Bob Knight

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Detailing Bob Knight's most explosive moments on and off the court, and drawing from more than one hundred revealing new interviews with those who have worked and played alongside him, this is the most balanced and comprehensive ...

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Bob Knight: The Unauthorized Biography

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Detailing Bob Knight's most explosive moments on and off the court, and drawing from more than one hundred revealing new interviews with those who have worked and played alongside him, this is the most balanced and comprehensive portrait of the NCAA's infamous coach. Love him or hate him, here is



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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Can't-put-it-down reading for Knight followers, pro and con."


"Steve Delsohn and Mark Heisler have captured the enigma that is Bob Knight in all his flawed contradictions and all his squandered potential."
— Bill Reynolds, author of Cousy and Fall River Dreams

Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743462679
  • Publisher: Gallery Books
  • Publication date: 12/26/2006
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 1,388,335
  • Product dimensions: 0.82 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 8.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Steve Delsohn is the author of The Fire Inside: Firefighters Talk About Their Lives and Talking Irish: The Oral History of Notre Dame Football. He has also coauthored numerous celebrity biographies, including books on John Wayne, Sam Kinison, and Jim Brown. Delsohn lives in California, where he is the father of three girls.

Mark Heisler covers the NBA for the Los Angeles Times. He lives with his wife and daughter in Northridge, California.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


Orrville and Columbus, 1940-62

Bobby has got so much....He doesn't cheat. He doesn't drink. He doesn't even chase women. But for some reason, he thinks he has been a bad boy and no matter how successful he becomes, he thinks he must be punished.

— IU assistant Roy Bates to SI's Frank Deford

I can remember my mom saying time and frigging time again, "Just remember, somebody has to lose." And my rejoinder has always been, "Why should it be me?"

— Bob Knight

Playboy, March 2001

From the beginning, he was different.

Robert Montgomery Knight, the only child of the local freight agent on the railroad line and the second-grade teacher at Walnut Street Elementary, was the best athlete in Orrville, Ohio, but every hamlet has its local stars who grow up to teach phys ed or sell real estate. Bobby was the one who would attain the greatness they had all dreamed about. Almost from the day he was born and the cry that became his first complaint, he went his own way.

His father, Pat, grew up on an Oklahoma farm and went to work on the Nickel Plate Railroad, which brought him to this little town of 5,000 in the northeast corner of the state. To Bobby, born when Pat was in his 40s, his father was a Gary Cooper figure, upright, low-key, principled, and determined, "the most honest man I have known," and "the most disciplined man I ever met."

The son took pride in his father's flinty virtues, and he told everyone the same stories, which became the standard starting point in published profiles of his life. Pat never earned more than $8,000, never had a credit card, owned three cars his whole life, and paid cash for them. He took out his only loan to buy their $22,000 house and paid it off in four years by giving up his hobbies. Knight said his dad never tipped, "because he always said, 'Nobody ever gave me a tip for doing anything.'"

However, there was a distance between father and son that was difficult to bridge. Pat was so hard of hearing, Bobby had to yell to be understood, and it was easier just to co-exist. Pat worked long hours and didn't go to Bobby's games. They shared a passion for fishing, but that was something a father and a son could do together in silence.

Pat was already 43 and Hazel 38 on October 25, 1940 when Bobby was born. Pauline Boop, their next-door neighbor, says both parents acted even older than their years. The one who seemed the youngest, Boop says, was Hazel's mother, Sarah Henthorne, who lived with them.

"There was always this terrible barrier between [Bob] and his dad because his dad's hearing was so bad that he was almost deaf," says Boop. "His mother did not drive a car and his father was mostly working. But his grandmother drove and she always took him places. And she was just the sweetest woman. She was a perfect gem."

John Flynn of the Louisville Courier-Journal, one of Knight's first press confidants, wrote that Knight used to call Mrs. Henthorne "mother." She doted on him, letting him win when they played board games because she couldn't bear to see how upset he got when he lost. Hazel Knight herself once noted, "I think he was closer to his grandmother than he ever was to me or his father."

Nevertheless, Bobby said his mother, whip-smart and inclined to speak her mind, was his biggest influence. Bruce Newman, who interviewed Hazel years later when he wrote for the Indiana Daily Student, remembers her as "sort of typically Midwestern, old school, a bit schoolmarmish and forbidding in ways. She was gracious enough to let a college kid come into her house and talk to her for an hour, so she wasn't mean or anything. But I don't remember her as being a particularly warm person."

