Comparing "Knight and Day' Of Coaching Styles, Wayman Tisdale's Seen Both Sides Now

Bob Hersom Published: October 7, 1984
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Wayman Tisdale was sitting at his dining room table, talking about feasts and famines and food for thought.

Tisdale talked of enjoying his scoring feast under Oklahoma basketball coach Billy Tubbs, of enduring a scoring famine under U.S. Olympic coach Bobby Knight and of learning something from both.

The Sooners' two-time All-America has averaged 25.8 points at OU.

He has needed only two seasons to become the Sooners' career scoring leader, and in 67 games he has yet to score less than 10 points. It's been a Tisdale feast.

But during the U.S. basketball team's eight-game sweep through the Los Angeles Olympics, Tisdale averaged only 8.6 points and 6.25 field goal attempts. From feast to famine. He did lead the U.S. Olympians in rebounding, averaging 6.4, but OU fans were understandably puzzled by Tisdale's lack of scoring.

So was Tisdale at first.

"It wasn't as fun as it is here in Oklahoma," Tisdale said. "It was just a different style. It was more patterned and more structured, which I don't like at all. But I was able to adjust to it.

"It was pretty tough, though. Some of the time I didn't know what to do. Some of the guys had been playing that type of offense their whole careers. Then I come out there and I didn't even know what patterns to run or who to pick sometimes. After about a month of it I started learning at least half-way where to go."

The OU junior the only player in basketball history to earn All-America status as a freshman and sophomore became so concerned during the Olympic trials that he wondered whether he would make Knight's roster of 12.

"It was pretty bothersome," Tisdale said. "I was more bothered than worried. I was frustrated because I felt like I had prepared myself for that type of game I should have known that it would be a lot different.

"But after everything started going all right I felt like I started learning. I learned about as quick as anybody after I got going."

The going was tough before Mr. T got going. Some observers surmised that Tisdale was so concerned about merely making the team that he wasn't the same Wondrous Wayman, folk hero, that OU fans had watched for two seasons.

"That had something to do with it," Tisdale said. "Plus just that style. You couldn't come out playing like yourself playing in that style. So it was the style of play and worrying about making the team.

It all kind of combined."

During the Olympic trials, Curry Kirkpatrick of Sports Illustrated wrote that Tisdale had become Knight's "pet whipping boy." Tisdale doesn't agree.

"Coach Knight got on everybody, regardless of who you were," Tisdale said. "The time the reporter was in the gym I guess was my day to be yelled at.

"I didn't feel like I was being picked on. I was getting yelled at, but not picked on. It's just part of his coaching style. I could take it. Coach Knight could not upset me.

"With a lot of things he was saying, I could understand what he was trying to do. He was just trying to make me understand his style and that was his way of doing it."

Tisdale isn't bad-mouthing Knight that isn't his style, either.

But Tisdale, asked to compare Tubbs and Knight, couldn't resist using one of his favorite puns.

With a smile as big as an international baseline, Tisdale said, "It's like Knight and day."

After the laughter subsdided, Tisdale continued: "Coach Tubbs and coach Knight are all the way different. I can talk to coach Tubbs a lot easier than I could coach Knight.

"But coach Knight is a great guy. A lot of people don't know his soft side. He does talk to his players and he did joke around with us all the time. It kind of amazed me the first time, when he kind of laughed with me and we talked.

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