Indie Sport
Bob Knight, the most victorious college basketball coach in NCAA history, retired in mid-season yesterday from his post as head coach at Texas Tech University. Give me a moment, if you will. I'm getting all choked up. OK, thanks. We learned most of what we needed to know about Bob Knight in 1988 when he told Connie Chung in a nationally televised interview, "I think that if rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it." It was a heinous and hypocritical remark from a man who possesses the frustration tolerance of a child, a petty tyrant who throws tantrums and tirades when the world doesn't conform to his wishes. Relax and enjoy rape? Puh-lease! Bob Knight comes unglued whenever he thinks he's being screwed, which is often. He was arrested in 1979 for assaulting a police officer during the Pan American Games in Puerto Rico, while representing his country as coach of the U.S. basketball team. Knight went berserk on the cop when a practice gymnasium wasn't opened for his team and he was convicted in absentia. But the man who's made a career of publicly excoriating players, reporters, and an assortment of red herrings whenever he's thought they shirked responsibility, ran from the courts and hid under the protective bosom of Indiana Governor Otis Bowen, who refused to cooperate with the extradition efforts of Puerto Rican authorities. In 1985 Knight went into a rage during a game against Indiana University's rival, Purdue, and heaved a chair onto the court in response to a referee's call, an act for which he received a slap on the wrist-- a one game suspension and two years' probation by the Big Ten Conference. The "punishment" did nothing. A year after his probation ended, Knight was back at it in his interview with Connie Chung. In 1991 he was captured on tape dropping 16 f-bombs in a 75-second harangue of his team, the focus of which was how much he would make them suffer if they lost to Purdue and, God forbid, extended his personal suffering, which they'd inflicted with a poor season the previous year. Two years later he kicked his own son, Patrick, during an IU game. Four years after that he choked one of his players during a practice, an assault captured on videotape. He got into a fight with Indiana Athletic Director Clarence Doninger after a loss to Ohio State. He threatened 64-year-old athletics department secretary Jeanette Hartgraves and was forced to issue a formal apology to her. He was alleged to have fought with assistant coach Ron Felling and to have attacked an IU sports information director. He referred to the profession of sports journalism as "about two steps above prostitution." In May 2000 IU finally pulled its head out of the sand and implemented a highly publicized policy of "zero tolerance" for any further misconduct by Knight. Four months later, believing that a freshman student was showing disrespect by greeting him with, "What's up, Knight?" he grabbed the kid by the arm, leaving marks that were photographed by the Indianapolis Star. That was the final straw. IU fired Knight, who landed in Lubbock, Texas a year later to take over the Texas Tech program. Predictably, venue proved to be the only change he'd made during his forced sabbatical. Knight subsequently got into what was described as a "verbal dustup" with Texas Tech Chancellor David Smith at a supermarket. He had to be restrained by police to keep him from going after a spectator in Waco at a game against Baylor. And last fall he was accused of firing a shotgun in the direction of Lubbock resident James Simpson after he yelled at Knight for hunting too close to his home. Bob Knight's apologists, and they are numerous, point to his outstanding won-loss record and the "character" he developed in so many of his players, preparing them for life beyond the hardwood at his school of hard knocks. But John Wooden, whose achievement as a coach and a molder of men is the gold standard, managed all of that and much, much more with class and stern discipline, behavior he demanded of his players and himself. Knight, who is always fond of posturing as the smartest guy in the room, has yet to realize how densely he's mistaken self-importance for intellect and abuse for integrity. To those for whom the end justifies the means, he is an icon and a hero. To those who set the bar higher, there is certainty that Bob Knight left the game far better than he found it, simply by leaving it.


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