"He gets that dry sense of humor from his mother," says Kathy Harmon, who was Kathy Halder when she dated Bob in high school. "His mother was — you just had to know her, you know. She just had that real dry, talked kind of slow, sense of humor. And she was fun, but I don't know — I mean, they built a new house when they were in high school. It was a two-bedroom house — one for his grandmother, one for his mother and father, and he had a room off the kitchen. And later, it was turned into a laundry room. But, I mean, you would have thought that with having a son, they'd build a three-bedroom house, but they didn't....Like, it was at the end of the kitchen and there was a wooden folding door that folded across there, and his bed was actually a daybed.

"His father and mother, that I can remember, never, ever saw Bobby play a game of basketball....I took his grandmother to a couple of games and she saw a couple of games but that was it. It was just — it was a different family. I mean, he loved his mother and his father, but I think his grandmother pretty much raised him."

Says Norman Douglas, then Knight's best friend: "His father probably did work 10 to 12 hours a day because any time we went to his house, his dad wasn't there. When he was there, I do remember his father was hard of hearing. In fact, that added to the humor on occasion. There were some things that happened that he was oblivious to and that would crack us up because he's just sitting there, staring off into space, not knowing anything happened. But I think Bob felt very close to his dad. And his father was very strong-willed, there's no doubt about that. I think Bob picked that up from him, where right is right and wrong is wrong, and gray isn't in this household."

As soon as Bobby could get the ball up to the hoop, he began shooting baskets with Pauline Boop's husband, Don, a dentist everyone called Doc. The Knights and Boops lived in such close proximity, Pauline says she used to cook bread in her kitchen just 20 feet from the room where Bobby slept. Before Doc Boop's death, he told John Flynn that Bobby's "grandmother and I came close to raising him," noting, "I guess I shouldn't say this, but I believe that them always letting him win had some effect on him. He was an average boy, very intelligent, mind you, but I didn't notice anything until he got into high school. Then his temper started showing up. It grew in college and I don't think it has abated yet."

Flynn often repeated the story about Mrs. Henthorne letting Bobby win to keep him from getting upset. To Flynn, like Doc Boop, it explained a lot.

The way Knight remembers it, his childhood was idyllic and Orrville a great place to grow up, filled with Norman Rockwell characters. Nevertheless, he wasn't an ordinary child. He liked to hang out with the grownups, who, in turn, liked to hang out with him.

"Bob had a lot of adult friends," says Norman Douglas. "Most of us didn't have that. We all knew each other's parents and their friends, but our friends were each other. Bob had this set of adult friends that he spent a lot of time with."

Almost all of them were his coaches, who had time for him and shared his love of sports. In Knight: My Story, he ticks off their names gratefully, thanking them in detail for everything they did, starting with Frank Mizer, who ran the local beauty parlor and started a baseball team Bobby played on when he was nine.

He was ambitious and industrious, even if he was the one who decided where his ambitions lay and what he would work at. He got good grades effortlessly and read voraciously. When the library would compile a list of its top readers, he wrote, it would always be nine girls and him. He devoured the Chip Hilton books, written by the famous basketball coach Clair Bee, the John R. Tunis baseball books, and the Hardy Boys mysteries.

Starry-eyed Bobby hung on every word of Jimmy Dudley's Cleveland Indians radio broadcasts and George Walsh doing Kentucky Wildcat basketball. Small-town kids once listened to the sound of trains at night; Bobby listened to the crackling voices doing play-by-play on radio and dreamed of brightly lit stadiums. As he wrote in his book, "My lifelong status as a hero worshipper started in those days."

As an eighth grader, he was a 6-1 forward who averaged 29 points with a line-drive shot he wasn't bashful about taking. At Orrville High, the varsity basketball coach, Jack Graham, jumped him to the varsity as a freshman.

"He got broken in pretty good by the upperclassmen," says teammate Warner Harper, a senior who stuck up for the 15-year-old Knight. "They gave him a very rough time. They kind of ganged up on him at practice. They would do little things like throw an elbow and he would get mad. A couple times it almost broke into a fight. Then he got past that. I talked to him one day and told him he had to dish something back out. And Knight started to do that. Then everything was all right."

