Warning: Video NSFW
Before I go on, let me state categorically that Bob Knight was one of the greatest coaches in the history of the college game. He undeniably got the most out of his players, and, with very few exceptions, is lauded by his former players as one who was a meaningful mentor and support both on and off the court, during and after their careers.
That said, Bob Knight is a public disgrace to the game. The video above is one of many less-than-flattering public moments for Knight. From his run-in with a Puerto Rican policeman to throwing a chair against Purdue to allegations of choking Neil Reed, the public Bob Knight has long been an embarrassment to himself and the game. For that very reason, Indiana separated itself from its legendary coach who had won three NCAA titles and established the program among the elite of college basketball.
After a brief and unremarkable stint at Texas Tech, in which Knight abruptly resigned in the middle of the season, he has taken up residence as an analyst for ESPN. Here, Knight has placed himself in the position of “senior sage,” quite often using his microphone to rail against what he perceives are threats to the integrity of the college game. Chief among them has been the “one and done” rule allowing players to remain on campus for a single season before bolting to the NBA. Kentucky and John Calipari has become Knight’s whipping boy (Calbert Cheaney being unavailable). As I outlined yesterday, the only problem with that is that Knight has come to the discussion armed with only his opinion, devoid of facts, so he has taken the liberty of fabricating them.
The other problem with Knight is the double-standard of his life. Some might even call it hypocrisy. During his career, while Knight insisted on discipline and self-control from his players, he typified the antithesis of those ideals. Some might remember that Knight’s “windmill” at which he tilted at IU was junior college players. Much like the “one and dones” today, Knight very publicly vilified other schools who recruited junior college players, insisting they were marginal academically and brought dishonor on the collegiate experience…that is until Knight needed some jucos to surround Steve Alford. Amazingly, Keith Smart and Dean Garrett turned out to be wonderful student-athletes under Knight, bringing him his third and final national championship in 1987.
Knight’s entire life is dotted with such bipolar positions. Even while he has raged against Calipari and his lack of “ethics,” Knight has stuck up for Mark McGwire falsely comparing Gatorade to other performance enhancing substances. He’s publicly defended Jim Calhoun and Jim Tressel as well, both of whom have been cited for more NCAA violations as coaches than Calipari (zero). Why would Knight criticize one and support the other? The answer is pretty simple: Tony LaRussa, McGwire’s manager, and Jim Calhoun are good friends with Knight while Ohio State is Knight’s alma mater.
What’s apparent is that Bob Knight’s “integrity” is indeed situational. If you are a rival or outside Knight’s inner circle, his insistence on abiding by high standards is nearly Pharisaic. If you’re a friend of Knight, or Knight himself, then the standards enter into somewhat of a gray area (charcoal). Integrity can be defined in different ways, but one that is generally accepted is the ability to “talk the talk and walk the walk.” By that standard, Bob Knight is no more a man of integrity than Jimmy Swaggart.
ESPN will most likely remain silent with regard to Knight’s latest comments. That’s sad, because as the New York Post’s Dick Weiss points out, their integrity is on the line, too. Is the “world-wide leader” interested in the integrity of its reporters and analysts, or content to employ individuals who fabricate facts in public? The ball is in their court.