Archive for Saturday, October 27, 2001

Knight wins over press

Controversial coach engaging during media day

October 27, 2001

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Dozens of sportswriters in a Dallas Marriott meeting room started fidgeting in their seats as the clock kept ticking Thursday afternoon.

First it was 3:31 p.m., then 3:35, 3:36, 3:39, 3:45 would new Texas Tech coach Bob Knight, who had an allotted 3:30 p.m. meeting with the Big 12 writers, pull a classic Knight maneuver and decline to speak at the league's annual media day?

Texas tech coach Bobby knight talks with reporters at the Big 12
Conference media day. The volatile coach was charming during the
gathering Thursday in Texas.

Texas tech coach Bobby knight talks with reporters at the Big 12 Conference media day. The volatile coach was charming during the gathering Thursday in Texas.

Would stories of scribes across Big 12 country suddenly switch from soft feature pieces on the former Indiana coaching legend to critical rips of the 61-year-old silver-haired general?

Nope

Knight showed at 3:50 p.m. and spoke for a whopping 40 minutes, proving that, when he wants to, he can be as engaging as any college coach in the country.

There even was a good reason Knight was late for the print media session.

"He was telling so many stories, we couldn't get him out of the room with the TV guys," one media day organizer said glowingly. "He wanted to know if it would be just as good with the writers. He seemed like he was having fun."

Fun?

This is the same Knight who has his own public relations man, an individual whose sole purpose appears to be to respectfully decline all interview requests, and who refused to speak with reporters after IU's 80-61 blowout victory over Kansas University in 1994 in Bloomington, Ind.

With Knight, one never knows which coach one will get.

"He is one of those guys there is no gray area," Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson said. "You either like him or don't. I've always liked him."

Everybody would love Knight if he always acted the way he did at his first formal Big 12 media day.

Wearing a dark blue shirt he was the only league coach to not show in suit and tie Knight appeared relaxed, non-confrontational, even stately as he told a story involving disciplining his grandson, Braden.

"I have a grandson this big," Knight said, holding his hand a couple feet high. "My son and daughter-in-law are modern psychologists. I'm with them and they say, 'Braden, if you don't quit that, we'll have a time out. Did you hear me? Braden, count to three. If you don't quit that at 3, we'll have a time out.'

"They went through this routine one time and the little kid looks at me and winks.

"If that's me I learned a great word in Texas son(bleep)," Knight said, uttering a mild profanity. "I'd say, 'You son(bleep), sit in that chair until I tell ya to leave.'"

His point? Discipline like the kind he's long been noted for is important.

"Tech hasn't had very good graduation rates the last several years. That will change," Knight said simply.

He's most proud of the fact he graduated virtually all of his players in 29 years at Indiana.

"I taught a class at Indiana. Every year I'd tell the kids, 'I want you to write down the names of two teachers in your experience you learned the most from.' Then I'd say, 'Write down the names of two teachers who demanded the most of you.'

"No baloney, invariably it was the same two names. I'd say, 'How many of you had a coach you didn't like?' Out of 80 or 90 kids, all would raise their hands. I put my hand up too and said I had a coach I didn't like.

"I said, 'Here's the first lesson in teaching for you. We don't like all of you little bleeps either.' They looked at me like, 'You are not allowed to not like us.'

"Kids have changed," he continued, "but I don't think they've changed more than we allow them to."

Will Knight be charming the rest of his career, or was media day simply an aberration?

"I really don't care," he said, asked if media and fans like him. "I do care if our fans like me, but the media? The thing about the media that's always intrigued me is when they act like they know so much about people that they've never even met.

"I will say I have read statements that I supposedly said that I never said, so what does that tell you? I am just glad I am coaching right now. I am glad I am coaching again."

Really glad.

"A guy told me something once I still kind of like. He said, 'Don't start vast projects with half-vast ideas.' What we're trying to do is show the players there's a heck of a difference between doing it almost right and doing it right."

Knight did it right on Thursday in Dallas.

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