Bobby handled the hazing without complaint. In his autobiography, he says only that starting as a freshman is "never easy." Kathy Harmon says she could tell it bothered him but he wouldn't talk about it. "He was one of those people that kept everything pretty much inside of him," says Harmon. "I would confide in him but he didn't confide in me. I don't think he confided in his parents either. Maybe his older cronies, the guys he hung out with, but I don't think so. I think he kept his problems to himself."

At Orrville, Bobby was an end on the football team and such a good hitter on the baseball team, he could even stand up to Dean Chance, the young fireballer from nearby Wayne County High who would pitch eleven seasons in the major leagues. Bobby lived for basketball, though, and everything else in his life, like girls, ran second or farther back.

"It was a weird kind of relationship until we were sophomores and juniors in high school because basketball was everything," says Kathy Harmon. "You never saw him anywhere that he didn't have a basketball in his hand. And it wasn't like every Saturday night you saw him. Because if there was a basketball game somewhere, he went. He was consumed by it."

Knight was as brash as he was intense. Kathy Harmon says he didn't lash out at other people but was hard on himself. "Like if he had a bad game," she says, "he was really — well, you just didn't — I knew better than to even approach him after the game....He was, you know, he just didn't like himself."

In Knight's sophomore yearbook, Harmon wrote a note to the "English brain," telling him to "watch the temper." Even in a good mood, Knight was such a cutup in class, Pauline Boop says they almost kept him out of the National Honor Society, although he wound up as the president of the group. In his senior yearbook, he appears in a photo with the other members of the honor society, glowering into the camera.

"There were teachers who thought he was arrogant," says schoolmate Bob Shonk. "I don't think he did it maliciously, but he tried to make a joke of things in class and they sometimes didn't appreciate it. He got into trouble more than once. The teachers would throw him out of class or ask him to go down to the principal's office."

Fortunately, Graham, the basketball coach, was patient with Bobby, who required a lot of patience. "Knight would speak up to Graham in front of us, they would get into it and Graham would throw him out of the gym," says Warner Harper. "But the relationship between Knight and Graham was strong."

In Knight's sophomore year, he was the star of the team, averaging 19 points as the Red Riders went 8-11. He averaged 25 the next year, but missed four weeks with a broken foot; the team wound up 5-13. Yearning to get back, he tried to go out and shoot with his foot in a cast and broke several of them.

That year, 16-year-old Bobby wrote an autobiography for a school project. He called it, "It's Been a Great Life (So Far)." He said he wanted "to go to college, to join the ROTC and to do my service hitch after I graduate. When that is over, I hope to become a basketball coach."

In Knight's senior year, he and his teammates were on a bus to a football scrimmage, batting around a blown-up condom when someone knocked it up to the front where the coach, Bill Shunkwiler, sat. Tabbing Knight for it, Shunkwiler stomped on the flying rubber and proceeded to keep Bobby on the field in the sweltering heat for every play of the entire scrimmage, on offense and defense.

"He was on the field the whole doggone day," says Shunkwiler. "And no one said a word about it. Didn't say anything about that bouncing prophylactic. But the team knew that I knew who blew it up and bounced it. And I just let it go. That's how we disciplined. He played every play that we had in the scrimmage. Then we scrimmaged again the next day and I made him do the same thing.

"The longer you'd go out without water, the tougher we thought you were. Something else we did, which we would probably all go to jail for now, was to grab you by the collar of your shoulder pad and drag you down to the ground. Sometimes you'd grab a mask. You'd shake the mask but never physically beat up a kid. We did have hands-on explanations."

Knight didn't complain and, years later, he would never understand why anyone else would. To Bobby, tough love was love nonetheless.

Shunkwiler was a particular favorite. The leathery older man always had time for Bobby, who would go over to his house and pepper him with questions about coaching. Sometimes Shunkwiler took him scouting with him.

Unfortunately for Knight, Jack Graham, the basketball coach he liked so much, left before his senior year. Graham was replaced by Bob Gobin, who had no experience in varsity sports and just wanted all the boys to participate. When Knight scored 40 points in a scrimmage against Wadsworth, he said Gobin told them, "We won't have that happen again."

Knight was devastated. "I had worked hard to get ready for that senior year," he wrote. "No kid ever worked harder at basketball." Knight wasn't intimidated, though. He argued with Gobin until he was kicked off the team and the townspeople had to come running to Bobby's aid.

