ORLANDO, Fla. -- The game would come with an Adult Language warning. Or maybe CBS would just hit the master mute button and deliver its broadcast in closed captions.
Gary Williams vs. Bob Knight.
We're not there yet. But if Maryland and Indiana win today in the second round of the NCAA men's tournament, the screaming match would occur Thursday in the Sweet 16.
The South Regional would turn into Profanity Central. The coaches would wash their mouths out with soap at halftime. And the paint would peel off the walls of the Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tenn.
Williams vs. Knight.
One sweats, the other stalks.
Williams vs. Knight.
The coach called "Wacko" by even his friends, against the chair-tossing volcano known as "The General."
It would make Ric Flair vs. Hollywood Hogan look like a tea party. And the best part is, it would be a bigger grudge match than Bill Clinton vs. Kenneth Starr.
Williams was 0-6 against Knight in his three seasons at Ohio State in the late 1980s -- and he's 0-7 for his career, including a loss at Boston College.
If that's not enough, Knight helped invent Williams' current nemesis, Mike Krzyzewski.
And if that's not enough, Maryland lost a recruiting battle to Indiana last fall over George Leach, a 6-foot-10 center from Charlotte, N.C.
"Indiana told us that 93 percent of the seniors who play for Bob Knight get degrees," said David Davis, Leach's coach at Olympic High School. "Maryland's rate isn't as good, and George also saw that there were already enough big men on campus."
Coaches mentioning graduation rates.
Can you get any lower?
This is war, or will be, should the stars align today at the Orlando Arena.
Victories by Maryland and Indiana would leave Knight as the last stumbling block between Williams and his first Elite Eight appearance.
It also would enable the Terps to reach their first regional final since 1975 by defeating the No. 15, No. 10 and No. 6 seeds, a toll-free road if there ever was one.
"I'm not even thinking about that," Williams said yesterday of a possible game against Knight.
Of course, he isn't. Coaches go one game at a time during the NCAAs. Columnists, on the other hand, can pray for the college basketball equivalent of Jerry Springer vs. Morton Downey Jr.
Actually, Springer could do an entire special on Williams and Knight -- "Why hot-tempered coaches are drawn to schools with red uniforms, as explained by cross-dressing, dunking orphans."
The great story lines don't always pan out -- George Washington lost before St. John's coach Mike Jarvis could face his former team, and the basketball gods simply would not allow Penn's Michael Jordan to face North Carolina.
But we can dream, can't we?
Maryland will beat Creighton, that much seems certain. Creighton played its one great game of the tournament against Louisville. If the Bluejays prevail today, palm trees will grown on their Omaha, Neb., campus.
Indiana faces third-seeded St. John's, a far more difficult challenge. The Hoosiers rebounded from their 16-point loss to Illinois in the Big Ten tournament with a 20-point thrashing of George Washington in the first round of the NCAAs. But they haven't been to the Sweet 16 since 1994.
Which way should Terps fans root?
Maryland-St. John's would be a terrific Sweet 16 matchup, maybe one of the most exciting games of the tournament. But it would be mere basketball, requiring analysis from only Dick Vitale.
But Maryland-Indiana would be a psychodrama, requiring radio shrink Dr. Laura to serve as sideline reporter, and instruct the coaches to "get over it" during timeouts.
Is it any wonder Williams occasionally turns defensive?
Everywhere Williams goes -- the Big East, the Big Ten, the ACC -- he gets stuck behind more accomplished coaches and programs. Seven times in the past 16 years, the national champion has come from his conference -- and Duke could make it eight in 17 years.
Knight won the NCAA title in Williams' first year at Ohio State. Krzyzewski won back-to-back titles in Williams' second and third years at Maryland. Coaches haunted by opponents whose last names start with "K" -- it could be another Springer special.
In fact, Williams could even concoct his own conspiracy theory -- Knight recruited Krzyzewski to play at Army, hired him as a graduate assistant at Indiana and helped him land head coaching jobs at Army and Duke. He created the monster!
Williams is a combined 3-25 against those two future Hall of Fame coaches, including 3-18 against Krzyzewski (2-18 at Maryland, 1-0 at Boston College).
How fitting it would be if Williams defeated one ghost to reach his first Elite Eight, then the other to secure Maryland's first NCAA title.
For once, he'd be the favorite against Knight. And by the time he got to Krzyzewski, he'd be on a roll.
We're not there yet. We might never get there. But we can dream, can't we?
Williams vs. Knight.
"Wacko" vs. "The General."
Pub Date: 3/13/99