Knight: `I haven't retired'

Indiana coach says deck was stacked against his staying

Assistant Davis given reins

September 13, 2000|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

Recently fired Indiana University basketball coach Bobby Knight said in a nationally televised interview on ESPN last night that he hoped to be on the sideline again as soon as possible, perhaps during the upcoming season.

"I haven't retired," said Knight, who was fired Sunday after violating a zero-tolerance policy that was placed on him in May by university officials for confrontational and abusive behavior. "I'm an unemployed teacher, looking for a place to teach.

Knight reportedly turned down a chance to coach at the University of Delaware when Mike Brey, a former Duke assistant, left in July to replace Matt Doherty at Notre Dame. Knight said that he had "seriously considered" another offer at that time, but declined to elaborate.

"I don't think my thinking about another job quite overrode the feeling I had for Indiana University and the kids that we had here, and the kids that were coming and the kids that had been here," he said. "More than anything, I wanted to see us get back ... to being really good as a team."

Knight said that he should have taken the advice of his son Pat, a former Hoosiers player who had worked on the coaching staff last season, to resign when the zero-tolerance policy was announced.

"Maybe I was dumb," Knight said in a rare moment of self-deprecating humor during an otherwise often contentious 45-minute interview with ESPN reporter Jeremy Schapp. "It's not an unusual situation for me to be dumb on occasion.

"I think in retrospect, that's exactly the thing that I should have done. I didn't do it because of the kids we had here. They came here because of me. They came here to play for me. I felt like I had an obligation to them."

Knight said his decision to return to Indiana after the zero-tolerance policy was put in place, or his desire to stay in coaching, has nothing to do with breaking Dean Smith's record of 879 victories. Knight is currently 116 wins behind Smith.

As for the zero-tolerance policy, Knight said that it wasn't spelled out, as university president Myles Brand said it was during Sunday's news conference to announce Knight's firing.

"No one ever explained that to me," Knight said. "I asked the vice president of the university as recently as last Thursday, and he looked me right in the eye and said, `No I can't.' So zero tolerance to me then was that I was left on my own to interpret it. ... I had no idea what zero tolerance is. If I get a technical foul in a game, is that zero tolerance?"

Knight, 59, admitted that he probably should have left for another job before last season, when the 1997 incident in which he was shown on videotape appearing to choke former Indiana guard Neil Reed during a practice was leaked to the media.

It was that incident, and others that were uncovered by the university's subsequent internal investigation of Knight's behavior, that led to the zero-tolerance policy being implemented.

Asked if he was embarrassed for the manner in which he departed, Knight said, "No, not at all. What I am is proud of what our basketball program turned out at Indiana. ... I'm just so proud of the kind of kids we turned out here, and the kind of men these kids have developed into. I'm really proud of the accomplishments of these kids."

In 29 years at Indiana, Knight's team's won three national championships and 11 Big Ten titles while his program had a high graduation rate and no trouble with the NCAA.

But there was what Brand called a "pattern" of abusive behavior dating as far back as 1976 - the year of Indiana's first NCAA title - when Knight allegedly punched out a former sports information director.

"It's been the players and all the coaches we have had here. We have woven an atmosphere of success, academically and athletically, after graduation, that all of us are really proud of us," Knight said. "Now that my time at Indiana has been terminated, my mistake was kind of overstaying the situation. I don't think I had any chance to abide by what they put into place."

Knight denied Brand's charge of insubordination by his failing to appear at athletic department functions, and said that he didn't go into a profanity-laced tirade against a high-ranking female administrator. Knight also said that he didn't grab or verbally attack Kent Harvey, a university freshman, outside Assembly Hall last week after the student had greeted the coach, "What's up, Knight?"

Asked why he had touched Harvey on the arm at all, Knight said, "I think that's something I would do under the same circumstances today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. ... What I did is simply try to teach him something about manners."

Knight said that he wasn't surprised that Brand and the administration had taken such action, given the atmosphere that had changed from the days when Knight ran the department.

"I've known for several years that this has not been the same situation I've been in," Knight said.

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