"The school board got into it," says Roy Bates, the basketball coach at nearby Wayne County High School, who would one day join Knight's Indiana staff. "Of course, Bob had a lot of friends around town who didn't like it, either. So, they had quite a row in the community. He was only 17, 18 years old, and then the adults took it up and he's in the middle of it."

Fearing Bobby would lose any chance of getting a basketball scholarship to college, his father took him next door to talk it over with Doc Boop. Boop and Bobby then went to see Gobin. They made a deal: Bobby would be suspended for one game and Gobin would try harder to win.

That was the first in a lifetime of controversies. As Knight notes in his book, "Being right and being quiet has never been a combination I was good at."

Bobby averaged 20.6 points as the Red Riders went 11-9 and made the state playoffs. He graduated from Orrville that spring and went out into the great, wide world that didn't know what it was in for.

Knight had several scholarship offers, all but one from midsized schools like Bowling Green or Miami of Ohio. Jack Graham urged him to choose one of those, where he thought Knight would be sure to play a lot. Doc Boop drove Bobby around the state, checking them out.

Ohio State, which represented the major leagues, hadn't scouted Bobby, but Boop was a graduate of the OSU dental school and knew some people in the athletic department. He sent game films of Knight to Columbus, which were forwarded to the freshman coach, Fred Taylor. Taylor was intrigued and invited Knight to visit.

It was the spring of 1958 and the Buckeyes were on the verge of something big. On an outing at Merrybrook Stables outside Columbus, Knight met his fellow recruits: Jerry Lucas, John Havlicek, and Mel Nowell, who would form one of the greatest freshman classes in the era before freshmen were eligible.

People had been talking about Lucas since he was in grade school. His fame had mushroomed when he led tiny Middletown High to 76 straight wins and state titles in his sophomore and junior seasons. Like everyone in Ohio, Knight grew up with Lucas's legend. Knight went to Cleveland Arena to watch the Single A finals in 1956 but couldn't get a ticket for the Double A finals, in which the sophomore Lucas led Middletown to victory. In 1958, when Middletown's run ended in the state finals at Ohio State's St. John's Arena, Knight was there, watching on a recruiting visit.

At that spring outing at Merrybrook Stables, Knight played with Lucas, Havlicek, Nowell, and two more big-name Ohio high school players, Bud Olsen and Gary Gearhart. Since Olsen and Nowell would eventually play in the NBA, this group included four future pros, two of whom would be Hall of Famers.

Knight was thrilled to be on the same court. He knew he wasn't on the same level as Lucas but no one else was, either. The 6-2 Nowell, a hotshot from Columbus, was a superior athlete, and the 6-5 Havlicek was a gazelle, but Knight thought he was good enough to find his own niche. It just wouldn't be the one he wanted.

It was as if his entire college career was set up to break his heart.

Knight started on the celebrated freshman team, which played only two games all season, against the varsity, which was now coached by Fred Taylor. Both of the games were closed to the public. Living up to their hype, the Buckeye freshmen won both, with Lucas getting over 40 in each.

Lucas played center with Nowell and Gearhart at guard and Havlicek and Knight at forward. Knight could make his line-drive shot if he was open, but he had trouble defending and rebounding. As Havlicek, one of his closest friends on the team, put it, "He just wasn't an individual who could jump over the rim and snatch rebounds or put the stops to a guy."

Nevertheless, Knight's Dennis-the-Menace personality was no less commanding than it had been in Orrville. He was no longer the star but he was still the life of the party. Teammates called him "Dragon," after he bragged about riding with a biker gang with that name. Knight said some of them were such bumpkins, they believed it for a while. Kaye Kessler, who covered the team for the Columbus Dispatch, says no one believed it for a second. "There weren't any street gangs in Orrville," Kessler says. "In fact, they were grape crushers. Orrville is the home of Smucker's Jelly."

The Ohio State freshmen were called "The Fabulous Five" and there was talk among Buckeye fans that they would all start as sophomores. However, the returning players the next season included junior guard Larry Siegfried, who had averaged 19 points as a sophomore and would go on to average double figures over seven seasons with the Celtics. Another holdover, junior forward Joe Roberts, would play three NBA seasons.

