February 5, 2008, - 6:46 pm

I Will Miss Bobby Knight: Vilified Coach Was Old-School Values Figure

By Debbie Schlussel
**** SCROLL DOWN FOR UPDATE: Top Ten Moments of Bobby Knight ****
While many sports columnists and commentators liked to vilify college basketball coach Bobby Knight over the years, I was not one of them. I always like Knight, despite his legendary temper. Regardless of his temperament, he was the last of something that is no longer present in college and pro athletics–values for hard work and no tolerance for bad behavior. In today’s win at all cost, dollar is the be-all/end-all, Bobby Knight was different. Athletes that committed crimes were dumped. Their behavior was not tolerated. And his players actually graduated from college . . . legitimately and fully literate.
And Bobby Knight and I agreed on many things. More of why I like and will miss Bobby Knight, from my March 2001 column, “The Real ‘March Madness’“:


Unlike most college sports coaches, Knight instills discipline in his players. And he’s paying for it, every step of the way. Not only did Indiana fire him, but Tech’s high and mighty faculty opposes him, too. While Knight might’ve been slightly overly exuberant in discipline methods at Indiana, it’s important that he did, indeed, discipline his players — something that happens far too infrequently in college sports, today. Knight’s athletes never committed crimes. The one — just one — who did, Sherron Wilkerson, accused of beating his girlfriend, was immediately off the team. And virtually all of Knight’s athletes graduated — rare in big-time college sports.
On the other hand, there are coaches, like Tom Osborne, now a Republican Congressman, who allowed criminal after criminal on his University of Nebraska football team. His athletes almost literally got away with murder — or at least, attempted murder. But, unduly revered as some sort of deity by Nebraskans and Nebraska’s faculty, as well as the local press, you’d never hear an unkind word about him. And if you did — as I found out last year — the author (in this case, me) would be attacked with hate mail from Osborne’s blind followers. There were never any anti-Osborne petitions from Nebraska’s faculty.
Maybe because they were impressed by his Ph.D. But probably because, despite claiming to be a conservative, Osborne treated the many criminal players on his team, like convicted thugs Lawrence Phillips and Christian Peter, the way Ted Kennedy liberals treat criminals — giving them chance after chance without punishment and shamelessly attacking their victims in the press.
Never any petitions against the win-at-all-costs, anti-discipline coach, Osborne, by professors. Just against Bobby Knight, who — against his own interests to win — was the exact opposite.
Nor have intellectual elitists ever signed petitions regarding student athletes, like Osborne’s, who’ve committed crimes and have been allowed to return to play on the field or court. Or student athletes who took ridiculously easy courses to graduate, yet didn’t know even the basics about anything.
That’s because many college professors buy into the liberal mentality of allowing college athletes, despite criminal proclivities, free passes through academic life because many are from the black underclass, even though most would hardly qualify to graduate high school. And academics hate conservative, disciplinarian coaches who actually believe athletes are responsible for their actions. . . .
Wall Street Journal’s sports columnist Frederick C. Klein noted that, during his attendance at an academic conference on the evils of college sports, professors pontificated that athletes’ crimes and academic failings were no fault of their own — but that of their youth, bad upbringings and “the adults who manipulated them.”
Those professors who do demand even the very minimum in academic performance from college athletes are shunned. . . .
But Knight has the last laugh. Despite elitist professors’ protests, he was hired. Now they will have to put up with Knight’s demands of crime-free and graduation-prone athletes.
The nerve of that man.

Bobby Knight, you have retired. And so, sadly, have your values from the realm of college sports.
And America is worse off for it.
Let’s hope Bobby Knight’s son, who replaces him, has those good, old-fashioned Bobby Knight values.
**** UPDATE: Okay, so his frequently foul mouth wasn’t exactly classy and doesn’t always match up with what I think of him. Here are the Top Ten Bobby Knight moments as chosen by ESPN. I really just wanted to post his “game-face” segment, but couldn’t find it as a stand-alone (fully bleeped and safe for work):

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20 Responses

I agree with you, Debbie. Knight’s force of will and determination to win is the trait that made champions out of his teams–largely because his players either learned to WANT it as bad as Knight OR…..get the he__ out of Dodge! I would want my son to play for him. The experience would make him stronger–to achieve his potential. That is what Knight was all about. His players almost to a man remain loyal to him long after they have had to do with him. That is the greatest proof of his greatest strength.
As for his rough edges–they were glaring. Most of Knight’s grief (getting canned from Indiana for assaulting a student and other warnings he got)was brought on by his own stubborn pride and unnecessarily so. I think he took it as personal challenge to use his stature to “let er rip” on his temper from time to time (afterall, what’s the point of being a top coach if you can’t just speak your mind!—NATCH). In one of his vintage “Bobby Knight moments,” he scolded the press to their faces in a press conference–that when he died–he wanted to be “buried upside down so they could all kiss my a__!”
I’m sure you have often felt the same way Debbie! But to say that with the open mike is like breaking wind in public–it is just crude. I’m sure he is proud of having done it to this day though. LOL. There are other ways to use tact to make the exact same point. You and Ann Coulter do a pretty good job of walking that line I’d say.

