On Wednesday night, the Sam Houston State men’s basketball team will be facing not only the Texas Tech Red Raiders at the Coliseum, but also their head coach and living legend Bob Knight. One of the most controversial figures in the game’s history, Knight would be well advised to expect constant heckling from Bearkat fans that are well aware he has thin skin. Almost all of the things they say will be justified because of Knight’s constant and belligerent immaturity in the face of all his struggles.
First of all, one must marvel at the accomplishments of Robert Montgomery Knight – one of the greatest coaches ever to walk onto a basketball court, who has more wins than any Division I-A head coach (890). Knight played at Ohio State as a point guard and briefly coached at Army, but was etched into college basketball lore when he led his 1975-1976 Indiana University basketball team to a National Championship, the first of three he led them to at the school, and to an undefeated record, the last team to accomplish that feat. He coached at Indiana for 29 seasons before being fired for various infractions, but was then hired to elevate the mediocre basketball program at Texas Tech to the preferred level of excellence.
Immediately, Knight made his mark after making the NCAA tournament with the Red Raiders in his first year when they had traditionally been the doormat of the Big 12 Conference. He brought some well needed discipline off the court as well by forcing players to run for hours if they missed too many classes.
This is the type of person everyone should be able to admire with all he has done, but that sentiment quickly stops when his transgressions are evaluated. Along with being a tremendous teacher, Bob Knight is also, in my opinion, a mean-spirited, arrogant, and juvenile individual who has distressingly low self-esteem for all he has accomplished.
The best way to illustrate my reasoning behind this description of his personality has to be through a glimpse into some of the incidents that would not have been possible without Knight’s involvement.
There has been an enormous amount of player and student abuse within his coaching tenure. On March 14, 2000, Neil Reed, a former player at Indiana University, claimed he was choked by Knight in a 1997 practice. After Knight denied the report, a videotape of the practice surfaced, corroborating Reid’s story.
This would get almost every other coach in America fired, but Bob Knight survived because of what he had done for the university’s basketball program. After being put on a “zero tolerance” policy by the university, he then grabbed and berated a student that he did not think showed him the proper respect.
After being hired by Texas Tech, it seemed like Knight might have learned a little from his experiences, but this is simply not the case. In 2006, Knight had to be restrained by a police officer because of a student’s heckling. Knight followed this up ten months later by hitting player Michael Prince under the chin so that he would make eye contact.
There is no excuse for ever hitting a player or a student. It does not matter if they are the most disrespectful person you have met in your life, you still do not have any right to ever place your hands on them in a violent action. It would not be as bad if Knight took responsibility and apologized for his actions because Americans are taught to grant second chances with true contrition, but he steadfastly believes he has never made a mistake in his life.
The media has been another one of Knight’s favorite targets of ridicule in his time as a head coach. He cursed out an NCAA university volunteer in 1998 for making a mistake regarding whether or not he would attend a press conference.
Another time, Knight was doing an interview with ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap, son of the legendary sports writer Dick Schaap, and believed he was not being asked the questions that were necessary. In the middle of the interview, he said coldly to Schaap, “You’ve got a long way to be as good as your dad,” among other many insensitive remarks. Knight knew this would make Schaap feel bad, and after hearing this come out of the great coaches’ mouth, Dick Schaap announced on his weekly show, “The Sports Reporters,” that he would end his friendship with Knight until he apologized to his son. Dick Schaap died before Knight ever decided to swallow his pride and perform this very minute act.
If this reminds you of the school bully who made fun of everyone, then you’re not alone. My hope is that it makes him feel all warm and fuzzy inside whenever he gets home and remembers the number of people who he has treated like scum.
Remembering all of his indiscretions and triumphs would take us into fiscal 2010, but the one thing that can be said is that he has always been a lightning rod for controversy. It is too bad he has not learned anything from these experiences.