Knight: My Story

Overview

Bob Knight was a head coach in college basketball at twenty-four, coach of an unbeaten NCAA champion at thirty-five, coach of the last amateur team to win the Olympic men's basketball gold medal at forty-three, and out of a job at not quite sixty.

His shock, disappointment and anger over Indiana University's manner of firing a twenty-nine-year employee comes through clearly in his account of his last turbulent year there.

And it is his account....

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Overview

Bob Knight was a head coach in college basketball at twenty-four, coach of an unbeaten NCAA champion at thirty-five, coach of the last amateur team to win the Olympic men's basketball gold medal at forty-three, and out of a job at not quite sixty.

His shock, disappointment and anger over Indiana University's manner of firing a twenty-nine-year employee comes through clearly in his account of his last turbulent year there.

And it is his account. Few people in sports have had more books written about them. This is the first by Bob Knight - one of the most literate, candid, quoted and outspoken men in American public life telling in this first-person account of his full, rich life.

Much of that life has been in basketball, most of it because of basketball, but it also has brought him forward as a coach who has proved academic responsibility and production of championship college athletic teams not only can co-exist but should.

His excitement as things start anew for him at Texas Tech is matched here by his characteristic frankness and remarkable recollection of a life he clearly has enjoyed. You'll see why, as he tells story after story - some delightful, some hilarious, some poignant, none of them dull.

Knight, as a sophomore front-line reserve on the Ohio State team that won the NCAA championship, became the first man to play on and coach a championship team when he led his 1975-76 Indiana team to a 32-0 season that was capped by an 86-68 victory over Michigan in the NCAA championship game at Philadelphia.

His Indiana teams in 1980-81 and 1986-87 also won NCAA titles, making him one of just four coaches in history to win as many as three championships. Twenty-six years later, the 1975-76 Indiana team still stands as the last unbeaten team in major- college men's basketball. Knight's coaching career includes six seasons at Army, where his teams - during the years when the Vietnam War made recruiting for West Point difficult - won 102 games and lost 50. He is one of five coaches who have won seven hundred games, and the only coach whose teams have won championships in the NCAA tournament, the National Invitation Tournament, the Olympic Games and the Pan American Games.

During all that he has been at the heart of more controversies while running a winning and squeaky-clean program than any coach of any sport any time or anywhere.

His excitement as things start anew for him is matched here by his candor and remarkable recollection of a life he clearly has enjoyed. You'll see why, with story after story - some delightful, some hilarious, some poignant, none of them dull: the story of Bob Knight's life.

Author Biography: Bobby Knight has proven over and over again that he is the finest basketball coach in America. No other coach can cite NCAA and NIT championships, and Olympic and Pan American gold medals among his achievements. He is one of only 13 coaches in college basketball history to record 700 or more victories. During Knight's 27-year stint at Indiana, the Hoosiers won an amazing 618 games, including 19 seasons of 20 or more wins, while losing only 220, a remarkable .737 winning percentage. His coaching achievements were honored in May of 1991 when he was inducted into the National Basketball Hall of Fame.

Bob Hammel was sports editor of the Bloomington Herald-Time for 30 years before he retired following the 1996 Olympics. He is the author of nine previous books, six of which were on Indiana basketball. Selected by his peers as Indiana Sportswriter of the Year 17 times, he has been president of the U.S. Basketball Writers Assn., the Football Writers Assn. of America, and the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Assn. He received the National Basketball Hall of Fame's Curt Gowdy Award (1995), the Silver Medal of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame (1996), the Jake Ward Award of the College Sports Information Directors Assn. (1996), and the Bert McGrane Award of the Football Writers Assn. of America (1996). He was inducted into the U.S. Basketball Writers Assn. Hall of Fame in 1990, the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame in 1997, and the Indiana Sportswriters and Broadcasters Assn. Hall of Fame in 1998.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
In Knight, Bob Knight recounts his basketball days as a player at Ohio State and a coach at Indiana with enough detail to satisfy even the most hard-core basketball junkies. The fiery coaching icon, known in part for his acrimonious relationship with the press, spices the text with his side of the story on the numerous controversies surrounding him.

With three championships and impeccable graduation rates, Knight proved with the Indiana Hoosiers that a coach could win and still obey the rules. Gold medals at the Pan-American Games in 1979 and the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984 only solidified Knight's basketball-coaching props. Clearly, Knight cares for and is even protective of his student-athletes. He writes, "Our big problem in college basketball is not with the kids we lose to the pros but the ones we pervert the process to admit…".

On the flip side, Knight's temper, hostility to the press, and player confrontations brought about serious ethical questions, ultimately leading to his dismissal from Indiana. Knight admits in the book that he's had a temper problem, and that has not always been right, but such admissions are sparse relative to the blizzard of denials and counteraccusations levied herewith. Typical of his sheer arrogance: "Being right and being quiet never has been a combination I was very good at." Certainly being right is a better strategy than being wrong -- there's no reason to yell about it.

Overall, though, he keeps Knight positive. An astounding number of personal testimonials -- prominent among them fishing buddy Ted Williams and former president and fellow pheasant hunter George H. W. Bush -- are evidence that Knight is indeed a people-person. He's defiant to the end, and readers on either side of the fence will find plenty of ammunition for or against the General. (Brenn Jones)

Publishers Weekly
Knight was the basketball coach of Indiana University for 29 years before being fired in September 2000. Because of his fiery some would say uncontrollable temper, Knight has acquired many critics over the years, but he was a hero in Indiana, where his teams had many winning years, including an undefeated season in 1975-1976. With Knight's colorful background, it's surprising that the coach has delivered a mostly colorless autobiography. After excruciating detail about his days as a high school and college basketball player, Knight bogs downs his story with dry recitations of the highlights of virtually every team he coached. And to demonstrate that he is not some rogue figure, Knight goes to great lengths to describe the many friendships he has developed over the years. The combative Knight does not emerge until he begins discussing his firing. In Knight's view, his termination was the result of the personal agenda of Indiana University president Myles Brand. Brand's determination to remove Knight was hardened by the national media, which Knight is convinced was out to destroy him. Knight, in turn, loathed most people in the media (among the exceptions is sportswriter and coauthor Hammel). As an autobiography, Knight's book is disappointing; however, college hoops fans can learn more about the game from this book than from most instructional guides. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Indiana University's basketball coach for 29 years, Knight is no stranger to controversy. His remarkably successful run there included three NCAA championships, no NCAA rules violations, and a high graduation rate for his players. However, over the years the national media defined him through a litany of incidents featuring his abrasive personality. In this autobiography, joined by coauthor Hammel, who has written about Knight and the Hoosiers several times, Knight gives his side of each story most significantly regarding his firing from Indiana last year. He does so with opinionated gusto not often seen in these politically correct times, although in these pages he does not appear to be the Neanderthal he is often said to be. The text is a lively read flavored with scores of anecdotes involving famous athletes, coaches, politicians, and other public figures with whom Knight has come into contact. Highly recommended for any basketball collection. John Maxymuk, Rutgers Univ., Camden, NJ Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A national college basketball figure reflects on his long and controversial coaching career and responds to critics. The name "Bobby Knight" has long been synonymous with an aggressive, disciplined style. Many know Knight through clips showing his infamous temper, a trait that led to his firing in 2000 as head coach at Indiana, a job he'd held for a remarkable 29 seasons. But Knight has also been one of college sports' most successful coaches, and, by his account, an inspiring friend and counsel to players, reporters, younger coaches, and even political acquaintances like Presidents Ford and Bush I. Here we read of Knight's Norman Rockwellesque boyhood in Ohio; success as a high-school athlete; career as a basketball player at Ohio State; first coaching job at Army at age 24; and ascent to the head coaching position at Indiana six years later. Knight describes his love of fishing, practical jokes, and companionship, not to mention the philosophy that's made him one of the winningest coaches in NCAA history. Fans will enjoy his recalling of key plays and personalities from games played decades ago, but most piquant is his response to the IU firing. Much of the uproar focused on footage that appeared to show Knight choking a player, though his temper was well known and there'd been dozens of other "infractions"-chair-hurling, the cursing out of refs and secretaries, a tasteless "misquote" in an interview with Connie Chung, the punching of a policeman-that over the years had come to embarrass the school even as Knight remained popular with students and fans. Only mildly repentant, he now insists that his dedication to winning and his tough style were his undoing, and he seems intent oncarrying on the Knight tradition at his new coaching assignment, Texas Tech. Not the definitive, balanced book about Knight that is bound to emerge someday, but one that will intrigue knowledgeable college hoop fans.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312311179
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 3/1/2003
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 692,765
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Bobby Knight has proven over and over again that he is the finest basketball coach in America. No other coach can cite NCAA and NIT championships, and Olympic and Pan American gold medals among his achievements. He is one of only 13 coaches in college basketball history to record 700 or more victories. During Knight's 27-year stint at Indiana, the Hoosiers won an amazing 618 games, including 19 seasons of 20 or more wins, while losing only 220, a remarkable .737 winning percentage. His coaching achievements were honored in May of 1991 when he was inducted into the National Basketball Hall of Fame.

