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Archive for Saturday, February 10, 2001

Knight may never coach again

Well-traveled Pitino sure of landing a job, but not former Indiana mentor

February 10, 2001

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A month still remains in the college basketball regular season, yet that doesn't preclude interest in an ever-evolving coaching landscape.

Rick Pitino met with UNLV officials Friday regarding the school's head-coaching job. The man who has coached practically everywhere has had his name bandied about practically everywhere ever since he voluntarily departed the Boston Celtics with a much fatter bank account than when he arrived.

He'll likely land on the Strip, provided the university assures him its overzealous boosters will keep their intrusive tentacles off the program. UNLV can win big once again. It has the money and Las Vegas has the megawatt star power and the right climate for golf 365 days all crucial factors in Pitino's decision.

He'll get his chance to coach again, but you wonder if another idle giant of the industry will get another opportunity at a high-profile national program.

Bob Knight concluded his much-publicized interview in the recent issue of Playboy with a wish to return to the bench, working in a climate of mutual respect and appreciation.

"I want better final memories than I have right now," Knight said.

The ousted Indiana coach is staying in the public eye. He has hunted with retired army generals and crowned heads of state and received letters of support from former presidents. He already has pocketed $1.25 million as an advance for his memoirs. And Internet company www.Sandbox.com, known for its fantasy sports leagues, is paying Knight $50,000 to pick the winners in next month's NCAA men's tournament.

An appropriate name for a business partner, considering the occasionally petulant behavior that tends to dominate the public perception of a man who insists he's misunderstood.

"Basketball has always had a great fascination for me," Knight said. "I haven't yet conquered the game, so maybe that's what I'm trying to do."

Knight remains an enigma, someone you loathe one minute and laud the next. The Playboy Q&A interview, conducted with writer Lawrence Grobel, ably delves into complexities. It peels away the crude layers, revealing Knight's insight and passion for college athletics.

There were the customary volcanic eruptions, like trying to seize and destroy Grobel's tape recorder and threatening to throw him out of the car while heading down the interstate. But there was also the boldness that is so sorely lacking in college basketball today, like Knight suggesting academic reform in which every player who doesn't graduate within five years would cost his team a scholarship.

Those close to Knight maintain a return to the Big Ten would be his first priority.

There's speculation that Florida State, increasingly disappointed over its basketball performance given rival Florida's recent rise, might be looking to make a move for Knight following the season. But can you honestly see such personality polar opposites as Knight and football icon Bobby Bowden sharing the same stage?

There's a head-coaching seat awaiting Knight next season, but it's probably at a smaller institution where expectations and interest are equally low. It won't encompass the bright lights and big money that Pitino seeks, but it will provide a flawed yet principled man a final opportunity to do what he does best teach and mold young men.

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