Knight School graduate

Knight School graduate

Former Hoosier Michael Lewis says he owes his playing and coaching success to ‘General’

By Lynn Houser, Herald-Times Sports Writer

December 26, 2006

Indiana’s Michael Lewis (24) talks with coach Bob Knight during the Hoosiers’ game at Texas Tech on Nov. 19, 1999. It was the first game in the Red Raiders’ new basketball arena in Lubbock, Texas. After Knight left Indiana, Lewis was a graduate assistant for Knight at Texas Tech. H-T file photo
From the Dec. 26, 2006 Bloomington Herald-Times

Here’s a trivia question for you, Hoosier basketball fans. Who is IU’s all-time assist leader?

A hint: It’s not Quinn Buckner, Isiah Thomas or Damon Bailey.

Would you believe Michael Lewis?

It’s true, and even Lewis himself has a hard time believing it.

“All I ever did in high school (Jasper) was score, so to leave IU with an assist record meant something because I had to change the way I played,” he said by phone last week.

Lewis is quick to point out that it helped to have a future All-American at shooting guard during his IU career, A.J. Guyton.

“I probably wouldn’t be the assist leader if I hadn’t been playing next to him for four years,” he said. “He was a special player. The longer I am way from it, the more proud I am. It wasn’t that big a deal to me at the time, but down the road it is something I’m happy about because of the names I am above.”

Lewis played the game in a way that made him a fixture at point for Bob Knight from 1997-2000. Not only did Lewis giveth the basketball, he also taketh away. He finished 10th on IU’s all-time steals list and came up with eight in a single game, good for second place in that department.

“That’s amazing because I never played defense in high school either,” Lewis can now joke. “For coach Knight and his staff to make a complete player out of a kid who neither passed nor played defense before, that took some coaching.”

Lewis knows a little bit about coaching, having spent two years as a graduate assistant under Knight at Texas Tech and now serving as an assistant to Mike Miller at Eastern Illinois. Coaching is in his blood, Lewis says.

“I’m not a guy who could crunch numbers behind a desk from 9 to 5. I like working with the kids, trying to help them develop, trying to make a difference with a kid that age. I enjoy practice and preparing for games. There’s not too much I don’t enjoy.”

As Lewis pushes 30, he feels he has earned the right to call the players he coaches “kids.” It is an extremely young team at Eastern Illinois right now.

“We have eight new players,” he said. “We start two freshman and a sophomore.”

With a staff that is also young, they have to work that much harder, Lewis said.

“This is the second year of this coaching staff and we are trying to build a program. In the middle of the season you get to the office about 7:30 in the morning and stay to 9 at night. Then when you get home you have to make some phone calls for recruiting.”

With Eastern Illinois located in Charleston, 45 minutes west of Terre Haute, Lewis is no stranger to gyms around Indiana.

“We are two hours from St. Louis, 2 1/2 hours from Chicago and one hour, 45 minutes from Indianapolis,” Lewis said. “It’s a pretty good place to recruit.”

Lewis attributes his work ethic to Knight.

“You can learn more around him by accident than you can trying to learn from someone else,” Lewis said. “Being on the other side now, seeing how he prepares for practice, the daily operation, it’s amazing the detail he puts into it. When you play for him, you don’t realize all the stuff that goes into it.”

Although Lewis expects to be a head coach himself some day, he is not about to rush into it.

“I want to take a job at some place where I can be successful,” he said. “One thing Coach Knight instilled in me was to do the job you have to the best of your ability and the next job will come your way.”

MICHAEL LEWIS

Age: 29

Occupation: Assistant men’s basketball coach, Eastern Illinois

IU CAREER (1997-2000)

• IU’s all-time assist leader (545)

• Record for assist in a game (15)

• Second in steals in a game (8)