Bob Hammel was sports editor of the Bloomington Herald-Time for 30 years before he retired following the 1996 Olympics. He is the author of nine previous books, six of which were on Indiana basketball. Selected by his peers as Indiana Sportswriter of the Year 17 times, he has been president of the U.S. Basketball Writers Assn., the Football Writers Assn. of America, and the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Assn. He received the National Basketball Hall of Fame's Curt Gowdy Award (1995), the Silver Medal of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame (1996), the Jake Ward Award of the College Sports Information Directors Assn. (1996), and the Bert McGrane Award of the Football Writers Assn. of America (1996). He was inducted into the U.S. Basketball Writers Assn. Hall of Fame in 1990, the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame in 1997, and the Indiana Sportswriters and Broadcasters Assn. Hall of Fame in 1998.

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Read an Excerpt

Knight

ONE:

The Eight Greatest Words

For the first time in thirty-six years, I don't have a basketball team.

I remember very clearly the thought going through my mind that day:

Only in America ...

I'm a pretty appreciative guy, especially where my country is concerned. It's nothing I have to think about. I've always felt that way. In the summer of 1984 when I was coaching the U.S. Olympic team, every stop I made, every group I talked to, I mentioned the eight greatest words any American ever put together: America, America, God shed His grace on thee ...

Through the winter of 2000-01 when I was speaking to different groups across the country, I made it a point virtually every time to ask World War II veterans to stand, then all people who had served in the military in service to our country. I did it because I enjoyed seeing those people stand and hear applause, and I enjoyed being one of the people applauding. I strongly feel we are all blessed by being where we are when we are, and there are some specific people and generations who deserve to feel proud and appreciated—like the New York City firemen and policemen of September 2001.

But this late-summer day in 1991 when I was pleasantly into my "only in America" reverie, I was wading in a river, fishing. The river was the Umba, in northern Russia. What I was thinking was that only in America could a guy like me, through a game like basketball, be standing there, having such a great experience.

Because fishing that same day in that same river, just around a bend, was my friend, Ted Williams. Ted was as close to a lifelong hero as I had, outside my family. As a boy I sat in the stands at Lakefront Stadium in Cleveland and marveled at his swing. I was all for the Indians, but when I saw that classic Ted Williams swing send a baseball screaming into the stands and watched that head-down Williams lope around the bases, I felt privileged.

The more I learned about him, the more I revered him—not only as a great baseball player but also as a genuine hero of two American wars; as a master fisherman; as one of the rare national figures who absolutely God-damned refused to knuckle under to a hostile press.

Here I was, a kid from a small Ohio town, a town not far from Cleveland where my parents had taken me on a few special Sundays to watch the Boston Red Sox and the great Ted Williams play against the Indians. All these years later, I clearly remember the chill I felt when he just stepped into the batter's box, and when he swung, and the unbelievably special times when I was there and that swing and a loud crack sent the ball out of the park ... .

And here I was, fishing with him ... because of basketball. I'm not too sure I've had another moment in my life when I felt more keenly, sharply aware of how much that game I loved had meant in my life.

I met Ted Williams because basketball introduced me to some people who could make it happen—me, the son of two small-town Americans: an Ohio railroad man and a schoolteacher.

I learned to fly-fish, my second-greatest sports passion, because of basketball. I was picked to make the trip, because of basketball. And I could afford to do it, because of basketball.

I've spent most of my life trying to give things back to the sport, because so many people in it have given so much of it to me. That day, on that river, in that special company, I knew as I always had that I owed the game more than I could ever give back.

But I was damned sure trying.

Jerry McKinnis of ESPN's Fishin' Hole show lined up the Russian trip. I had fished several times in the United States for shows Jerry did. I enjoyed them all, because Jerry is a hell of a guy and the best fisherman (Ted would take exception) I've ever met.

But he outdid himself by drawing up this trip. Jerry knew it, too. He's a big fan of both baseball and college basketball, a lifelong Cardinals fan who played the game well enough himself that he signed a professional contract coming out of high school. He knew from our previous travels and talks just where Ted Williams stood with me, and Ted had been Jerry's idol, too.

I couldn't say yes fast enough when Jerry suggested the trip. And I couldn't have been happier when I called Ted and he said, yeah, he could do that—he'd be glad to. Ted and I had already met. I had mentioned to Minneapolis sports columnist Sid Hartman how much I thought of Ted Williams, and Sid got him to call me. The first time I met him face to face, Jimmy Russo set it up.Jimmy, an Indiana native who was the "superscout" for the Orioles during their great years in the '60s and '70s, was as strong an Indiana University basketball fan as I ever met. He lived in St. Louis and always got over to Bloomington at least once during the season, and I looked forward to those visits because we had some great baseball talks each time. Jimmy was still with the Orioles when I went to spring training after we had won the NCAA championship in 1981. Ted happened to be at a game both Jimmy and I attended, and Jimmy took me over and introduced me to him. We had maintained some contact over the years, so his agreement to go to Russia with me had some background.

So did the trip itself. The summer of '91, baseball's All-Star Game was played in Toronto. President George Bush brought Ted and Joe DiMaggio to the White House for a ceremony, then the three of them got on a plane and went to the game. On the way, the president asked Ted about his summer plans. Ted told him about the fishing trip he and I were taking to Russia. "You and Knight?" the president said. "Jeez-us." History will record that we hadn't been out of the Soviet Union for a week before the government fell. We'd both like to take credit for that, but ...

Ted and I met in New York for the flight over. We were sitting together on the airplane, not too far into the flight, when he said:

"Okay, who do you think were the five most important Americans, in your lifetime?"

The first thing that strikes you about him is how smart he is. You are not dealing with a guy with ordinary intelligence. He is well-read, extremely opinionated, and he backs up his opinions with reasons. A mutual friend, broadcaster Curt Gowdy, had told me to be ready to argue with him, because there was nothing Ted liked better than that. It wasn't the worst news I'd ever heard; I don't mind a little debate myself, now and then.

And I knew from the way he asked me that question he had his own five.

I mentioned Franklin Roosevelt, and he agreed, finally. I knew he was an arch-Republican, but I thought he'd have to come around on Roosevelt.