BB on February 5, 2008 at 8:18 pm

“Knight’s athletes never committed crimes. The one — just one — who did, Sherron Wilkerson, accused of beating his girlfriend, was immediately off the team. And virtually all of Knight’s athletes graduated — rare in big-time college sports.”
Debbie–you will have to add Isaiah Thomas to this list today–as a Knight alum gone amiss. Zeke was always one of Knight’s best supporters. Too bad that he has proven to be such a loser after his NBA career. What a waste. I wonder what Knight would say/has said to him in private since his recent sexual harassment judgment and some of the other previous nonsense involving low lifes.

BB on February 5, 2008 at 8:58 pm

Do I smell presidential run??

Squirrel3D on February 5, 2008 at 9:23 pm

That’s the $64 question.
Has anyone been able to get a clue as to what Bobby Knight’s reasons for retiring were? I haven’t heard a word.

There is NO Santa Claus on February 5, 2008 at 9:25 pm

You like sociopath Bobby Knight but you dislike Tom Brady.

Ripper on February 5, 2008 at 10:12 pm

Yeah I know Tom Brady had a child with actress Bridget Moynahan but it is not as if he knocked up some down and out ignorant waitress.

Ripper on February 5, 2008 at 10:14 pm

I am sorry, but, I totally disagree. You are SORRY to see Bob Knight go? PLEASE!!!!! I am so happy to see him leave the Big 12. When he is around, there is always tension. The man is a savage menace. Letís value and honor John Wooden, not Bob Knight, a vile, violent, and hypocritical beast. Just ask his neighbor in Lubbock.

sayno2fat on February 6, 2008 at 9:27 am

remember the part where denzel washington says “youre not helping them, youre crippling them”? i’m that cab driver from ann arbor that drives these athletes around while they get drunk and party down and I can tell you right off the bat that bobby knight was the last of his breed.
he got fired because he wouldnt take a snot nosed suburban kid calling him “knight” instead of Mr.Knight and that’s all you need to know about that.
the university of michigan graduates less than 50% of their black football players. ever.
tell me that isnt racist exploitation. and the kicker is that the students dont care, or the players. they want to run around as bmoc for a few years and then cash in. who’s to blame?
the fans and the scum from new york that have turned college sports into a gambling money machine.
i thought it was going to be the hippy generation that changed the world and got rid of this kind of thing, but now that same vw squareback generation is putting lights and suites into the big house.
Bobby Knight may have pissed off loads of people but his heart was in the right place and everybody knows it. but alas, he is a white man and the focus of the agenda, so he goes.
he said he was just tired of it all, so he stepped down after 900 wins and hundreds of leaders graduated (Isaiah Thomas), but all the jock morons will remember is the chair he threw.
something about panem et circenes..

playertwo on February 6, 2008 at 10:08 am

Thanks for that set of clips, Debbie. What a nice extra value you give us here. I am glad it was unedited and raw–like the man Knight was so very often. I sure can relate to the “ugly honesty” of how Knight would express his true thoughts to idiots. But, were they all idiots that caught his wrath? Surely not, but most of them were. Heck, every time I deal with a state bureaucrat who is hassling me from the state or a “clerky jerk” for no good reason–I’d like to give vent to my emotions just like Knight. Yet the price is too high to be such a hot head.
Patton– makes a great movie–but the hot vulgarity and unbridled “gonna do it my way with no regard for civility” (or the chain of command) trait is always a disqualifier. Such behavior cost MacArthur his command too. Though these were great men–they are impossible to rein in when they go too far. It was pathetic to see where this trait left Woody Hayes at the end of his days. Bobby knight will be remembered as much for this trait as his championships.
So–may I say again–I much prefer the creative approach you use. Puns, satire, acerbic sarcasm–it is all fine and on the edge. But the F-bombs and unbridled tirades in heat only serve to overshadow the otherwise great leadership of such passionately driven men and women.
The rants of Hillary are a natural rallying “disqualifier” for us because she looks so idiotic. I love/hate it when I hear those replayed all the time.

BB on February 6, 2008 at 10:20 am

Oh, I hate to say it, but this is one of the rare times I have to almost completely disagree with, my sweetie Debbie.
I totally agree about Osborne and other coaches. Still, that doesn’t make what Knight did a good thing.
Bobby Knight is one of the biggest hypocrites around. Sure he preaches and demands discipline, but there are numerous instances he didn’t apply this to himself. Throwing the chair during the game, numerous reports of abusing others with abusive and foul language who he thought weren’t up to HIS lofty standards, and many other examples.
Not to mention, he quit his team during the middle of the season. What if one of his players decided to quit in the middle of the season? We know what Knight would have said. Plus, he was totally selfish just coaching this season long enough to get the victory record. Again, Knight who preaches non selfish play being totally selfish.
I greatly admire coaches who preach discipline, and Knight definitely has some good points. But, this guy is just a frequently abusive bully who rarely lives up to the standards he imposes on others beneath him.
Good riddance to Bobby Knight.

