Wednesday, August 26, 2009
It's time to bury the past, Coach Knight
By Pat Forde ESPN.com
Dear Bob Knight,
Come on home. It's time.
Come back home again, to Indiana. Accept the invitation to be inducted into the school's Hall of Fame. Show up Nov. 6, and do it in person.
I know, I know. Your taking advice from a member of the media is like Dick Cheney's joining MoveOn.org. You'd rather wear Purdue pajamas or hug Ted Valentine.
But I'm just the self-appointed messenger here, repeating the hopes of a million fans and hundreds of former players and a bunch of current Indiana University employees who want closure to nearly a decade of Cold War with the biggest hero the athletic program has ever known.
Indiana offered Bob Knight an olive branch with his Hall of Fame induction. Coach Knight should bury the past, and accept it.
So far, you've not tipped your hand about whether you'll attend. Indiana officials say they don't know what you'll do.
I know what you should do -- what you must do, really. Don't make a mistake out of spite and stay away, Bob.
The school has stepped up. Kudos to athletic director Fred Glass and basketball coach Tom Crean and everyone else at IU who had a hand in making this icebreaking gesture. Somebody had to make the first move, and they were big enough to do it.
Crean is respectful enough to know that there needs to be a place of honor for you in Bloomington, from now on. He is secure enough to have your colossal shadow return. He is intelligent enough to know that this would be the final and most vital step in reuniting a proud fan base around the current program, thus fully capitalizing on its vast tradition.
Crean went out of his way to embrace Al McGuire at Marquette, and he can do the same for you at IU -- if you'll let him.
Glass was savvy enough to approach this the right way, appealing to your friends and to your loyalties. Indiana will induct one of your favorite former players at the same time, Steve Downing, who followed you into exile at Texas Tech. Indiana will induct soccer coach Jerry Yeagley, another guy you enjoy and respect. And Indiana has enlisted your longtime friend Bob Hammel, former sports editor of the Bloomington Herald-Times, to cajole you into making an appearance.
Do it, and your hero status would be cemented forever with your players and your fans. They want to see you have a moment you richly deserve -- a happy postscript to your acrimonious departure. They'll come from every corner of the country to see it happen, genuinely happy for you and the university.
Skip the ceremony, and you'd look like the pettiest man alive.
I understand that part of being Bob Knight is scoffing at compromise. You long ago were a first-ballot inductee into the Stubbornness Hall of Fame. Nobody was ever going to tell you how to coach, and it stands to reason that nobody is going to set a timetable for laying down your sword and getting over the fact that IU fired you in 2000.
But it is time. Past time, really. From Myles Brand on down, the Indiana administration has turned over significantly since that shocking -- but justified -- dethroning of you. The slate has just about been wiped clean.
This was never going to happen when your successor, Mike Davis, was the coach. And it was never going to happen when Kelvin Sampson was the coach -- we know how you felt about Sampson. But it's hard to find any rational reason to object to Crean's presence in your old gym.
Crean would love to hang a banner in Assembly Hall with your name on it. Or commemorate a plaque. Or, hey, maybe see them etch your name onto the floor. (Although it's already named for Branch McCracken, winner of two national titles, and McCracken Court sounds better than Knight Court. That's a name for sitcoms and headline writers.)
Whatever trinket of appreciation Indiana wants to bestow upon you, Bob, let the school do it. Just be there to accept it personally. Take in the ovations, accept the embraces of your players, feel the love. And return some of it in kind to a place that was as good for you as you were for it.
There simply are no good reasons not to attend your own personal lovefest. Snubbing the ceremony would be the same as snubbing your players, your assistant coaches and every fan who bought a ticket to see your team run motion offense and play man-to-man defense like few others in the history of the game. It would eradicate every lesson you ever taught about the individual being part of something larger than himself -- about the value of a team and an institution.
Really, it would be every bit as futile as the Japanese soldiers who were discovered on Pacific islands 20 years after World War II, unconvinced that the fighting was over.
This conflict between Indiana University and you is over. It's time to celebrate a great run -- to forget how it ended, and remember all the glory.
Give up the fight. Feel the love. Come on home, Bob.
Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.