Friday, December 29, 2006

Knight and Day

Bobby Knight's Texas Tech team lost last night to UNLV in what was Knight's first attempt at breaking the all time coaching wins record for NCAA Men's Basketball. The record is currently held jointly by Knight and the former coach of the UNC Tar Heels, Dean Smith. Smith established the record during his last NCAA tournament appearance and then retired from coaching.

Knight has had a stellar career, highlighted by three NCAA championships, including the last team to finish a season without a loss. However his career as a coach has been defined by controversy. His near arrest during the Pan Am games in the 70's caused quite a stir and certainly his chair throwing incident has been replayed incessantly. The most famous or infamous incident that Knight was associated with was his choking of one of his own players. Knight insisted that it never happened until a videotape showed up on TV. Knight wasn't fired because of that particular incident, but it certainly set the sequence of events in motion that led to his eventual firing at Indiana.

Bobby has always prided himself on the high percentage of his players that graduate. The fact that he only produced one player who went to be an NBA all-star (Isiah Thomas), is a testament to his ability at coaching the college game. While Indiana was never hurting for high school stars, they clearly did not get the best athletes in the country and the lack of success of most of the Indiana players at the next level is indicative of that point. Knight was successful in getting the most out of his players. It always seemed that Knight had more of a football coaches mentality. He liked to yell at his players and get physical with them. He berated his own son on the bench during a nationally televised game. Knight always felt that intimidation was the way to get the most out of his players and he was successful using those tactics for a long time. The problem was that once the NCAA tournament wins stopped coming, his aggression seemed to be taken to a new level and that included grabbing a player by the throat.

For all intents and purposes, Knight is a teacher at a university. He teaches basketball. And a teacher should never be allowed to touch his students in the way that Knight does. I'm not sure that there would be enough money in any universities bank account to cover the lawsuits that would roll in if a Philosophy teacher treated his students the way that Knight treated his. Knight eventually lost his job at Indiana after a run in with a student on campus. Knight apparently thought he was being disrespected because a student didn't refer to him as "coach" or "Mr. Knight". He went after the student and was dismissed shortly after that. The Indiana job is one of the most prestigious jobs in all of college basketball. The Texas Tech job is not. Yet that is where Bobby Knight finds himself as he sit on the verge of history. Bobby has no one to blame but himself for the fact that he is not at the University of Indiana.

Bobby will get the record soon and he will stick around for a few more years and add to that record. It probably won't be his for long though because Coack K at Duke isn't that far behind and as long as he doesn't retire suddenly, the record should eventually be his. I think that it's probably best that the record belong to someone who didn't have to leave his job in shame. It should belong to someone who stands for what's best in the game and someone that did a service to the sport. This isn't as bad as Barry Bonds passing Hank Aaron, but there are definitely parallels that can be drawn. I was happy that Dean Smith took the record away from an avowed racist like Adolph Rupp. I can't say that I'll be as thrilled when Bobby Knight ascends to the top of the coaching list.

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