Tuesday, May 16, 2000

Knight must walk tightrope

Made 'personal pledge' he'll adapt behavior

By Mike DeCourcy
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        INDIANAPOLIS — There was a sense of outrage among many reporters at Monday's Indiana University news conference regarding the future of basketball coach Knight. They hounded IU president Myles Brand over his decision to keep Knight on the job despite numerous allegations of misconduct leveled against him.

• Suspended for three games of the 2000-01 regular season
• Fined $30,000, which will be withheld from his salary
• Told that any future "verifiable inappropriate physical contact" with players, IU staff or members of the university community will result in his immediate firing.
• Ordered to demonstrate "appropriate decorum and civility" during public appearances, including news conferences. Failure to do so could result in further sanctions, including firing.
        Among the players in the room, the feeling was entirely different. “Relief is the perfect word,” said sophomore guard Dane Fife.

        This is how it is with Knight: So much of the sporting world is lined up on one side or the other, for him or against him. This is why the next year promises to be the most interesting in his three decades at Indiana.

        Under the “zero-tolerance policy” set in place by Brand to govern Knight's future conduct, he will be forced to walk the line directly between his supporters and his defenders. He cannot afford a misstep in any direction.

        Knight, 59, is positioned to end his career triumphantly: as a composed gentleman of a coach with a great team under his direction. It may be the most significant challenge he has faced, because it requires him to control his volatile temper and cease the choreographed demonstrations of his self-determined superiority.

        “We're asking Bob Knight to live above the guidelines of any other coach in the country,” Brand said. “I've never seen him before contrite and apologetic. He made a personal pledge to me that he would change his behavior, and I believe him. I believe he is a man of integrity.”

        IU trustees John Walda and Frederick Eichhorn spent nearly two months investigating allegations of misconduct by Knight that began with a charge from former guard Neil Reed that Knight choked him during a 1997 practice.

        A tape of that practice, examined by a forensic video expert to assure it was not doctored, led the investigators to conclude Mr. Knight did place his hand on Mr. Reed's throat for a period of 2.3 seconds.

        “It depends on your definition of the word "choke,' ” Mr. Walda said. “You can characterize it however you want. It is not appropriate behavior for Indiana University.” Walda said he believes any incidents germane to the review likely have been discovered and discussed.

        Knight also issued a formal apology to Jeanette Hartgraves, an administrative assistant to IU's athletic director, for verbally abusing her in 1998. In his statement, he admitted to having a problem with his temper.

        “For those times it has ever caused me to do anything that gave anyone understandable and justifiable reason to be upset,” Knight said, “I am sincerely sorry.”

        Because the university had allowed Knight to operate out of control, Brand said the just way to handle this situation is to require him to operate under guidelines de signed to prevent future embarrassments. “The ethical approach is to give him one last chance,” Brand said.

        In past years, there have been incidents that now likely would qualify as cause for termination: Knight has head-butted guard Sherron Wilkerson as he sat on the IU bench; tossed a chair onto the court in a 1987 game; berated a press conference moderator at the 1995 NCAA Tournament and used a senior day celebration as a forum to declare his critics should kiss his behind.

        Determining what constitutes grounds for dismissal, Walda said, is “more an art than a science.” If Knight goes out of his way to embarrass IU, however, it's likely he'll be out of a job.

        “We can't change the past,” Brand said, “but we can affect the future.”

        Knight suggested in his statement that living under “effective and proper guidelines can, in the long run, help me be a better coach.”

        Certainly there is room for Knight to coach more effectively. He has not taken a team to the NCAA Sweet 16 since 1994. His team has not won a Big Ten championship since 1993. “From everything he's ever done, he's been able to cooperate, he's been able to adapt to the situation,” IU forward Jarron Odle said. “I still think he's going to be a very tough coach to play for. I don't want him to change completely.”

Knight supporter can't duck the flower pot
- Knight must walk tightrope
Reaction to Knight decision
Players welcome Knight decision

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