Jeff_W on February 6, 2008 at 10:58 am

While you note that Knight stood for old-fashioned values and discipline, the problem was that he never applied the standards to himself.
How sad that the currency has been so devalued that this guy–at BEST extremely flawed–should be raised up as some sort of hero.
But, I suppose if a POW can be a “hero,” then all things are possible. Sure, McCain suffered, but what did he ever do for anyone else–in the military or the govt?
If he is a hero, then what does that make medal of honor winners?
For those who know history, WWII POWs were never referred to as heroes, and, indeed, were often (sometimes unfairly) vilified.

Red Ryder on February 6, 2008 at 11:11 am

It is fine and dandy to relate the obvious about the intential bias of the press or the ever-present bad faith and incompetence of academia, but why not do something about it.
Crying fire and letting the fire burn down the house is not exemplary.

DJLF on February 6, 2008 at 11:40 am

Correction: It is fine and dandy to relate the obvious about the intentional bias of the press or the ever-present bad faith and incompetence of academia, but why not do something about it.
Crying fire and letting the fire burn down the house is not exemplary

DJLF on February 6, 2008 at 11:41 am

One of the last White Old School coaches. The polar opposite of Black Racist coaches, such as John Thompson,Nolan Richardson and John Chaney( just to name a few ), who never hesistated to throw down the Race Card any moment they felt the tiniest bit slighted,throwing it down to allow Black thugs play on their teams,and protected them from rightfully getting expelled, as long as they helped them win, then let their true racist selves show, in their retirement press conferences.Their total lack of class far eclipses Knight’s.

OldSchoolW on February 6, 2008 at 2:07 pm

OldSchool W–
Points well taken, but to raise someone up just because he is not scum is a little much, don’t you think?
Further to this “war hero” business, I have a friend from high school, who is a multi-decorated true man of valor from the Vietnam era, and it must be said that he did a lot more than just rot in a prison. He saved his entire unit during a long-term firefight, with incredible and repeated courageous acts.
To me, THAT is a hero.

Red Ryder on February 6, 2008 at 4:28 pm

Obviously BB doesn’t know much about basketball or Patton or, MacArthur. A lack of civility can be confused by over sensitive effeminate people without the guts that these three gentlemen had. Patton wanted to get it over and done with while he was in Europe. Look at the problems we’ve had with the Russians ever since. MacArthur wanted to nuke the N. Koreans and the Red Chinese after they over ran our troops that night when Truman couldn’t bring himself to take that measure. Look at the trouble the world has had with those clowns ever since. Guts is in short supply. Look at the election coming and tell me you don’t see it too. Sign me SICK OF WIMPS.

samurai on February 6, 2008 at 4:37 pm

I would’ve used some f bombs but it’s not respectful on this web page to Debbie.

samurai on February 6, 2008 at 4:41 pm

Debbie, I notice you tend to be a bit off key on the sports stuff and immigration issues, but you’re super cute and I don’t care. BK was fired by Indiana for a lot of reasons, but instilling discipline in his players was not one of them. That was always respected along with his three national championships. What got him fired was a pattern of unacceptable behavior aimed at his players, staff and finally the University president. He had more chances than any other coach would have gotten, but he couldn’t control himself. Once he stopped winning over his last several years, there was no reason to keep him around.

Anonymous1 on February 6, 2008 at 10:17 pm

He could turn a phrase. I’ll give him that!

ParaLyzer on February 6, 2008 at 10:50 pm

Little samurai–read what I say–not what you want to try to make it say. I agee with your points as to what was at stake and how Mac and Patton understood it–yes they were right and they were great men. Yet, these folks let their tempers take them out of bounds by shooting themselves in the foot. Their attacking styles of pushing back with their views made them disqualified (even though they were the best generals). If one of their troops under their command was so insubordinate to them as they were to the President, they’d have faced cout martial.
We all know people who are stuck in the penalty box–competent and great people whose faults overshadow what they have to offer with their lack of self control and loose cannon tempers. I admit it has cost me plenty at times to vent–and though it often has felt good at the time to let er rip–in the end the bad style points defeat the good that really needed to be done by a proper rebuke less the f-bombs and added heat. I am trying to grow to use these provocations of fools to provoke me to get the message across just as forcefully as a BK tirade–but by tact and wit– the last word untrumped by poor style points.
One prediction here–McCain will have many Col. Nathan Jessup (A Few Brave Men) tirade moments in the months ahead. It will be so pitiful to watch. McCain has this “let er rip–no holds barred” trait real bad. Debbie, I can’t believe you can stand him AT ALL with his amnesty for illegals, raise gas taxes, outlaw drilling for oil in Anwar, promote the global warming scam, McCain Fengold etc. etc. views What’s to like? I will not vote for McCain under any circumstances.

BB on February 7, 2008 at 12:12 am

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