He came in quickly with Richard Nixon, Joe Louis, and General Douglas MacArthur.

I said Harry Truman, and he didn't totally agree. His contention was, "God-dammit, you have The Bomb. Anybody can decide to drop The Bomb." I'm a big Truman man. We argued about that point. Yes, anybody could have made that decision. I don't think just anybody would have.

I picked George Marshall, the World War II general and the post-war secretaryof state who came up with the Marshall Plan that revived Europe. Ted didn't disagree with that.

We both talked about Dwight Eisenhower. One guy I mentioned was Will Rogers.

Ted was very big on Richard Nixon. He knew and liked Nixon. I wasn't inclined to argue. I think even some of Nixon's political critics feel he will go down as one of the better presidents. The negative was obvious: all the things represented by "I am not a crook."

I mentioned, for personal reasons, William Simon. He knew Simon and thought he was a brilliant guy. We were talking twentieth century, so Henry Ford was another one we both picked. I don't remember if Thomas Edison came up or not, but he surely should have. This went on for a while.

Then he wanted the five most overrated.

I said John Kennedy, and I got out of the hole I had dug with FDR. "You're a hell of a lot smarter than I thought you were from our other discussion," he said.

We both agreed that Robert McNamara and General William Westmoreland were on that list of five—three out of the same era.

And we discussed baseball. He thought the best player ever was Babe Ruth. Period. He didn't think anybody was even close.

He called Joe DiMaggio the best player of his era. I heard him say that many times. However, I wasn't going to accept that one without raising a point.

I told him in 1947 when DiMaggio edged him out for MVP because one Boston writer didn't even put Ted in his top ten, DiMaggio shouldn't have accepted the award. He didn't say anything, just went to talking about something else, which was all I needed to feel that was exactly the way he would have handled the '47 situation.

That was the quality that stood out for me during that whole conversation and has in every one I've had with him: how genuinely unfailingly gracious he is to players of his era who were supposed to be his rivals. Stan Musial, for example—"a great hitter and a great person," Ted called him.

Williams quit playing after the 1960 season—after he homered in his last time at bat and gave John Updike the material for what may be the greatest sports story I've ever read. Updike was a graduate student at Harvard when he attended that game, sitting not in a press box but in the stands, as a fan. In an article entitled "Kid Bids Hub Fans Adieu" that he wrote for The New Yorker, Updike described Williams's eighth-inning home run, on a one-and-one pitch, off the Orioles' Jack Fisher, and his run around the bases: "He ran as he always ran out home runs—hurriedly, unsmiling, head down, as if our praise were a storm of rain to get out of." Updike was part of the crowd roar that ran forminutes in an attempt to get Williams to step out from the dugout and tip his cap. "The papers said that the other players, and even the umpires on the field, begged him to come out and acknowledge us in some way," Updike wrote, "but he never did and did not now.

"Gods do not answer letters."

What a perfect line.

Updike also said Williams, by declining to go with the team to New York for a meaningless three-game series closing out the season, "knew how to do even that, the hardest thing. Quit."

But that almost wasn't Ted's last at-bat. In Russia he told me the Yankees tried to get him to play the next year, as a pinch-hitter and part-time outfielder—for the same salary he made with the Red Sox. Imagine what that would have been. "The next year" was 1961, the year Roger Maris hit sixty-one homers, and Mickey Mantle hit fifty-four. Now factor in Ted Williams, playing eighty-one games in the perfect stadium for a left-handed power hitter.

I thought about all that and had to ask him, "How could you not play a year in Yankee Stadium?" He just decided he had played enough.

"It was really tempting," he said. "But I'd had my day."

I had met Maris and become good friends with him. I think it's a shame that he died without ever being admitted to the Baseball Hall of Fame. I still think he will be, some day. Ted liked Maris, thought he was a great player, and worked hard to get him elected to the Hall of Fame.

He's proud that he has the highest on-base percentage in baseball history—"so I got on base all the time, but I hit 500 home runs." That's why he liked Musial and DiMaggio, because they hit for average but hit with good power, too. Lou Gehrig also. Ted played against Gehrig, and he saw Ruth in batting practice a few years after Ruth's playing career ended in 1935.

His teammate when he first came to the majors, Jimmy Foxx, was "a hell of a powerful hitter," Ted said. "There was a different sound to it when Foxx hit a baseball—like a cannon going off. Mantle was almost like that. He was a great player."

He called Bob Feller the best pitcher he faced. I couldn't resist saying: "Yeah, sure—I listened to those Indians-Red Sox games and you must have hit .500 against him." He just glared.

Feller, Virgil Trucks of Detroit, and Bob Lemon of Cleveland were his top three. The Yankees' Allie Reynolds and Vic Raschi, he said, were good pitchers but they played on a great team. He thought the Indians' Herb Score had a chance to be a great pitcher, until a line drive hit him in the face and he never was as good again.

I just listened most of the time, fascinated. But occasionally I'd make a comment. And sometimes he would say, "God-dammit, you're not dumb. You aren't dumb."

I told him of a conversation I had with Bill Dickey, the Hall of Fame catcher for the Yankees. I asked Dickey who was the fastest pitcher he faced. Before I could say the name, Ted cut right in: "He told you Lefty Grove was." He was right.

And I was right in crediting basketball for providing me with this opportunity with Ted, one of the richest experiences of my life.

 

Ten years later, I still feel indebted to basketball. My address has changed, but not my gratitude toward the game. In fact, in the months after the initial shock of being fired in my thirtieth year as Indiana University's basketball coach, I still was thinking of the next step I wanted to make, the next experiment I wanted to try, in the search for improving my basketball team.

I was fired September 10, 2000. I had already begun working with my team—a maximum of four players at a time, under NCAA rules, before full practice begins. October 15 was the first day that college basketball teams could practice in the 2000-01 season. The evening of October 14, the thought ran through my mind:

For the first time in thirty-six years, I don't have a basketball team. ...

It was the first time in a lot longer than that since a new season approached and I wasn't excited about getting it started. Add two years as an assistant coach at West Point; a year before that as a high school assistant at Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio; four years before that as a player at Ohio State; four years before that as a varsity high school player at Orrville, Ohio; and two years before that in junior high.

I hadn't quite turned sixty, and it had been forty-nine years since a fresh, new basketball season arrived without my being involved with a team.

The truth is I resented it like hell. I knew what I had set out to build at Indiana University. Winning games and championships was part of the dream going in, and not just as a by-product. I wanted to win those games and build those championship teams the way some people, primarily in the press, were saying could not be done anymore—by following NCAA rules; by recruiting kids who could and would be genuine students and four-year graduates as well as excellent basketball players and teams. I wanted to make the INDIANA they wore across their chests an identifying symbol that meant to people throughout the state, the Big Ten, and the country that inside that jerseywas a kid who would compete like hell and represent his school on the court and off it, during his college years and after them, in a way that would make the most important judges of all, that kid's parents, as proud as they could be.

To do all that and to win was the goal.

To win without doing all those things would have been to fail.

When they took direction of the Indiana University basketball program away from me, it didn't change my feeling about those twenty-nine years.

I had met my goal.

And I hadn't failed.

 

I was fired as Indiana University basketball coach while on a fishing trip in September 2000—fired in part because I was on a fishing trip, the spin later said. My being there supposedly proved my "insubordination."

Let me describe for you that "insubordination."

Late on Friday, September 8, at about 10:30 P.M., Myles Brand, the university president, called my home to advise me that he was going to be meeting with the university Trustees the next day. He knew I was planning to leave on a fishing trip to Canada at 5:00 the next morning. He asked me to cancel the trip so he could call me after he had met with the Trustees.

