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Knight holds court for coaches

Michael Traum

It was a 15-minute break – a request from clinic organizer Tom Orlich. Bobby Knight jokingly protested that he didn’t need a break – a opinion voiced to the entire group with, “Damn, Tom’s a real authoritative son of a (gun).”

Laughs escaped the more than 600 coaches who were at the Horizon Casino Resort on Friday for a two-day basketball clinic. The Indiana coach was the opening-night speaker.

People swarmed at the foot of the showroom stage as the coach concluded the first half of his speech. Knight took up shop for an autograph session, perched some four feet above his subjects. The line curled its way back some 50 feet.

“Hi, how are you. Thanks for coming,” Knight greeted the patrons, most of whom had paid $55 or $65 for the weekend event.

The chance to interview the legendary coach had arrived.

What do you think about Jerod Haase? Can he play pro ball, or are his best days just memories? How has the game changed during your 44 years in basketball? What benefits do you get from addressing such large clinics like this?

The questions were ready. A lull in the autograph action seemed the appropriate time.

Trusty pen and notebook in hand, slow steps approached the man in red.

“Coach, I’m a reporter from the local paper. I was hoping you could suggest a time that would be good for us to chat for a minute?”

Silence … then, in charismatically intimidating fashion, Knight responded without turning his head.

“I’ve got to hurry out of here. I’ve got a midnight flight,” he said.

Backsteps marked the retreat of trusty notebook.

“He’s got a reputation,” an inner voice spoke up,” but there might not be another chance.”

Determination put heel to toe one more time.

“Maybe I could walk with you, talk together as you walk out? It’ll be quick.”

Knight handed the last autograph to a woman who had just finished telling him that he’s the greatest, or something.

And coach’s eyes met reporter’s.

“You’re welcome to try. But I’ve got a bunch of people to meet and a lot of things to do. Quite frankly, that takes precedence over me talking to you,” Knight said.

This time the departure was one more of relief than overawe.

Trusty pen slid into jacket and feet found the exit as the lights once again dimmed.

“OK, so where was I?” began the familiar voice behind me.


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