How much more can coach Knight get away with?
How much longer will Bobby Knight’s three national championships and glowing player graduation rates continue to expunge him from repercussions for his actions at Indiana University?
The latest allegations against the 28-year Indiana coach concern former player Neil Reed, who has accused Knight of choking him during a 1997 practice. Reed and two other players also accused Knight, pants around his ankles, of using a crude bathroom gesture while scolding the team. Knight has denied the latter incident.
Last week, a university sports advisory committee reviewed Reed’s accusations but isn’t empowered to discipline the coach. The committee does have the power, though, to make recommendations to the school’s president and athletics director. But does the university really need any more ammunition to unload Knight?
Consider some of Knight’s past transgressions. His insensitivity, disregard for the law and reckless behavior should have banished him to coaching the Pelican Bay Prison team by now.
– Shot a friend Oct. 12, 1999 while grouse hunting without a license and then failed to report the accident.
– Kicked his own son, Pat, during a 1993 game with Notre Dame.
– Told Connie Chung during a 1988 interview, “If rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it.”
– Once tossed a chair across the court, barely missing a group of wheelchair-bound spectators. He did serve a one-game suspension for this transgression.
– Once showed up for an NCAA Tournament Western Regional practice session in Albuquerque, N.M., with a bullwhip.
– Allegations say he struck a security guard in Puerto Rico. He left the island before he could be prosecuted.
His temperamental on-court behavior and his lack of respect for people off of it make him a potentially dangerous representative of the university as long as he’s allowed to coach.
Indiana could send him to counseling. But what psychiatrists in their right minds would want to analyze and treat Knight?
Knight showed the only side of his personality during a trip to Stateline two years ago.
The Tribune sports department sent former sportswriter Michael Traum to interview Knight at a coaches clinic at the Horizon Casino Resort.
If any sportswriter could extract a few words from the volatile coach, it would have been the gregarious and easygoing Traum. At the same time, knowing Knight’s penchant for disliking sportswriters, editors feared for Traum’s well-being.
Unintimidated, Traum sidled up to the uncongenial Knight after the clinic, and politely asked for a few comments. Surely, the surly Knight couldn’t resist a small-town reporter who hadn’t written one terrible thing about him. Traum just as well could have been been a reporter from the Los Angeles Times.
“I could tell he had no interest in talking to me at all, and he made that pretty obvious,” Traum said. “All I wanted was just a minute of his time and I figured since he had just spent time talking to the crowd and all these coaches, I thought I had caught him at a decent time. But I guess as a member of media I wasn’t as important as everybody else … at least that’s the way he made it seem.”
Knight brushed him off – but couldn’t resist degrading the reporter in the process.
“I don’t care who you are, there are a lot more important people in this room to talk to than you right now,” Knight had told him.
In 60 seconds, Knight alienated another human being and once again demonstrated a knack for thinking he’s superior to most who walk the planet.
“I don’t know how some of those guys go to those press conferences over and over, knowing he’s going to be that way,” Traum said.
It shouldn’t matter that 13 years have elapsed since Knight last won an NCAA Championship. The Hoosiers’ recent penchant for NCAA Tournament first-round exits haven’t placed any undue pressure on the coach.
But what do university officials need – a Woody Hayes-like incident? It’s time for Indiana to realize that it has a very bad human being shaping the lives of its young men. Knight isn’t going to change, so give him a change of address.
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