He wanted me to stay there so he could talk to me on the telephone after meeting with the Trustees. If he would have asked me to talk personally to the Trustees, I would have considered it, but I wasn't going to cancel the trip and disappoint people who had planned and made arrangements six months ago and already paid for the trip—not so he could talk to me on the telephone. There were telephones where I was going.

I called him about 7:30 that Sunday morning, and he told me I was fired.

We hadn't talked for thirty seconds when he said: "Well, Bob, the time to talk has passed. We're going to terminate you and move ahead.

"It really saddens me to do this."

By this time, I knew there were personal agendas. I said, "No it doesn't. It doesn't sadden you at all. The one thing left is that I want the financial considerations worked out as they should be."

"We'll take really good care of you, Bob."

I hung up the phone before I could say what I wanted to say. I wish I hadn't. I had already spent way too much time—certainly since May and actually for six years—holding myself back from instincts that had been reliable for me all my life. That's what disappointed me most about the ending to my relationshipwith Indiana University. Long before that telephone call, I hadn't done what I knew I had to do.

Quit.

 

In March 2000 when I was trying to get a pretty good team ready to play in the NCAA tournament, CNN carried a story that accused me of choking a player during a 1997 practice. In future pages, I'll get into details of what all happened next, but the net result was that I was told by Brand in May that I could stay on as coach under what the president called "zero tolerance."

Obviously, I should have quit right there. I know I should have quit years before, but certainly there.

Walter Byers, the retired executive director of the NCAA, was appalled by Brand's "zero tolerance" terms. He asked Wayne Duke, the retired Big Ten commissioner, to get in touch with me immediately and say that under no circumstances should I stay at Indiana with that held over me. His thoughts didn't get to me. I can't say I would have done anything different from what I did, but—as much respect as I have for Mr. Byers—I might have.

For twenty years I have felt no man has been anywhere close to Walter Byers as an administrator in athletics. One day in the early '80s, more on a whim than anything, I called the NCAA office in Kansas City and asked to speak to him. He came on the phone and said, "Coach, what can I do for you?" I said, "Really, nothing. I've heard about you all my life and I've played in your tournament several times—in fact, we've won it a couple of times. I just wanted to see if there actually was a Walter Byers."

He laughed, and we talked about several things.

From that moment on, I've had a very good relationship with him. He asked me to take part in several NCAA discussions or functions. One was special. The night before the 1988 semifinal games at Kansas City, the NCAA held a dinner celebrating its fiftieth tournament. I was invited, along with Pete Newell and Ray Meyer, to sit at Walter's table. That was one of the things in my coaching career that meant a lot to me.

Instead of sounding out people like Walter Byers, I tried to go on, just taking care of the basketball program figuring things would eventually work out. This was before I became aware of the agendas different people in the administration and the athletic department had. I tried right up through when—because of my fishing trip "insubordination" and other justifications just as flimsy—with a few hypocritical words I was fired.

I had a hard time accepting what happened. How could I believe that aftertwenty-nine years of turning out basketball teams and kids who followed the rules, went to school, graduated, and won championships, a university president and a lawyer-filled Board of Trustees could use a baseless case to rush to my firing?

More unbelievable to me was that I was still around to let them do it to me, four months after they couldn't find the reason to fire me but suited me up in the phony "zero tolerance" straitjacket so, in their minds, I could fire myself.

I was never even told what exactly was meant by "zero tolerance." Did it mean I couldn't get a technical foul? That I couldn't dispute something in the press? That I had to go through life without saying anything to anybody at any time? Brand said he made it clear. That's absolute bullshit. He never told me one thing about what mattered most in the situation he created: his interpretation of what those two words meant.

Zero tolerance was their term for what they would tolerate from me after Brand told the world in May that I had done a lot of terrible things but they were going to give me one last chance.

Last chance? Once these people—the president, his assistant, and enough members of the Board of Trustees—had started playing to the national media by building a flimsy case for firing me, I didn't have any chance. The idea of a last chance greatly irritated me because none of them had discussed with me the things they thought I should have been doing. When Bill Orwig, Paul Dietzel, Ralph Floyd, or John Ryan—men I had worked for and with most of my years at Indiana—thought I should do something, they told me what it was they wanted.

Instead, these people sought out and listened to everyone who had an accusation against me during the last twenty-five years and never—I mean never—got around to the very basic justice of confronting me with their charges and asking my version. I certainly would have had a response. When, after their May verdict was delivered, I finally heard or read in print their claims against me, I was as astonished as I was angry. I simply didn't do a number of things the world was given to believe as absolute fact.

And still I tried to coach. I remember talking with Dick Vitale months before any of this and telling him: "All I want to do is coach." That was so true that I let it affect my instinctive judgment.

At the end, I remembered something I had said to a friend just after I came to Indiana. They had hired me because they knew they had a major problem to clean up, and they cheered and praised me for getting it done—and, of course, for winning while doing it. But what I said to my friend even then was: "I'mlike the marshal brought in to clean up Dodge City. After a while when things have gone well, they always turn on the marshal."

So, yes, almost from the start I knew there would be a time when I should hand in my badge and ride away.

But quitting is a hard thing for me to do, and it became all the harder because I let myself get soft. I was just too comfortable in the life I had created for myself in a town that had been special to me.

My first six years as a head coach were at Army. When I left there, I could have spent a year searching out every college town in the country and not found a spot better for me at that time than Bloomington. I had the places and the friends to go fishing with me anytime I wanted. I could hunt birds in season, play golf whenever I wanted, go to lunch and talk with people I liked, go to dinner and enjoy the foods that appeal to me—great steaks, Mexican food, Italian food, Chinese food. All of that was right there, in a comfortable and friendly small town.

And I was coaching basketball at a big university in the most basketball-conscious state in the country, playing in the kind of conference that gets a team that is good enough to win a national championship tested and experienced and sharp enough to get it done. I don't just say that in theory. My years there produced three national championships, and—although as a history major I'm quite aware that all history ever cares about is battles won—at least three more championship banners could have been hanging in Assembly Hall if particularly devastating injuries had not come to teams that were good enough to win. I had done a pretty good job in Dodge City.

 

That morning as I dialed the call to Brand, I also thought of the tantalizing future that was so close out there. I thought of the group of kids I would be coaching in another month—great kids, the kind I knew I could win with. Four of them were 6-foot-10, and they could do some things. I already was working out ways to play all four of them together at times. And it would work, because two of them, freshman Jared Jeffries and sophomore Jeff Newton, could handle the ball and they could shoot, pass, and drive well enough to move out on the court and cause problems for any defensive players who were big enough to cover them when they were close to the basket. The other two were Kirk Haston, second-team All-Big Ten as a sophomore and, I thought, the best big man—maybe the best player—in the Big Ten in the season coming up; and George Leach, a sophomore center who was going to be the best shot-blocker I ever coached.

I had high hopes for this team; I felt we could win more than sixty games over the next two years with a real shot at the 2002 NCAA championship. Through my twenty-nine years at Indiana, I knew what good teams looked like, and what they had to have to be really good. Seven of my twenty-nine teams at Indiana were either ranked No. 1 in the country at some point during the year or won the NCAA championship. Fourteen others—twenty-one in all out of the twenty-nine—were ranked in the Top Ten at some point in the season.

None of those teams ever had four big guys as good as these kids.

Jeffries grew up right in Bloomington, far and away the best player produced there in my twenty-nine years. He was so strong academically he could have gone anywhere he wanted. Duke, which has grown into the premier program in college basketball under a player I once coached, Mike Krzyzewski, was the other school he considered before making his choice known.