Lucas, Havlicek and Nowell became three-year starters. Siegfried and Roberts got the other two starting jobs in 1959-60, with Knight buried on the bench. With so much talent, everyone had to make sacrifices and it was hard all around.

"I was bitching and moaning," says Siegfried, relegated to playmaker as a junior after leading the team in scoring as a sophomore. "Hell, I quit 450 times. We were all struggling with our roles because there was so much talent on that team."

Says Kessler, "Nowell was always pissed off because Lucas was getting all the headlines and Siegfried was always griping and they'd come to our rooms when we were on the road and gripe because they weren't getting enough publicity. Remember, all of these guys had been huge scorers in high school."

Knight had been a huge scorer himself, but now he was a long way from Orrville.

"Bobby had this impression that he was going to be with us," says Nowell, the Buckeye most offended by Knight. "But, when we became varsity, Bobby didn't get a spot in the starting lineup. And not only did he not get a spot, there were several other people that would get in before him. There was the starting five and there were the next few players who would get right in at practice and work with the starting five. And then there was a term that was used — 'all you others' — as in, 'All you others go down to the other end of the floor.' I think Bobby was in all you others a few too many times, and that certainly made his life feel pretty uncomfortable."

In Knight's autobiography, he notes diplomatically that he was "kind of a pain in the ass...not outwardly but inwardly." Actually, he did nothing but complain. Taylor was once quoted as calling him "the brat from Orrville," although he denied it, but there was no more doubt that Knight was a brat than that he was from Orrville. Taylor's assistant, Jack Truitt, says Knight vowed to transfer 84 times, once after every game in his career.

"Bobby used to pout all the time because Fred didn't play him much," says Kessler. "He used to sit at the end of the bench and piss and moan. And Fred would often make Bobby sit right beside him. He said, 'If you're going to pout, you're going to do it beside me.'"

Big Ten teams were run-and-gun outfits, emulating the famous Hurryin' Hoosiers of Branch McCracken, but Taylor, who was making his debut at the varsity level, wanted to emphasize defense. He had spent time over the summer with California's defense-minded Pete Newell, the coach of the defending national champions, who had generously shared his thoughts and schemes.

Defending was a problem for Knight, who was passionate but slow. His sophomore year, he often lined up against Roberts, who was bigger at 6-6 and so athletic, he jumped right over him for rebounds. Knight set about whittling him down to size.

"He had the temper, yes," says Roberts. "If you fouled him or if he fouled you, he was ready to go to war. He was just a feisty guy. But one day he fouled me so bad I went to him and told him, 'You better guard Havlicek today because I'm not taking that.'"

Years later, when Taylor was retired and doing TV commentary at an IU game, someone asked him what kind of defensive player Knight had been. Taylor walked out 15 feet from the basket along the baseline, pointed to the floor and said, "Right here was where he would foul guys. He'd either shove them out of bounds or foul them but they weren't getting by."

A new era dawned in Ohio State basketball, which had lived a quiet existence until the fall of 1959. Before the Fabulous Five, the athletic program and the state revolved around Hayes' football teams, which was the way Woody intended to keep it. As far as the basketball coaches were concerned, AD Ed Weaver existed to rubber stamp Hayes' demands, while they had to justify every penny they spent.

"When it came to money, Woody could do whatever he wanted to and Fred had to meet a tight budget," says Taylor's assistant, Jack Graff. "Fred was jealous of Woody because he had so much control."

"Fred had an intense dislike of Woody Hayes," says Howard Nourse, another OSU player. "I don't know whether it was born out of jealousy but he moved the basketball offices from being besides the football offices to the extreme opposite side of St. John Arena on the administrative floor. He moved them as far away from the football offices as possible. He made no bones about it."

The basketball team hadn't won a conference title since 1950, but its time was coming. Led by the great sophomores, Lucas, Havlicek and Nowell, the Buckeyes went 21-3, won the Big Ten, then stormed into the NCAA Finals, routing Western Kentucky, Georgia Tech, and NYU in the tournament by an average of 19 points.

Nevertheless, they were underdogs in the Finals against Pete Newell's defending champion Cal Bears, the nation's top-ranked team. The game was at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, where Cal often played and rarely lost, having won 45 of its last 46 games there.

Undaunted, the Buckeyes shredded Newell's defense, making 16 of their first 19 shots and romping to a 75-55 victory. All five starters — Lucas, Havlicek, Nowell, Siegfried, and Roberts — were in double figures.

