Sunday, March 11, 2001

High school would be good place for Knight

        Texas Tech wants Bob Knight to coach its basketball team. The school is in Lubbock, Texas, which apparently is somewhere. Tech's previous coach, James Dickey, averaged 17 wins a season for 10 years. That should get him to the Hall of Fame or sainthood or both. Instead, he got fired Friday, with three years left on his contract.

        That opened the door for Knight. Knight hasn't said he'd take the job or even that he wants it. But Knight is bored. He wants to win more games than any college coach ever. He'd like to take that record, shove it in the world's face and tell it to kiss his you-know-what.

        But there's a better job out there for him. It's in Clifton, just up the road from UC, at Hughes. Hughes needs a basketball coach.

        “You got somebody in mind?” athletic director Chris Nelms asked Friday.

        “Robert Montgomery Knight.”

        “I don't think I know him,” Nelms said.

        “Bob Knight. The General.”

        “Oh, that Knight. No, sir. Not that Bob Knight,” said Nelms. “I'm not sure I'd even entertain that notion.”

        I was joking. And yet. ...

        Knight fashions himself a teacher, a molder of minds and character. He played by the rules. His players went to school. They graduated. They got real jobs.

        This was his defense. By the end, when Indiana decided it wasn't a good idea its basketball coach was grabbing players by the neck and fastballing flower pots past 60-year-old secretaries' heads, mind-molding wasn't enough.


        High school is a chance for Knight to resurrect a shred of his reputation. He could do all the things he always gave himself credit for. Minus the bullying, which he denied or shrugged off.

        What's left of Knight's good name is flying apart like a crashed race car. Its parts are all over the track. Knight is still trying to bully the world. He's still out there, flipping us the figurative bird. Sad.

        Knight intends to sue IU. He claims “pain and suffering,” “mental humiliation” and, who knows, “classic withdrawal symptoms from not having screamed at a kid since September.”

No class

        What a crass act. I used to defend Knight, but he has made that impossible.

        Honor? He's working for an online gambling service.

        Dignity? He gave an interview to Playboy.

        Loyalty? Monday, he talked with Texas Tech about a job someone else still held.

        High school would be good for Knight. “The last venue of pure teaching,” Nelms called it. It'd be good for lots of coaches. Every shoe-contract-supplemented, summer-camp-fortified, big-time sideline screamer should be forced to take the occasional high school sabbatical. It might remind him of the real importance of what he does.

        “He'd have to show a strong personal desire to change his ways,” said Nelms. “He thinks he's bigger than basketball. He thinks he's above moral reproach.”

        Plus, he gave an inter view to a magazine that comes in a brown wrapper.

        Said Nelms: “High school would be a good place for him to start over. But that would take some humility on his part.”

        What a leap of evolution that would be.

        “Based on his reputation now, I wouldn't consider Mr. Knight,” Nelms decided. “But I will pray for him.”

        E-mail: Past columns at

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