I felt all along he would choose Indiana. His dad and mom were strong, supportive people for him, people I liked a lot, and they were doing what they should have done: leaving the final decision up to Jared. I'm sure he didn't surprise them any more than he did me when he chose Indiana. And I'm sure they were as happy about it as I was.

In Atlanta, Georgia, A. J. Moye was a straight-A student who physically resembled one of our great players of the past, Quinn Buckner—a different type of player but just as bright, just as good a kid, with leadership potential, like Buckner. A. J. also picked Indiana.

In picking Indiana, those kids were picking me. They each said it in a dozen different ways: I want to play for Bob Knight.

They said that to a national media pack that was kind of shocked. My detractors in the media have never been able to believe that anyone would want to play for me. These kids did, and they didn't want to play for me a bit more than I wanted to coach them and the other kids we were blending together into this new team.

No, I damned sure didn't want to turn my back and quit on kids like those incoming freshmen.

Or on Haston, who had lost his mother in a horrible Tennessee tornado disaster a year before and even more than most kids we've had over the years thought of our basketball team as family.

Or on Leach, whose first college season was set back a year by inept scholarship-processing procedures at his high school and within our own coaching staff, and by the infuriating, mind-boggling stubbornness of NCAA committees.

But even with all of this, I should have walked away. And that's what bothered me the most. I hadn't done what I knew inside I had to do. Walk away. From a rotten mess.

I wasn't ready even then to walk away from basketball. I felt strongly that surely somewhere there was a school and an environment where I could enjoy coaching again.

KNIGHT. Copyright © 2002 by Bob Knight and Bob Hammel. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.

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First Chapter

One: The Eight Greatest Words


For the first time in thirty-six years, I don't have a basketball team. I remember very clearly the thought going through my mind that day:

Only in America . . .

I'm a pretty appreciative guy, especially where my country is concerned. It's nothing I have to think about. I've always felt that way. In the summer of 1984 when I was coaching the U.S. Olympic team, every stop I made, every group I talked to, I mentioned the eight greatest words any American ever put together: America, America, God shed His grace on thee . . .

Through the winter of 2000-01 when I was speaking to different groups across the country, I made it a point virtually every time to ask World War II veterans to stand, then all people who had served in the military in service to our country. I did it because I enjoyed seeing those people stand and hear applause, and I enjoyed being one of the people applauding. I strongly feel we are all blessed by being where we are when we are, and there are some specific people and generations who deserve to feel proud and appreciated--like the New York City firemen and policemen of September 2001.

But this late-summer day in 1991 when I was pleasantly into my "only in America" reverie, I was wading in a river, fishing. The river was the Umba, in northern Russia. What I was thinking was that only in America could a guy like me, through a game like basketball, be standing there, having such a great experience.

Because fishing that same day in that same river, just around a bend, was my friend, Ted Williams. Ted was as close to a lifelong hero as I had, outside my family. As a boy I sat in the standsat Lakefront Stadium in Cleveland and marveled at his swing. I was all for the Indians, but when I saw that classic Ted Williams swing send a baseball screaming into the stands and watched that head-down Williams lope around the bases, I felt privileged.

The more I learned about him, the more I revered him--not only as a great baseball player but also as a genuine hero of two American wars; as a master fisherman; as one of the rare national figures who absolutely God-damned refused to knuckle under to a hostile press.

Here I was, a kid from a small Ohio town, a town not far from Cleveland where my parents had taken me on a few special Sundays to watch the Boston Red Sox and the great Ted Williams play against the Indians. All these years later, I clearly remember the chill I felt when he just stepped into the batter's box, and when he swung, and the unbelievably special times when I was there and that swing and a loud crack sent the ball out of the park. . . .

And here I was, fishing with him . . . because of basketball. I'm not too sure I've had another moment in my life when I felt more keenly, sharply aware of how much that game I loved had meant in my life.

I met Ted Williams because basketball introduced me to some people who could make it happen--me, the son of two small-town Americans: an Ohio railroad man and a schoolteacher.

I learned to fly-fish, my second-greatest sports passion, because of basketball. I was picked to make the trip, because of basketball. And I could afford to do it, because of basketball.

I've spent most of my life trying to give things back to the sport, because so many people in it have given so much of it to me. That day, on that river, in that special company, I knew as I always had that I owed the game more than I could ever give back.

But I was damned sure trying.

Jerry McKinnis of ESPN's Fishin' Hole show lined up the Russian trip. I had fished several times in the United States for shows Jerry did. I enjoyed them all, because Jerry is a hell of a guy and the best fisherman (Ted would take exception) I've ever met.

But he outdid himself by drawing up this trip. Jerry knew it, too. He's a big fan of both baseball and college basketball, a lifelong Cardinals fan who played the game well enough himself that he signed a professional contract coming out of high school. He knew from our previous travels and talks just where Ted Williams stood with me, and Ted had been Jerry's idol, too.

I couldn't say yes fast enough when Jerry suggested the trip. And I couldn't have been happier when I called Ted and he said, yeah, he could do that--he'd be glad to. Ted and I had already met. I had mentioned to Minneapolis sports columnist Sid Hartman how much I thought of Ted Williams, and Sid got him to call me. The first time I met him face to face, Jimmy Russo set it up. Jimmy, an Indiana native who was the "superscout" for the Orioles during their great years in the '60s and '70s, was as strong an Indiana University basketball fan as I ever met. He lived in St. Louis and always got over to Bloomington at least once during the season, and I looked forward to those visits because we had some great baseball talks each time. Jimmy was still with the Orioles when I went to spring training after we had won the NCAA championship in 1981. Ted happened to be at a game both Jimmy and I attended, and Jimmy took me over and introduced me to him. We had maintained some contact over the years, so his agreement to go to Russia with me had some background.

So did the trip itself. The summer of '91, baseball's All-Star Game was played in Toronto. President George Bush brought Ted and Joe DiMaggio to the White House for a ceremony, then the three of them got on a plane and went to the game. On the way, the president asked Ted about his summer plans. Ted told him about the fishing trip he and I were taking to Russia. "You and Knight?" the president said. "Jeez-us." History will record that we hadn't been out of the Soviet Union for a week before the government fell. We'd both like to take credit for that, but . . .

Ted and I met in New York for the flight over. We were sitting together on the airplane, not too far into the flight, when he said:

"Okay, who do you think were the five most important Americans, in your lifetime?"

The first thing that strikes you about him is how smart he is. You are not dealing with a guy with ordinary intelligence. He is well-read, extremely opinionated, and he backs up his opinions with reasons. A mutual friend, broadcaster Curt Gowdy, had told me to be ready to argue with him, because there was nothing Ted liked better than that. It wasn't the worst news I'd ever heard; I don't mind a little debate myself, now and then.

And I knew from the way he asked me that question he had his own five. I mentioned Franklin Roosevelt, and he agreed, finally. I knew he was an arch-Republican, but I thought he'd have to come around on Roosevelt.

He came in quickly with Richard Nixon, Joe Louis, and General Douglas MacArthur. I said Harry Truman, and he didn't totally agree. His contention was, "God-dammit, you have The Bomb. Anybody can decide to drop The Bomb." I'm a big Truman man. We argued about that point. Yes, anybody could have made that decision. I don't think just anybody would have.

I picked George Marshall, the World War II general and the post-war secretary of state who came up with the Marshall Plan that revived Europe. Ted didn't disagree with that.

We both talked about Dwight Eisenhower. One guy I mentioned was Will Rogers. Ted was very big on Richard Nixon. He knew and liked Nixon. I wasn't inclined to argue. I think even some of Nixon's political critics feel he will go down as one of the better presidents. The negative was obvious: all the things represented by "I am not a crook."