Knight, who scored six points in the first tournament game, didn't score another the rest of the way. For his sophomore year, he averaged just 3.7. Still, he had been part of a championship team and he had two more years to make his mark, or so he thought.

Knight was 19 that spring, and his life was changing. Two months after the NCAA Tournament, he came home to Orrville for the weekend, went out, and returned to find his grandmother sitting in her favorite chair with her hat and coat still on. She was 82 and just back from shopping. He thought she was just napping, until he realized she wasn't asleep.

"He came tearing over to my house," says Pauline Boop. "I don't know if he said, 'Grandma is dead,' or 'Something is wrong with Grandma.' But, as big as I was, and I was real pregnant, I went over to his home and we took her out of the chair and laid Mrs. Henthorne on the floor and tried to call the emergency squad. And she had died.

"Several days after the funeral, I still hadn't delivered, and he asked me if I would go to the cemetery with him, which was in Akron. And I did. He never mentioned Mrs. Henthorne's name again."

Everyone knew how close they had been. Townspeople said Mrs. Henthorne had been feeling poorly for a while but hung on until the basketball season ended and Bobby could come home.

Knight had broken up with Kathy Harmon in their senior year in high school when she tired of his preoccupation with basketball. After his first year at Ohio State, he began dating another local girl, Nancy Falk, who had been a year behind at Orrville High, where Harmon remembers her as "very popular and really cute."

Nancy later told John Feinstein that Knight walked up to her at the swimming pool where she was lifeguarding and announced, "Well, now that you're grown up, would you like to go out?" She said yes. The rest of Knight's time at Ohio State, Nancy would drive the 50 miles to Columbus to see him and, a year after he graduated, they would marry.

Before Knight's junior year, two of the players who had been ahead of him, Joe Roberts and Dick Furry, had graduated, giving Bobby hope he would start at forward. Instead, the job went to senior Richie Hoyt.

"Bobby hated not playing," Fred Taylor said. "Which is exactly what you want. You want kids who want to compete and that's just what Bobby was. But he was very blunt about thinking he should play more, and there were times when that was difficult for me and for him."

"I don't know how many calls I got [from Knight]," Doc Boop told John Flynn. "One day Fred even called and said, 'If you don't come get this kid, I'm going to kill him.' Fred always had a problem getting Bobby to play the defense he wanted."

Nor was Knight's strong-willed mother, Hazel, going to hold still for this. "I saw a couple letters that she sent Fred Taylor," says assistant Jack Graff. "She said that your best basketball player, you're sitting him on the bench. And that wasn't true at all. We'd kind of laugh about it. We agreed what we were doing was right. And it's tough to criticize when you're winning that way."

Coming off their NCAA title, the Buckeyes seemed to be on the verge of a dynasty, going 24-0 in the regular season and rolling through their first three games in the NCAA Tournament. After they beat Kentucky by 13 in the regional finals, Adolph Rupp called them "truly great." In Kansas City for the Final Four, they beat Jack Ramsay's St. Joseph's team by 26 to advance to the finals against Cincinnati.

No one gave the Bearcats a chance. They were a surprise entry, in their first season without the great Oscar Robertson. Their new coach, Ed Jucker, had slowed them down since he didn't think they were good enough to run as they had with Robertson. One of the Kansas City papers joked that the Bearcats checked out of their rooms and left Kansas City after winning the semifinals. Even Jucker worried they "might be the victim of another blowout."

Jucker was just hoping to keep it close long enough to give his players a chance to get over the notion the Buckeyes were invincible. To everyone's surprise, the Bearcats and their tough defense kept it close all the way.

With 1:41 left, Cincinnati led, 61-59. Ohio State fans were curling into the fetal position when a little-noted junior named Bobby Knight came off the bench to make the biggest hoop of his life, tying it, 61-61.

"Knight got the ball in the left front court and faked a drive into the middle," says Jack Truitt, "then crossed over like he worked on it all his life and drove right in and laid it up. That tied the game for us. And Knight ran clear across the floor like a 100-yard dash sprinter and ran right at me and he said, 'See there, coach, I should have been in that game a long time ago!'

"I said, 'Sit down, you hot dog. You're lucky you're even on the floor.'"

