Tuesday, February 5, 2008
Knight's career essentially ended at IU, not Texas Tech
By Heather Dinich
There was no sign on the door, no window to peek in, absolutely no indication that this was the "cave," the room in Assembly Hall where Bob Knight did some of his deepest thinking.
On this particular day in September 2000, Knight was in the cave developing an entirely different game plan, a strategy to explain his version of the incident that would lead to his firing two days later.
As a reporter with the Indiana Daily Student, I was part of it. He opened that door, introduced himself with a firm handshake, and let me into a world that was collapsing around him. Despite an almost nonexistent relationship with the student newspaper, Knight decided to use it in the hopes we would deliver the right message -- his.
While the national and local media infiltrated the main concourse upstairs, and the ground Knight had reigned over for so long finally began to shake, he stretched out his legs, put his hands behind his head and described those infamous 15 seconds of his life when he violated the university's zero-tolerance policy. Knight was accused of grabbing a student and cursing at him -- all because the 19-year-old forgot his manners when he said, "Hey, what's up Knight?"
"How have you personally dealt with all of this?" I asked him.
"Well, let's talk about that later, OK?" he said. "Let's do that sometime later. If we can, let's just keep this the focal point of what we're doing right now."
Knight has that uncanny ability to control conversations, interviews and just about everything else.
The only thing Knight couldn't control was himself, and on Sept. 10, 2000, he was fired for it.
That was the week Knight's career ended. Not this one.
Even though problems had been festering for years within the IU athletic department, then-Indiana president Myles Brand rocked the college basketball world when he fired the coach who won three national championships in 29 seasons. This week, Knight shocked it, but he's done that before.
This time, Knight picked the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal as his mouthpiece, and while his spontaneous resignation will have many convinced he ended his career on his own terms, the fact is he blew that chance -- twice -- while at Indiana.
As we sat on his back porch at Knight's old house in Bloomington, Ind., during the days after he was fired, Knight told me his biggest mistake at Indiana was not leaving sooner.
He said he had considered it twice -- roughly four years before he was fired, when the relationship between him and the athletic department turned sour, and in May of his final year, when the zero-tolerance policy was instituted.
He stayed, though, because he loved what he built.
"Isiah [Thomas] said, 'You really had a love for the university,'" Knight said then. "I said 'No, that wasn't really it. What I had a love for was what we all created here. We created something that I think was really special in basketball. I mean we were really good for a long period of time.'
It was special."
His tenure at Texas Tech, while successful, was like a good story that fizzled at the end -- you feel obligated to finish even though you know the best part is over.
Knight knew it was over at Indiana but couldn't let it go.
"I'm not the coach for this administration," he told reporters from the student newspaper as we sat on his back porch. "I have never been, from day one; I'm not the coach for this administration. But I'm the coach for our program and what we tried to do. The academic record we've established, the record for success after graduation we established, and I think my pride in that carried away my better instincts relative to whether I should stay here or look for employment somewhere else."
In the end, Brand made the decision for him. And that's the one that will be remembered.
|Bob Knight's stormy tenure at Indiana ended with Myles Brand firing the coach in 2000.|
Heather Dinich is a college football and basketball writer for ESPN.com. Send your questions and comments to Heather at firstname.lastname@example.org.