Update: On this Flashback Friday, Bob Knight told Dan Patrick in a radio interview this morning that he will never return to Indiana University. He even went so far as to say that he hopes all the administrators he had issues with are all dead.
In other words, Bob Knight comes off as a real dickhole, just as you might expect. It’s genuine, as the one time we ran into him, he was every bit a dick to us as he appears to be on television and radio. Our interview occurred in South Bend in February of 2011, and we published it then, and re-publish it again today.
— Vinnie Duber (@VinnieDuber) March 10, 2017
With Bob Knight apologizes to the University of Kentucky today for inaccurate comments he made over the weekend, the “Twitterverse” and sports “blogosphere” (Really, I don’t know why one is a “verse” and the other a “sphere”) are lighting up with comments about what a jerk Knight is, and many speak from first hand experience.
So here’s mine.
He certainly lived up to the hype.
And the stereotypes.
My brief, but exceedingly memorable conversation with Bob Knight featured ultra-militaristic imagery, lack of interest in speaking with the media and Bob Knight being…not very friendly and ultra-accommodating. These are the traits I most commonly associate with “The General.”
Of course, if you’re a fan of the Indiana Hoosiers, you view the coaching legend with the college basketball victories record in a far more positive light. I guess it’s fitting I caught up to him in the hoosier state; on the court of Purcell Pavilion at the University of Notre Dame, following the most exciting basketball game I’ve covered all year.
For whatever reason, Louisville coach Rick Pitino decided to shun basic protocol and media courtesy, by electing not to come to the conference room. Pitino was long gone when most of us got to the spot outside the locker room where he supposedly had been, so I wasn’t in the greatest of moods before seeing Knight surrounded by a cadre of U.S. Marine Corp members near midcourt.
After missing Pitino I thought to myself, “well can you at least interview one coaching legend who made a cameo in the 1992 film “Blue Chips” tonight? It is a four-hour round trip between Chicago and South Bend, get everything you can out of this trip.”
Knight made the group of marines surrounding him all chuckle with an anecdote that started before I arrived, but ended with “People say were you in the Marines? I say no, but the way you coached, people think you were.”
(I guess you had to be there to see the humor- maybe?)
As he shook hands with all the marines, one of them told Knight: “you’re a model American.”
I think otherwise, but The General is playing to his target audience here. His militaristic and jingoistic weltanschauung may be anathema to me, but many people serving in the armed forces love him. As do civilians politically to the right of Genghis Khan. Knight coached at Army, and embodied a leadership style so hard-line that it could make Woody Hayes seem like Big Gay Al on “South Park.”
Knight in his 70s now, but the old Ohio State Buckeye is still very physically imposing and his 6′ 4″ presence truly commands the room.
Perhaps I caught him at the wrong time, as he was in a rush to leave…would that explain the brusqueness that I’m about to describe? I asked him if he had time to talk, and he said his time was limited, but he was open to it.
Me: Do you think the Big East is the best conference in college basketball?
Knight: Yeah, I think there are more good teams it the Big East than anywhere else, but you got to keep in mind there are 16 or 17 teams in the Big East too. But it’s the toughest league to play through because you’re going to play somebody good every time. What do they play, 18 games in the league? You know a team could be 12-6 and be a really good team in that league.”
As I started my second question, he said “I think you got enough,” and slapped me on the back. Not especially hard, but not really lightly either. For some reason, I think his final sentence was accompanied by a half-playful smirk, but I could be wrong.
Wow! And I thought the weather outside was cold. (It was 1; literally 1 degree when I walked to my car outside the Joyce Center).
Knight is the anti-Ernie Banks when it comes to congeniality. Mike Kryzyzewski will soon break Knight’s all-time victories record, and I’m kind of happy about that because every time I’ve conversed with Coach K. I’ve found him to be rather charming.
Here are the questions I had waiting, but didn’t get to ask Mr. Bob Knight:
Did you see the NBC sitcom “Parks and Recreation” spoof of your Indiana days?
What are your thoughts on being known as the all-time “hard-line” tough love type of leader?
Why is Notre Dame this good, and surpassing everyone’s expectations?
Is Tom Crean going to finally turn that Indiana program around?
Ball’s in your court ESPN/Mr. Bob Knight!
Let’s get these questions answered.
Bob Knight was one of college basketball’s most polarizing coaches. He’s infamous for throwing a chair across the court during a game, was once arrested for assault, and usually displayed condescension, aloofness and sometimes outright hostility to the press.
My experience reminded me of his signature quote about sportswriters:
“All of us learn to write in the second grade. Most of us go on to greater things.”