No one scored again in regulation, but the Bearcats went on to shock the Buckeyes, winning 70-65 in overtime. Siegfried threw a towel over his head and cried through the trophy presentation. Havlicek and Knight wandered the streets of Kansas City afterward, disconsolate.

Knight had averaged only 4.4 points as a junior, virtually what he had as a sophomore, but off the floor he was the straw that stirred the drink. From the time he joined the varsity, Kessler, the beat writer, considered him "the biggest character on the whole ball club."

"Lucas was Mr. Perfect and Havlicek was Mr. Awed," says Kessler. "John was awestruck about everything. Gearhart was quiet and Nowell and Roberts were the only blacks on the ball club and hung out together. Knight was just a prankster all the time. He was kind of fun-loving, but then there were periods of sullenness."

On a trip to New York, Kessler went with the team to a dinner at Mama Leone's. "Mama Leone's had this wine cellar where you could eat and all the wine and champagne was lined up right behind you," he says. "Well, Knight just heists one of those bottles of champagne. He always did those kinds of things. This was Knight. He was a gangster and he had that snide little smile, which he still has today."

Knight wasn't any more serious as a student, but he was so intelligent he cruised through four years without effort, graduating with a degree in history and government with a 2.95 average, just under a B. "He'd borrow somebody's notes the night before a test and he would come out with an A and they would come out with a B or C," says Gary Gearhart.

Says Joe Roberts: "Bobby was almost a genius and he did not attend class with regularity. He ended up with A's and B's because he was really smart and because he absorbed a lot."

Knight fascinated his teammates and friends, as he always would. With Knight, no one ever knew what was coming. "Bobby was quite a split personality," said Havlicek. "There were times when we were good friends and then, like that, times when he wouldn't even talk to me."

"He could be very smooth and articulate when he wanted to be," says Nowell, "and he could be a person that you'd wonder, whoa, where is this coming from? Is this the same person?"

Knight entered his senior season in the fall of 1961 as a starting forward but lasted only two games before being recalled to the bench. This time, a junior named Doug McDonald became the starter.

"Senior year was very difficult for him," says Nowell, "because the truth is that a guy took his spot who Bobby probably expected to play in front of. But this guy was much better to play with because he moved the ball well, he was unselfish, he played defense and he was happy to be there. His name was Doug McDonald. He was only a junior."

If Knight hadn't known it before, he knew it now. This was how his entire college career would be: excruciating.

"It was terrible for him, really," Nancy Knight told John Flynn. "He wanted to play more than anyone can imagine. I would drive down from Orrville with his mom and dad to see the game and he would spend most of the time on the bench. Afterwards, he would tell me how much he hated it all. Then he'd cool off and spend the next three hours just talking about it."

Not that Knight's senior season was uneventful. In an early game at highly ranked Wake Forest, the Demon Deacon mascot, trying to pump the crowd up, cut into the Buckeyes' layup line. Knight punched him in the head. "That kind of set the tone for the game," said Havlicek. Ohio State won, 81-62.

The Buckeyes started 22-0 and clinched the Big Ten before losing a meaningless last game to Wisconsin. They were ranked No. 1 all season over Cincinnati, the defending champion, which lost twice. If anyone wondered who counted in Ohio, Governor Mike DiSalle announced at a banquet in Columbus that the Buckeyes deserved the top ranking.

As expected, Ohio State blew through the NCAA Tournament again, beating Western Kentucky by 16, Kentucky by 10, and Clemson by 16 on its way to a rematch against Cincinnati.

For the second year in a row, Cincinnati was the underdog. Few believed the Bearcats' 1961 victory had been anything but a fluke, rankling their players, who had to look up at Ohio State in the rankings all season.

This time, it wasn't even close. Cincinnati led by 18 points in the second half and cruised to a 71-59 win. Lucas, who had twisted his left knee against Clemson the night before, played with his leg taped like a mummy's, missed 12 of his 17 shots and scored 11 points in his last college game. Knight spent his last college game on the bench, despite a second half that was almost all garbage time.

The Fabulous Five had gone 78-6, with one NCAA title, three appearances in the Finals, and three Big Ten titles. They were 40-2 in the Big Ten but would be remembered as much for the promise they failed to realize. Knight started two games in his career, wouldn't be remembered for much of anything, and couldn't even manage a graceful exit.

