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Media shed no tears for Knight

By Compiled by Times staff writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 17, 2000


We interrupt our weekly letters from readers and highs-lows to present opinions on the hot topic of the week: Bob Knight's firing as basketball coach at Indiana.

Bob Knight was never going to last at Indiana because the university's "zero tolerance" policy couldn't possibly mix with his lifelong "zero blame" policy.

For 29 years, Knight looked for lines in the dirt to step across, for enemies to fight or controversies to inflame. And he always found them. Whether he stuffed a fan in a trash can, hit a policeman, threw a chair, kicked his son, choked a player or threw a plant at a secretary, one thing was always certain. It wasn't his fault.

Thomas Boswell, Washington Post

* * *

Well, at least Knight didn't go down in a blaze of Woody Hayes ignominy. There were no television cameras to capture the episode that banished Knight into exile.

Yet.

Because Knight insists he isn't finished as a coach. Which means that Knight will be back somewhere, doing the same boorish, obnoxious, unnecessarily belittling things again. Anger management? He needs a course in ogre management.

"I want to coach in the worst way," Knight said. Why not? He already behaves in that manner.

Steve Campbell, Albany Times Union

* * *

In Knight's perfect world, orders are followed no questions asked. In Knight's perfect world, no individual eclipses the team, end of discussion.

Therein lies the irony of Knight's richly deserved dismissal as Indiana University's head basketball coach. He committed the purist's cardinal sin: He disrespected the code and the team.

For more than a half-hour Tuesday night, Knight discussed his departure on live television with ESPN's Jeremy Schaap. He refuted every allegation made by Indiana president Myles Brand. He vowed to coach again. He suggested smugly that other universities already are clamoring for his services.

Not once did he say, "I'm sorry." Not once did he apologize for a series of indefensible actions that date to 1979 and his assault of a Puerto Rican policeman at the Pan American Games. Not once did he acknowledge a single misdeed. Not once did he chastise the Indiana students who protested his dismissal with idiotic fervor.

David Teel, Newport (Va.) News Daily Press

* * *

Read my lips (and this goes double for the Knight zealots): He did it to himself. Just the way we all figured he would. Just the way all the fans and journalists who saw through the Great Lie knew he inevitably would. The man has a problem. Check that -- he has many problems. And he has had them throughout the course of his brilliant but troubled career.

Those who believed Knight could change also sustain a firm belief in the Tooth Fairy. The zero-tolerance silliness was a fool's charade from the start. Myles Brand should have followed the lead of the trustees and pulled the plug earlier, thus sparing the university from charges that it was held hostage by Knight. Maybe now Brand, who showed he has a backbone after all, will acknowledge the utter folly of that initial decision. All the spinning by Knight's true believers could not change the essential nature of the man. For all his ability as a basketball coach, for all the good things he stood for and believed in -- graduating players, seeking NCAA reform -- he could not outrun himself. He could not look in the mirror and find the person the rest of us saw. He was an arrogant, insensitive bully until the end. Now, he slinks out of Bloomington with his tail between his knees.

Bob Kravitz, Indianapolis Star

* * *

The ending was so predictable -- and so predictably swift -- that, if you weren't careful, you could have missed the irony.

If you did, here it is: Bob Knight gets fired for lecturing a kid about manners.

Think about it. The same Bob Knight who believes stuffing a man in a garbage can is an acceptable form of human intercourse couldn't resist the opportunity to lecture a student -- but only after grabbing him first -- on the proper manner of address.

Mike Littwin, Rocky Mountain News

* * *

Please tell me how the world is a better place now that Knight -- and, as a grown man, I can call him "Knight" -- has been fired by Indiana.

Will the crime rate go down? Will people who are too heavy stop wearing Spandex?

No.

Then why in the world is everybody skipping around, chanting, "Ding-dong, the coach is dead?" Actually, college basketball and young, high-jumping people in general will be worse off because Bob Knight is no longer a part of their world.

You see, Knight was part of a handful of people who didn't cater to gifted kids who were snazzy with a basketball. Clearly, he was spending time with them because they were basketball players, but he didn't treat them like they were superstars. He treated them like they were kids, which meant discipline.

It's funny, too, how Indiana suddenly is hiding behind all this stuff about Knight's history of disrespect. Oh, it's fine for Knight to humiliate sports information directors, secretaries, players, referees, black people and women in general. But as soon as he starts offending the Indiana administration, well, then we have a problem. Zero tolerance, you know?

Please.

Here's the question that jumps at me: Would I send my kid to play for Bob Knight if my kid were good enough?

Without a doubt.

C. Jemal Horton, Charlotte Observer

* * *

He demanded accountability and exemplary behavior from everyone except himself. He used his power created by his success as a pulpit from which he could belittle and humiliate.

Understand this: Had he not won -- and won big -- he would have been gone long ago.

Indiana basketball was successful before Knight arrived, and it will be successful even now that he is gone.

But even if it doesn't rise to the level established by Knight, even if another national championship banner is never hung in Assembly Hall, Indiana can begin to restore an image that has been sorely tarnished by its basketball coach.

Bill Benner, Indianapolis Star

* * *

For 29 years, his defense was as loud and constant as a red sweater.

Sure, he's tough. But his kids graduate. He doesn't cheat. He turns boys into men. What's wrong with that? His kids graduate, but from what? An environment where they are taught that might is right, force wins, life is best approached by bullying it?

He doesn't cheat the NCAA, but what about the law? How many times would his actions on the court or in the locker room be considered assault on the streets? And this is preferable to giving a kid a sweat suit?

And, okay, so he turns boys into men.

Yet Sept. 7 outside Assembly Hall, when his confrontation with a 19-year-old student broke the no-tolerance policy and ended his Indiana career, who was the boy and who was the man?

A kid called him by his last name.

Bill Plaschke, Los Angeles Times

* * *

According to the Indianapolis Star's eyewitness accounts (early Monday), a defiant Knight used a bullhorn to reach the assembled masses.

"There's nobody that's ever coached that appreciates the support of students as much as I have," Knight bellowed.

While the etiquette arbiter Knight scolded a kid Sept. 7 for calling him "Knight" instead of "Mr. Knight," the coach apparently did not admonish anyone for setting fires on his behalf or scrawling death threats in crayon.

Chris Dufresne, Los Angeles Times

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