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Archive for Tuesday, September 12, 2000

Hoosiers’ Knight will coach again

Hall of Fame career certainly will resume as embattled mentor tries to break Smith’s record

September 12, 2000

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To some of Bob Knight's friends, the question isn't whether he'll coach again. The question is what color sweater he'll wear on the sideline.

Knight's 29-year reign at Indiana University ended in his dismissal Sunday. But friends predicted that Knight's Hall-of-Fame career will resume within a year and that he will break Dean Smith's major-college career victory record. With 763 wins, Knight needs 117 to pass Smith, who won 879 games, all at North Carolina.

"I'll bet you there will be offers at some of the biggest schools in the country next year that want him," said Knight's mentor, Pete Newell, a retired Hall of Fame coach. "Knowing Bobby, he's not going to go out this way. Indiana thinks they're ruining a career in coaching. I think they're wrong."

Added former Northwestern coach Kevin O'Neill, a longtime Knight friend: "He'll coach again and he'll be revitalized. I guarantee it."

On the day Indiana President Myles Brand fired Knight for repeatedly violating a "zero-tolerance" code of conduct, speculation centered on two fronts. One was Knight's successor. The other was Knight's future.

The university announced it would name an interim coach to lead the team this season and that athletics director Clarence Doninger would form a committee to search for a permanent successor. There were rumblings that some IU players were considering transferring, but Brand said he hoped they would give the next coach a chance.

There was speculation that IU would tap Quinn Buckner, who played for IU's unbeaten 1976 national champions and coached the NBA's Dallas Mavericks. But former Notre Dame coach Digger Phelps, another Knight friend, said Buckner "would never even think about it unless Knight said, 'You be the guy.' Quinn has too much personal loyalty to Knight."

The same can be said for current Knight assistants Mike Davis and John Treloar, who seem unlikely to take a job against their former boss' wishes.

Still, schools have promoted assistants in similar situations. Michigan named assistant Brian Ellerbe its head coach when it fired Steve Fisher on the eve of the 1997 season. And Steve Lavin became UCLA's interim head coach when Jim Harrick was dismissed in November 1996. The school later named Lavin the permanent coach.

The list of permanent Knight successors is headed by Iowa coach Steve Alford. Alford, the Hoosiers' captain when they won the 1987 national championship, was an Indiana Mr. Basketball. He had distanced himself from Knight in recent years, which could make him more palatable to university officials. And because they're no longer close, Knight may not be able to pressure Alford into refusing an offer.

"They should just go ahead and hire Alford," O'Neill said. "That's what they're going to do anyway."

As Indiana wound down its investigation into Neil Reed's accusation that Knight choked him, Knight reportedly began to worry that he might be out. At the same time, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo was entertaining an offer from the Atlanta Hawks. According to a Big Ten source, Knight contacted Michigan State athletics director Clarence Underwood to ask if he could be considered to replace Izzo. The issue became moot when Izzo decided to stay at State.

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