I mentioned, for personal reasons, William Simon. He knew Simon and thought he was a brilliant guy. We were talking twentieth century, so Henry Ford was another one we both picked. I don't remember if Thomas Edison came up or not, but he surely should have. This went on for a while.

Then he wanted the five most overrated.

I said John Kennedy, and I got out of the hole I had dug with FDR. "You're a hell of a lot smarter than I thought you were from our other discussion," he said.

We both agreed that Robert McNamara and General William Westmoreland were on that list of five--three out of the same era.

And we discussed baseball. He thought the best player ever was Babe Ruth. Period. He didn't think anybody was even close.

He called Joe DiMaggio the best player of his era. I heard him say that many times. However, I wasn't going to accept that one without raising a point.

I told him in 1947 when DiMaggio edged him out for MVP because one Boston writer didn't even put Ted in his top ten, DiMaggio shouldn't have accepted the award. He didn't say anything, just went to talking about something else, which was all I needed to feel that was exactly the way he would have handled the '47 situation.

That was the quality that stood out for me during that whole conversation and has in every one I've had with him: how genuinely unfailingly gracious he is to players of his era who were supposed to be his rivals. Stan Musial, for example-"a great hitter and a great person," Ted called him.

Williams quit playing after the 1960 season--after he homered in his last time at bat and gave John Updike the material for what may be the greatest sports story I've ever read. Updike was a graduate student at Harvard when he attended that game, sitting not in a press box but in the stands, as a fan. In an article entitled "Kid Bids Hub Fans Adieu" that he wrote for The New Yorker, Updike described Williams's eighth-inning home run, on a one-and-one pitch, off the Orioles' Jack Fisher, and his run around the bases: "He ran as he always ran out home runs--hurriedly, unsmiling, head down, as if our praise were a storm of rain to get out of." Updike was part of the crowd roar that ran for minutes in an attempt to get Williams to step out from the dugout and tip his cap. "The papers said that the other players, and even the umpires on the field, begged him to come out and acknowledge us in some way," Updike wrote, "but he never did and did not now."

"Gods do not answer letters."

What a perfect line.

Updike also said Williams, by declining to go with the team to New York for a meaningless three-game series closing out the season, "knew how to do even that, the hardest thing. Quit."

But that almost wasn't Ted's last at-bat. In Russia he told me the Yankees tried to get him to play the next year, as a pinch-hitter and part-time outfielder--for the same salary he made with the Red Sox. Imagine what that would have been. "The next year" was 1961, the year Roger Maris hit sixty-one homers, and Mickey Mantle hit fifty-four. Now factor in Ted Williams, playing eighty-one games in the perfect stadium for a left-handed power hitter.

I thought about all that and had to ask him, "How could you not play a year in Yankee Stadium?" He just decided he had played enough.

"It was really tempting," he said. "But I'd had my day."

I had met Maris and become good friends with him. I think it's a shame that he died without ever being admitted to the Baseball Hall of Fame. I still think he will be, some day. Ted liked Maris, thought he was a great player, and worked hard to get him elected to the Hall of Fame.

He's proud that he has the highest on-base percentage in baseball history--"so I got on base all the time, but I hit 500 home runs." That's why he liked Musial and DiMaggio, because they hit for average but hit with good power, too. Lou Gehrig also. Ted played against Gehrig, and he saw Ruth in batting practice a few years after Ruth's playing career ended in 1935.

His teammate when he first came to the majors, Jimmy Foxx, was "a hell of a powerful hitter," Ted said. "There was a different sound to it when Foxx hit a baseball--like a cannon going off. Mantle was almost like that. He was a great player."

He called Bob Feller the best pitcher he faced. I couldn't resist saying: "Yeah, sure--I listened to those Indians/Red Sox games and you must have hit .500 against him." He just glared.

Feller, Virgil Trucks of Detroit, and Bob Lemon of Cleveland were his top three. The Yankees' Allie Reynolds and Vic Raschi, he said, were good pitchers but they played on a great team. He thought the Indians' Herb Score had a chance to be a great pitcher, until a line drive hit him in the face and he never was as good again.

I just listened most of the time, fascinated. But occasionally I'd make a comment. And sometimes he would say, "God-dammit, you're not dumb. You aren't dumb."

I told him of a conversation I had with Bill Dickey, the Hall of Fame catcher for the Yankees. I asked Dickey who was the fastest pitcher he faced. Before I could say the name, Ted cut right in: "He told you Lefty Grove was." He was right.

And I was right in crediting basketball for providing me with this opportunity with Ted, one of the richest experiences of my life.

Ten years later, I still feel indebted to basketball. My address has changed, but not my gratitude toward the game. In fact, in the months after the initial shock of being fired in my thirtieth year as Indiana University's basketball coach, I still was thinking of the next step I wanted to make, the next experiment I wanted to try, in the search for improving my basketball team. I was fired September 10, 2000. I had already begun working with my team--a maximum of four players at a time, under NCAA rules, before full practice begins. October 15 was the first day that college basketball teams could practice in the 2000/01 season. The evening of October 14, the thought ran through my mind:

For the first time in thirty-six years, I don't have a basketball team. . . . It was the first time in a lot longer than that since a new season approached and I wasn't excited about getting it started. Add two years as an assistant coach at West Point; a year before that as a high school assistant at Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio; four years before that as a player at Ohio State; four years before that as a varsity high school player at Orrville, Ohio; and two years before that in junior high.

I hadn't quite turned sixty, and it had been forty-nine years since a fresh, new basketball season arrived without my being involved with a team.

The truth is I resented it like hell. I knew what I had set out to build at Indiana University. Winning games and championships was part of the dream going in, and not just as a by-product. I wanted to win those games and build those championship teams the way some people, primarily in the press, were saying could not be done anymore--by following NCAA rules; by recruiting kids who could and would be genuine students and four-year graduates as well as excellent basketball players and teams. I wanted to make the indiana they wore across their chests an identifying symbol that meant to people throughout the state, the Big Ten, and the country that inside that jersey was a kid who would compete like hell and represent his school on the court and off it, during his college years and after them, in a way that would make the most important judges of all, that kid's parents, as proud as they could be.

To do all that and to win was the goal.

To win without doing all those things would have been to fail.

When they took direction of the Indiana University basketball program away from me, it didn't change my feeling about those twenty-nine years.

I had met my goal.

And I hadn't failed.

I was fired as Indiana University basketball coach while on a fishing trip in September 2000--fired in part because I was on a fishing trip, the spin later said. My being there supposedly proved my "insubordination."

Let me describe for you that "insubordination."

Late on Friday, September 8, at about 10:30 p.m., Myles Brand, the university president, called my home to advise me that he was going to be meeting with the university Trustees the next day. He knew I was planning to leave on a fishing trip to Canada at 5:00 the next morning. He asked me to cancel the trip so he could call me after he had met with the Trustees.

He wanted me to stay there so he could talk to me on the telephone after meeting with the Trustees. If he would have asked me to talk personally to the Trustees, I would have considered it, but I wasn't going to cancel the trip and disappoint people who had planned and made arrangements six months ago and already paid for the trip--not so he could talk to me on the telephone. There were telephones where I was going.

I called him about 7:30 that Sunday morning, and he told me I was fired. We hadn't talked for thirty seconds when he said: "Well, Bob, the time to talk has passed. We're going to terminate you and move ahead. It really saddens me to do this."

By this time, I knew there were personal agendas. I said, "No it doesn't. It doesn't sadden you at all. The one thing left is that I want the financial considerations worked out as they should be."

