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Knight fired for latest breach

Indiana University dismisses the coach who led it to three titles for a "pattern of unacceptable behavior.''

©Associated Press

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 11, 2000

IN SPORTS: The reaction at Indiana University to the firing was less than positive. "Today I'm ashamed to call myself a Hoosier," one student said.

* * *

INDIANAPOLIS -- "Hey, what's up, Knight?" started it all. A grabbed arm and lecture did the rest.

The end for Bob Knight came down to a chance encounter with a freshman who greeted him in a way the Indiana University basketball coach deemed far too casual and disrespectful.

On Sunday, the school decided Knight's reaction to that greeting would be the final part of a "pattern of unacceptable behavior" and it fired him. That ended three tumultuous decades at a school where Knight was one of basketball's best coaches but also one of its most volatile.

University president Myles Brand, who announced the firing at a news conference, called Knight "defiant and hostile" and said the coach had shown a "continued unwillingness" to work within guidelines of the athletic department.

Knight also violated the school's "zero-tolerance" conduct policy by grabbing 19-year-old Kent Harvey by the arm last week to lecture him about manners.

The 59-year-old Hall of Fame coach, famous for his red Hoosiers sweater and blue language as he bellowed at players and referees from the sideline, was already in trouble for a history of outbursts at Indiana, where he won three national championships.

Knight was warned in May about his behavior after an investigation into accusations he choked one of his players during practice in 1997, an act caught on videotape.

But his conduct became even worse, Brand said. In the 17 weeks since the school put him on notice, Knight bad-mouthed the administration and alumni, threw a tirade at a female athletic department official in his office and refused to show up at a handful of important IU functions, the school president said.

"He did not fulfill the promises he gave me," Brand said, adding that Knight had the option of resigning but refused.

The firing brought a wave of protests on the Indiana campus in Bloomington as police in riot gear stood watch.

Thousands marched on Brand's home with some of them yelling, "Hey, hey, ho, ho. Myles Brand has got to go."

"Burn in hell, Brand," said a banner hanging from a balcony, and one protester ignited an effigy of Harvey.

Brand, however, stressed that Knight's run-in with Harvey on Thursday was not the sole reason for the coach's dismissal.

"If that was the only instance that took place you would not be here today," Brand said.

Knight held a news conference of his own Friday to explain his side of the story, complete with a diagram on a blackboard and re-enactment of the encounter, with assistant coach Mike Davis playing Harvey.

Harvey, stepson of a Knight critic and former local talk-radio show host, had addressed the coach as they crossed paths at Assembly Hall.

The coach said he didn't curse at Harvey but did briefly hold his arm for the lecture.

"I would have to be an absolute moron -- an absolute moron -- with the things that have been laid on me to grab a kid in public, or curse at a kid in public, as apparently it's been said that I did," Knight said at the time.

Even so, Brand noted that Knight initiated physical contact and, "The two had an uncomfortable exchange."

"The angry contact with the student violates the spirit" of the school's conduct policy initiated in May, Brand said.

Meanwhile, Harvey and his two brothers have received numerous threats by phone and e-mail, said their stepfather Mark Shaw.

The search for a new coach will begin immediately, and Brand said he did not yet have any candidates. Knight, who left for a fishing trip in Canada after his campus news conference Friday, will be paid for the final two years of his contract -- about $170,000 a year.

At Brand's news conference, the Indiana players stood along the wall, their arms folded with somber expressions on their faces. Kirk Haston wiped away tears as other players glared at reporters.

Brand said he stood by his decision not to fire Knight in May. He wanted to give the coach a final opportunity, calling it the "ethical and moral thing to do" because of Knight's contributions to the school.

"I still believe we had to give him one last chance," Brand said. "He failed to live up to that. That was his decision."

Besides his three NCAA championships, Knight led the Hoosiers to 11 Big Ten titles and was undefeated in 1976, the last time a college basketball team accomplished the feat.

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