It's time to say good night to Indiana's Bobby Knight

March 14, 1994|By John Steadman

That well-known purveyor of controversy, Bobby Knight, continues to find new ways to discredit himself and the university he represents. He's now a head-knocking, shin-kicking, chair-throwing basketball coach who continues out of control while in insatiable pursuit of victory.

Knight has achieved the dubious distinction of doing all three. Still, he's employed by the University of Indiana -- which makes you wonder about the standards of a school president who would allow such conduct to perpetuate itself.

The latest Knight demonstration of ill manners came when he told the audience in Bloomington, Ind., after the final home game, that he hopes, after dying, to be buried in such a position, face down, that those critical of his adolescent antics can come by and "kiss my butt." This is a woeful advertisement for the university, considering it allows Knight to speak as one of its official representatives.

It would seem that eventually responsible parents might want to at least wonder if their son is under the proper influence playing at Indiana under the celebrated coaching genius of the tyrannical Mr. Knight. He is permitted to continue onward, but not necessarily upward, with a torrent of verbal and physical abuse, plus demonstrations of conduct that have become tired, boring and what would be interpreted anywhere else as self-destructive -- except he's protected by the school president.

Since Bobby Boy has been at Indiana, starting in 1972, he obviously feels longevity allows special privileges denied other members of the athletic department. Knight, fortunately for the rest of humanity, is in a league of his own.

Oddly enough, away from the basketball court, he is endearing, offering a touch of intellect, charm and charisma. Some moments spent with him can be memorable and pleasurable.

Then something seems to snap, as with a spring in a watch. Not being a psychiatrist or psychologist, the reaction of this observer is that he resembles a man who has suddenly, caught up in combat, taken leave of his good senses. Indiana must have a profound love of Bobby Boy for it to put up with what he continues to do in bringing the wrong kind of attention to himself and this grand old school of educational renown.

Knight has become an embarrassment to himself, the Indiana administration, faculty, alumni and student body. How much more will Indiana be willing to endure from this hair-trigger leader, who can be gracious, considerate and espouse the highest of moral values, never failing to offer respect for his country, and then eventually contradict the goodwill he created by engaging in adolescent behavior?

Obviously, Knight is wound tightly and often twists himself into an emotional knot. The head butt, as he approached freshman Sherron Wilkerson on the Indiana bench, may well have been an accident. But shin-kicking a player, who happened to be his own son, after a turnover against Notre Dame earlier this season, qualifies as totally unacceptable.

This weekend's incident, while speaking before a crowd on campus, becomes an example of an individual who has lost respect for responsibility in an institution that was created for one firm purpose: education.

If his latest tirade is to be regarded as a display of humor, then let him take it on the road and try selling it in a nightclub act or go behind the outhouse.

The Knight defenders rally to his cause by saying it's the media teaming up against him and that Bobby is not intentionally malicious, which is true. He adroitly plays the role of "us," meaning the Indiana team and himself, being done in by the rest of the free world, including Puerto Rico, where he once set off an international incident after being arrested at the 1979 Pan-Am Games.

Two years later, he stuffed a fan, who was becoming a bother, into a trash can.

His antics are similar to those of a spoiled child. He rants and raves, gets carried away to such a degree that he draws comparisons to another despot coach, Woody Hayes, who should have left Ohio State with high marks for extraordinary ability but was terminated in disgrace for swinging at an opposing player during a bowl game.

Knight has lost his value to Indiana. Winning can't be that important. What he needs is a long vacation. A permanent one.

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