"We'll take really good care of you, Bob."

I hung up the phone before I could say what I wanted to say. I wish I hadn't. I had already spent way too much time--certainly since May and actually for six years--holding myself back from instincts that had been reliable for me all my life. That's what disappointed me most about the ending to my relationship with Indiana University. Long before that telephone call, I hadn't done what I knew I had to do.

Quit.

In March 2000 when I was trying to get a pretty good team ready to play in the NCAA tournament, CNN carried a story that accused me of choking a player during a 1997 practice. In future pages, I'll get into details of what all happened next, but the net result was that I was told by Brand in May that I could stay on as coach under what the president called "zero tolerance."

Obviously, I should have quit right there. I know I should have quit years before, but certainly there.

Walter Byers, the retired executive director of the NCAA, was appalled by Brand's "zero tolerance" terms. He asked Wayne Duke, the retired Big Ten commissioner, to get in touch with me immediately and say that under no circumstances should I stay at Indiana with that held over me. His thoughts didn't get to me. I can't say I would have done anything different from what I did, but--as much respect as I have for Mr. Byers--I might have.

For twenty years I have felt no man has been anywhere close to Walter Byers as an administrator in athletics. One day in the early '80s, more on a whim than anything, I called the NCAA office in Kansas City and asked to speak to him. He came on the phone and said, "Coach, what can I do for you?" I said, "Really, nothing. I've heard about you all my life and I've played in your tournament several times--in fact, we've won it a couple of times. I just wanted to see if there actually was a Walter Byers."

He laughed, and we talked about several things.

From that moment on, I've had a very good relationship with him. He asked me to take part in several NCAA discussions or functions. One was special. The night before the 1988 semifinal games at Kansas City, the NCAA held a dinner celebrating its fiftieth tournament. I was invited, along with Pete Newell and Ray Meyer, to sit at Walter's table. That was one of the things in my coaching career that meant a lot to me.

Instead of sounding out people like Walter Byers, I tried to go on, just taking care of the basketball program figuring things would eventually work out. This was before I became aware of the agendas different people in the administration and the athletic department had. I tried right up through when--because of my fishing trip "insubordination" and other justifications just as flimsy--with a few hypocritical words I was fired.

I had a hard time accepting what happened. How could I believe that after twenty-nine years of turning out basketball teams and kids who followed the rules, went to school, graduated, and won championships, a university president and a lawyer-filled Board of Trustees could use a baseless case to rush to my firing?

More unbelievable to me was that I was still around to let them do it to me, four months after they couldn't find the reason to fire me but suited me up in the phony "zero tolerance" straitjacket so, in their minds, I could fire myself. I was never even told what exactly was meant by "zero tolerance." Did it mean I couldn't get a technical foul? That I couldn't dispute something in the press? That I had to go through life without saying anything to anybody at any time? Brand said he made it clear. That's absolute bullshit. He never told me one thing about what mattered most in the situation he created: his interpretation of what those two words meant.

Zero tolerance was their term for what they would tolerate from me after Brand told the world in May that I had done a lot of terrible things but they were going to give me one last chance.

Last chance? Once these people--the president, his assistant, and enough members of the Board of Trustees--had started playing to the national media by building a flimsy case for firing me, I didn't have any chance. The idea of a last chance greatly irritated me because none of them had discussed with me the things they thought I should have been doing. When Bill Orwig, Paul Dietzel, Ralph Floyd, or John Ryan--men I had worked for and with most of my years at Indiana--thought I should do something, they told me what it was they wanted.

Instead, these people sought out and listened to everyone who had an accusation against me during the last twenty-five years and never--I mean never--got around to the very basic justice of confronting me with their charges and asking my version. I certainly would have had a response. When, after their May verdict was delivered, I finally heard or read in print their claims against me, I was as astonished as I was angry. I simply didn't do a number of things the world was given to believe as absolute fact.

And still I tried to coach. I remember talking with Dick Vitale months before any of this and telling him: "All I want to do is coach." That was so true that I let it affect my instinctive judgment.

At the end, I remembered something I had said to a friend just after I came to Indiana. They had hired me because they knew they had a major problem to clean up, and they cheered and praised me for getting it done--and, of course, for winning while doing it. But what I said to my friend even then was: "I'm like the marshal brought in to clean up Dodge City. After a while when things have gone well, they always turn on the marshal."

So, yes, almost from the start I knew there would be a time when I should hand in my badge and ride away.

But quitting is a hard thing for me to do, and it became all the harder because I let myself get soft. I was just too comfortable in the life I had created for myself in a town that had been special to me.

My first six years as a head coach were at Army. When I left there, I could have spent a year searching out every college town in the country and not found a spot better for me at that time than Bloomington. I had the places and the friends to go fishing with me anytime I wanted. I could hunt birds in season, play golf whenever I wanted, go to lunch and talk with people I liked, go to dinner and enjoy the foods that appeal to me--great steaks, Mexican food, Italian food, Chinese food. All of that was right there, in a comfortable and friendly small town.

And I was coaching basketball at a big university in the most basketball-conscious state in the country, playing in the kind of conference that gets a team that is good enough to win a national championship tested and experienced and sharp enough to get it done. I don't just say that in theory. My years there produced three national championships, and--although as a history major I'm quite aware that all history ever cares about is battles won--at least three more championship banners could have been hanging in Assembly Hall if particularly devastating injuries had not come to teams that were good enough to win. I had done a pretty good job in Dodge City.

That morning as I dialed the call to Brand, I also thought of the tantalizing future that was so close out there. I thought of the group of kids I would be coaching in another month--great kids, the kind I knew I could win with. Four of them were 6-foot-10, and they could do some things. I already was working out ways to play all four of them together at times. And it would work, because two of them, freshman Jared Jeffries and sophomore Jeff Newton, could handle the ball and they could shoot, pass, and drive well enough to move out on the court and cause problems for any defensive players who were big enough to cover them when they were close to the basket. The other two were Kirk Haston, second-team AllÐBig Ten as a sophomore and, I thought, the best big man--maybe the best player--in the Big Ten in the season coming up; and George Leach, a sophomore center who was going to be the best shot-blocker I ever coached.

I had high hopes for this team; I felt we could win more than sixty games over the next two years with a real shot at the 2002 NCAA championship. Through my twenty-nine years at Indiana, I knew what good teams looked like, and what they had to have to be really good. Seven of my twenty-nine teams at Indiana were either ranked No. 1 in the country at some point during the year or won the NCAA championship. Fourteen others--twenty-one in all out of the twenty-nine--were ranked in the Top Ten at some point in the season.

None of those teams ever had four big guys as good as these kids.

Jeffries grew up right in Bloomington, far and away the best player produced there in my twenty-nine years. He was so strong academically he could have gone anywhere he wanted. Duke, which has grown into the premier program in college basketball under a player I once coached, Mike Krzyzewski, was the other school he considered before making his choice known.

I felt all along he would choose Indiana. His dad and mom were strong, supportive people for him, people I liked a lot, and they were doing what they should have done: leaving the final decision up to Jared. I'm sure he didn't surprise them any more than he did me when he chose Indiana. And I'm sure they were as happy about it as I was.

In Atlanta, Georgia, A. J. Moye was a straight-A student who physically resembled one of our great players of the past, Quinn Buckner--a different type of player but just as bright, just as good a kid, with leadership potential, like Buckner. A. J. also picked Indiana.

In picking Indiana, those kids were picking me. They each said it in a dozen different ways: I want to play for Bob Knight.

They said that to a national media pack that was kind of shocked. My detractors in the media have never been able to believe that anyone would want to play for me. These kids did, and they didn't want to play for me a bit more than I wanted to coach them and the other kids we were blending together into this new team. No, I damned sure didn't want to turn my back and quit on kids like those incoming freshmen.

