his Texas Tech Red Raiders blew a 20-point lead but withstood a 3-point miss at the buzzer to beat New Mexico 70-68 on Monday in a game lacking the fanfare of his first attempt.
None of Knight's famous friends made it to West Texas to see him break the men's Division I record he shared with former North Carolina coach Dean Smith. Steve Alford, John Havlicek and Fuzzy Zoeller were among about 30 buddies here when he tried Thursday night, but none of them stayed for a morning tipoff on New Year's Day.
The Red Raiders (11-4) trailed 64-60 with 6:25 left, but went back ahead 70-68 on a 3-pointer by Jay Jackson with 2:04 left. Things were tense the rest of the way - including a controversial call that didn't go in Knight's favor - and it wasn't until a long 3-pointer by J.R. Giddens bounced away at the buzzer that the celebration could begin.
Pat Smith, Knight's son and successor-in-waiting, put an arm around his dad's neck as they walked to shake hands with New Mexico coach Ritchie McKay. They looked as relieved to have won this game as to have the hoopla of the record behind them.
The crowd already was on its feet and the cheers turned louder. Knight did a television interview, then "My Way" by Frank Sinatra blared, a not-so-subtle reminder of Knight's personal and professional credo.
Soon, red confetti fell and a ceremony began. Knight singled out Alan Voskuil, who made a key play down the stretch, then tapped the chin of forward Mike Prince, the player who Knight made contact with in a game earlier this season. He then motioned to his wife, Karen, to join him on the court.
"The first 15 minutes of the game was Karen's game plan," he said of his wife, a former high school coach. "The rest of it was mine, unfortunately. I just say thank you."
School administrators praised him and he in turn thanked them. He even took a shot at the now-departed chancellor with whom he feuded, telling his successor, "I really appreciate what an improvement you are."
In a scratchy voice, he added, "I'd like to thank (administrators) for giving me an opportunity to coach at Texas Tech."
A series of video tributes followed, with former player and assistant Mike Krzyzewski of Duke saying, "You are the best there's ever been. I'm so glad you've been my mentor, you've been my coach and you've been my friend."
"On behalf of all the players and coaches who've been fortunate enough to be a part of your system, we want to congratulate you on this," Krzyzewski said. "It's really not surprising to the guys who played for you or coached with you."
As much as he takes pride in the record - some say it's what drove him to keep coaching after being fired by Indiana in 2000 - he had treated the hoopla surrounding the milestone like a necessary evil. He's maintained that his focus is getting the Red Raiders ready for Big 12 Conference play, which begins Saturday.