It was a memorable basketball banquet that spring with the heralded class of '62 saying its good-byes. Lucas, who had had to bear the weight of all the expectations and disappointments, said it had been "the greatest four years of my life," and expressed his gratitude to Taylor. Knight, who had had to bear only his personal frustrations, gave a pointedly rueful speech.

"Bobby was very upset," Truitt says. "All the seniors speak at those things, you know? When he spoke, he wasn't thanking everybody and saying he had a great time and that kind of stuff. He kind of said he didn't have anything to be thankful for."

The Knights weren't done. After the banquet broke up, Knight and his mother, Hazel, confronted Taylor and the assistants.

"She was saying we had ruined her son," says Truitt. "That's exactly what she said. I guess she felt we'd ruined his confidence or whatever. We just stood there and listened....I would normally let them say their piece and forget about it, but that one stuck with me."

If Knight left Ohio State angry at Taylor, he had learned a lot from him. Knight would one day say that it was Taylor, not Knight, who taught the Big Ten about defense.

Knight's own struggles on defense had only made him study it harder. No one knew fundamentals and techniques as well as he did, even if it wasn't enough in the face of superior athleticism. Truitt remembers walking by his room one evening when he was a freshman and watching him working on blocking out a bed post.

"We had just worked that day on blocking out on the weak side," says Truitt. "Knight was working on his footwork, putting his inside foot forward and then making a reverse pivot."

It would become accepted wisdom that Knight's college career drove him to the heights he reached. He once told Sports Illustrated's Frank Deford, "You know why Havlicek became such a great pro? Just because he wanted to beat Lucas, that's why." As Deford noted, Knight was really talking about how badly he wanted to beat them both. Nevertheless, it's hard to imagine Knight averaging 15 points a game at Ohio State and turning out one bit different. It was just who he was.

"I think he came out of there saying, 'Goddammit, I'm going to prove I know this game,'" says Kaye Kessler. "He was sitting there on the bench pouting, frustrated that he wasn't playing but I think he was smart enough that he became a great student of a game. And I think he watched everything Fred Taylor did, starting with the clipboard Fred always carried."

Like Taylor, Knight would prepare meticulously, organizing practices to the minute. He adopted Taylor's philosophy of giving players roles according to their abilities, so shooters shot and rebounders rebounded — not that Knight would resemble Taylor much otherwise.

"Fred was somewhat distant when it came to communicating with players," says Gary Gearhart. "He was never good at talking to us one-on-one. I think that was one of the things Bobby picked up from him, to be more direct and communicative with players."

Did he ever.

Copyright © 2006 by The Literary Agency, Inc., and Mark Heisler

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Table of Contents



ONE: Bobby: Orrville and Columbus, 1940-62

TWO: Enfant Terrible: Cuyahoga Falls and Army, 1962-68

THREE: A Farewell to Arms: Army, 1968-71

FOUR: Sheriff Bob: Indiana, 1971-72

FIVE: Glory Days: Indiana, 1972-76

SIX: Our Man in San Juan: Indiana and Puerto Rico, 1976-79

SEVEN: The Book of Isiah: Indiana, 1979-82

EIGHT: The View from Olympus: Indiana and Los Angeles, 1981-84

NINE: Not Going Gently into That Good Knight: Indiana, 1984-87

TEN: The Honeymooners: Indiana, 1987-93

ELEVEN: Dinosaur: Indiana, 1993-99

TWELVE: Twilight of the Hoosiers: Indiana, 2000

THIRTEEN: The Lion in Lubbock: Texas Tech, 2001-


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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2006

    Down with the Bully

    Excellent. Any accurate focus on this bully is worth printing so the public knows what kind of person he really is. If half of the episodes of his treatment of young men, media etc. are true, he should not be allowed to coach. He is truly a self-centered, disgusting human being and this book brings this to light.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2013

    Good but one sided, tends to focus on Knights controversies than

    Good but one sided, tends to focus on Knights controversies than his achievments. A lot of people in the press dispise him because he stood his ground with the lying media so I expected a biased perspective. It was entertaining to read no doubt, but through a critical eye.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2008

    It was great

    We need Individuals more like this, maybe children today would have more direction and purpose. Bobby Knight has turned out to be nothing but an influence to men and women, having a positive member to look up too dosen't hurt. It shows that hard work and dedication is rewarding, beneficial.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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