Or on Haston, who had lost his mother in a horrible Tennessee tornado disaster a year before and even more than most kids we've had over the years thought of our basketball team as family.

Or on Leach, whose first college season was set back a year by inept scholarship-processing procedures at his high school and within our own coaching staff, and by the infuriating, mind-boggling stubbornness of NCAA committees. But even with all of this, I should have walked away. And that's what bothered me the most. I hadn't done what I knew inside I had to do. Walk away. From a rotten mess.

I wasn't ready even then to walk away from basketball. I felt strongly that surely somewhere there was a school and an environment where I could enjoy coaching again.


Copyright 2002 by Bob Knight and Bob Hammel
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Interviews & Essays

Exclusive Author Essay

WINNING
Among all the things I believe, and all I've gathered from the people who have influenced me, I think one tops the list:

The importance of preparation.

We talk in coaching about "winners" -- kids, and I've had a lot of them, who just will not allow themselves or their team to lose.

Coaches call that a will to win.

I don't. I think that puts the emphasis in the wrong place.

Everybody has a will to win. What's far more important is having the will to prepare to win.

We all want to win. We all talk about winning. But I'm a great believer in understanding what goes into losing, because if we know how we can lose, if we know the factors or reasons that cause us to lose, and we eliminate those things, we stand a much better chance of winning. I don't apologize to anybody for really wanting to win or for hating to lose.

Win at any cost?

No. Absolutely not. I've never understood how anybody who cheated to get a player, or players, could take any satisfaction whatsoever out of whatever winning came afterward.

OFFICIALS
I'm supposed to be a guy perpetually at war with officials, and the truth is I've had a great relationship with a lot of them. Dozens.

And my all-time favorite was Charlie Fouty. Before either of us ever got involved with the Big Ten, my Army team played Florida State and Charlie worked the game -- with Ralph Stout, another very good official. Very early in the game, one of them called a three-second violation on my center, Mike Gyovai.

I got all over them right away: "What kind of call is that? This isn't a junior high game."

Just after this happened, there was a time-out. Charlie came over and told me, "Now, Coach, here's the deal. We may have been wrong on that call, so I'll tell you what we'll do. We'll let your center stay in the lane just as much as he wants to from now on. We won't make the three-second call.

"But to be fair I've got to go down there and tell that big red-headed kid from Florida State he can do the same thing."

The big red-headed kid was Dave Cowens. I said, "I believe we'll just leave it the way it is, Charlie."

THE PRESS
I've wondered how many guys who talk or write so knowingly ever played a team sport. I've always contended there's a huge segment of people who cover sports who don't like sports people -- they don't like the salaries athletes or coaches get, they envy athletes the recognition they get and the aura around them, and they have ever since those were the guys getting girlfriends in high school.

They're an amazing group.

You should see some of the guys who call me fat.

You should see how some of these guys dress -- and then criticize my apparel.

RECRUITING GURUS
The credibility people give to national rankings of high school players absolutely baffles me.

I can't even imagine a coach, ever, who was capable of saying: "This kid is the 32nd-best or the 34th-best small forward in the country." I'm talking about a coach, a guy like me who has coached in college for 30 years. To rate this kid as the best prospect, or the 12th-best prospect, or the 80th-best prospect -- that's impossible.

The ratings silliness doesn't stop with individual players. Every year, you also see teams ranked for their incoming recruits, and just about every year someone has the greatest class ever put together -- "What a great recruiting class!

A great recruiting class is a class that, after having been there, has won a hell of a lot of games. It isn't a class that's coming in, it's a class that's going out.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL'S FUTURE
Our big problem in college basketball is not with the kids we lose to the pros but the ones we pervert the process to admit -- the ones who are in college only to become pros and take up a place that a genuine, degree-seeking student could have.

That's all we should be worrying about regarding the future of college basketball -- not kids leaving high school to go to the pros, not kids leaving college early to go to the pros, but whether the kids who go to college to play ball, get an education, and maybe have a shot at the NBA are getting an honest chance to do all that. There's already been way too much compromising to get kids who have no interest in a college education in school so they can play a year or two.

The more of those who go straight from high school to the NBA, the better off college basketball will be.

LOOKING BACK
What I hadn't noticed about my Indiana years was something that was missing: the significance and satisfaction of beating somebody you weren't supposed to beat. That happened a lot at Army, rarely at Indiana, because of how fast things happened for us there. My fourth and fifth years at Indiana were so outstanding that in many ways they were almost a climax to a career. From there on, I realize now, we were just trying to match that 63–1 stretch.

We never did.

Neither did anybody else.

I realize now that constantly trying to get back to a level that very few have ever reached weighs on you. You can shrug off the criticism you hear ("The game has passed him by"), but I don't think you can help but feel your own internal pressure. There's such a tension -- you're more irritated by things that don't go right and less satisfied when they do.

The contrast is the way I feel at Texas Tech -- a sense of so many things we can do, not fighting to do something that just might be an impossibility.

LIFE IN TEXAS
One day last fall I was in the Dallas airport leaning against a wall. Two guys started walking toward me. I knew they were coming right at me. And I was checking them out.

In the Midwest, I grew up seeing all these rhinestone cowboys -- guys whose Levi's were designer jeans, too tight for them, guys who could hardly walk without stumbling in cowboy boots that had never seen a cow. Down here, there's no mistaking the real thing, and these two guys were genuine -- they were in their 70s and wearing straw hats, plaid shirts, worn Levi's, and worn cowboy boots. One of them says, "Hey, Coach, me and Charlie are big A&M fans, and we wanna know how long it's going to take you to straighten things out at Tech."

I looked at him a second and said, "November. I didn't come down here to get my ass beat."

He hit his buddy on the back and said: "Charlie, what'd I tell you? The hell with A&M. We're Tech fans from now on." (Bob Knight)

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 6, 2012

    Awesome!

    I have read a lot of biographies, and this is one of the best. The man is a legend. He tells it like it is and doesn't apologize. Great read!

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

    Posted December 12, 2002

    Outstanding Story For A Outstanding Leader!

    First of all, let me say that I am a big Texas Tech fan. I always have been and I always will be. But Coach Knight's arrival has caused my enthuisiasm to reach an all time high. In his short time at Tech he has not only brought the team back to their winning ways, but he has done so with integrity. This book really gives a glimpse into the life of a basketball genius and a fine American citizen. Knight is a very misunderstood person, especially by the press, but this book offers a glimpse into what he is really like. A must read!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2002

    As the only woman reviewer

    As the only woman reviewer of this book let me first say that this book is both interesting and funny. There is a section on page 367 where Knight talks about his view of modern parenting and psychology and his opinion of kids having ''time outs'' that made me laugh so hard I was in tears. The rest of the book is wonderful too. Even if your not a Basketball fan, you will enjoy this book .I couldn't put it down. For both men and woman it is just pure enjoyment.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 17, 2002

    A fantastically written book

    This book is truly outstanding. Bob Knight is not only a great man, but a truly great American. A wise man once said that the 'greatest power of the press lies in selection'. Well certainly that may be the case and the press has 'selected' Bob Knight as the bad guy for many years. We finally get to hear his side of the story. He has dined with political greats, and hunted and fished with sports greats. What a life. What a book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2002

    Knight Superb

    A great story of the life of a great man. His stories are great, and it's incredible all of the people he knows.

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

    Posted April 2, 2002

    Great Read!

    I do not really like reading, but when i picked that book up, I COULD NOT put it down!

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

    Posted October 28, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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