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Bobby Knight Essay, Research Paper

Bobby Knight

Barry Woodward

Bobby Knight, longtime Indiana men?s head basketball coach, was recently fired. This firing sparked a controversy among basketball fans throughout the nation; did he deserve to be fired? I believe that Bobby Knight deserved to be fired. Although coach Knight is one of the best coaches in the nation and has earned the respect of countless numbers of fans including myself, I do not believe that a coach should be able to act the way he acted and get away with it. Coach Knight?s record for abusing players, abusing the media, and being a jerk should speak for itself and there is no doubt in my mind that Bobby Knights firing can be justified.

Bobby Knight?s college basketball career goes back over 40 years. In 1960 as a player for Ohio State University, Knight helped the Buckeyes capture the national championship. This feat will later make Knight one of only two men to play on and coach a national championship team in college basketball, the other being Dean Smith. Knight?s Ohio State Buckeye teams went on to win two more Big Ten championships in the next two years. Knight?s fellow teammates can remember him as being a tenacious defender on the court who would stop at nothing to win a game. His competitive nature allowed him to continue his basketball career after his playing years were over.

After playing, Knight went on to coach at Army as an assistant coach at the age of 22. After just two years of being assistant coach he was appointed the head coaching job at Army. Knight had a short but successful career at Army, in just six years he amassed 102 wins. In 1972 he was appointed the job at Indiana University, where he would coach for 28 years. In 1973, after only one year of coaching at Indiana, Knight led the Hoosiers to the Big Ten championship and on to the Final Four. He was named Big Ten coach of the year. Knight went on to lead the Hoosiers to a remarkable twenty 20-win seasons, including three 30-win seasons. Knight?s teams appeared in 24 NCAA tournaments and won three of them. Knight?s 1975-76 squad remains the only team in men?s college basketball history to venture through the regular season and the NCAA tournament, finishing the season with an overall record of 32-0. Knight, the leading coach in Big Ten history as far as wins are concerned, has 763 career victories behind him which leaves him 116 wins short of former North Carolina coach Dean Smith?s college record 879 wins as head coach. He has guided two U.S. National Teams to international gold, once in the Pan-Am games in 1979 and once in the Olympics in 1980. Coach Knight has obviously earned the respect of many fans and other coaches, but the fact of the matter is that Knight had several problems on and off the court that were overlooked for so long that some people think that he deserved to keep his job.

Knight?s downfall in my mind was his uncontrollable temper and the fact that he could never admit that he was wrong about anything. Most serious competitors in sports are expected to have an aggressive attitude towards winning, but coach Knight?s aggression goes beyond wanting to win. Before 1979 there were really no reasons for anyone to be concerned about coach Knight?s temper. Sure, he had always yelled frantically at the referees and screamed at his players during games, but most coaches have a tendency to do this. But in the year 1979 while coaching the gold winning U.S. team in the Pan Am games Knight?s uncontrollable aggression was first introduced as a problem to the public. During this event coach Knight was charged with hitting a Puerto Rican police officer and later convicted and sentenced to six months in jail in absentia. Although Knight never actually served the time and Puerto Rico dropped efforts to extradite him eight years later, Knight was now under the public spotlight due to his uncontrollable temper. After only one year later Knight fired a blank from a starter pistol at a newspaper reporter in what he calls an effort ?to keep from going nuts.? In my opinion Knight was already ?nuts? and his antics would continue. In 1981 Knight shoved an opposing fan into a garbage can, no charges were pressed against him and his team went on to win the NCAA tournament. In 1983 coach Knight delivered a speech to the Big Ten commissioner while standing in the middle of the court complaining about officiating, this speech was considered a disgrace to the University of Indiana due to Knight?s overwhelming use of profanity in front of thousands of fans. The most notorious Bob Knight incident came in 1985, when he threw a chair across the court during a game, missing the handicapped section of the crowd by only a few feet. Knight was ejected from the game and suspended for only one game. At this point in time the media and the fans could clearly see that Knight had a serious problem, but due to his coaching success his problem was overlooked and he continued to act as he pleased on and off the court.

In 1987 coach Knight is once again in the spotlight after he is fined $10,000 dollars for punching the scorer?s table during a NCAA tournament game. The following year during a nationally televised interview with Connie Chung, Knight replies to a question about rape with the statement, ?If rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it.? Knight fails to admit that he was wrong in saying this and defends himself by stating that his remark was taken out of context. A few years later Knight is suspended for a game after kicking one of his own players during a game, this player was his own son. Only one year later Knight headbutts Sherron Wilkerson, another one of his players, during a game. He calls the headbutt an accident. Knight continued winning games and recruiting some of the best players in the nation despite physically abusing some of them, at this point in time Knight must have felt like he was invincible to being disciplined by anyone.

Knight?s last years as head coach at Indiana are filled with incidents with the media, his players, and the public. In 1998 he publicy suggests that referees with gambling interests purposely make bad calls in order to win bets. In 1999 after a win against Northwestern in which the opposing fans chant, ?Who?s your daddy?? at coach Knight, he points to the scoreboard and yells, ?Who?s your daddy now? You guys are (expletive) losers!? Shortly after this Knight and Northwestern coach Kevin O?Neill get into a physical confrontation. This is the first of two physical confrontations in that year, the second came with a patron at a restaurant who accused Knight of making a racially offensive remark. Knight is accused of choking the man outside the restaurant, but no charges are ever filed. Later in the year Knight accidentally shoots a friend while hunting without a license, he then fails to report this incident as required by law. In the year 2000 a sports network airs a report in which Neil Reed, another former Indiana player, accuses coach Knight of choking him during practice in 1997. The same network later airs the practice videotape that appeared to show the event. Neil Reed?s report also includes allegations of Knight waving soiled toilet paper at his players to illustrate the quality of their effort. He is also accused of kicking the university president out of his own gym during a practice! The university finally decides that they must do something about this and an investigation is launched.

During this investigation, several more allegations begin to surface. One of the more damaging is a report that Knight physically intimidated and threw a vase at a 64-year-old secretary. A high-ranking official tells the Associated Press the trustees are considering asking Knight to resign. On May 15 Indiana president announces that Knight will be fined $30,000 and suspended for three games. He is also put on a zero-tolerance policy setting a code of conduct for Knight. With yet another chance given to Knight to behave, he once again fails. On September 7 an Indiana student accuses Knight of grabbing his arm and cursing him after the student refers to Coach Knight as simply ?Knight.? Brand calls Knight on September 10 and gives him the opportunity to resign. Knight refuses and decides to go fishing. Brand announces in a press conference later that day that Knight has been fired.

After he was fired, there was a storm of Knight supporters who thought that he was treated unfairly. These supporters obviously didn?t realize that Knight had a serious anger problem that needed attention. Knight was allowed to coach for 20 years with this problem being overlooked and most of his supporters don?t understand that. Knight was obviously a success as a basketball coach, his record shows that, but he was a tremendous failure as an example on how a coach should act. You just can?t expect to keep your job while treating people the way that Bob Knight treated people. Coach Knight undoubtedly deserved to be fired. The evidence against Knight is so overwhelming that I do no understand how he kept his job as long as he did. Knight?s long career as the second most winning coach in NCAA history was a failure in my mind because he could never understand that basketball is indeed only a game.


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