Archive for Monday, April 1, 2002

Knight-backers rooting against IU

April 1, 2002

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— Hard to believe, but a small group of Indiana University basketball fans will be pulling for Maryland in tonight's NCAA Championship game.

They are the die-hard Bob Knight boosters. They are the people who continue to believe Indiana officials made a grievous mistake firing the successful but controversial basketball coach nearly two years ago.

Knight may be at Texas Tech now, but he still has a cult following in Indiana.

"What is amazing," IU senior guard Dane Fife said on Sunday, "is there are several fans that I know want us to lose."

Fife played his first two seasons at Indiana under Knight and his last two under Mike Davis, a Knight aide who was elevated to the head job when the chair-throwing national icon was booted for violating a zero-tolerance behavior edict.

"My first two years," Fife continued, "there used to be 50 fans at the bus to wish us good luck. When coach Davis got the job they were nowhere to be found, and I have not seen them since."

Why, Fife wonders, won't those people support this team? Many of the players, after all, were recruited by Knight and chose to play for him.

"We put our reputations on the line and went out trying to save coach Knight's job," Fife said.

ESPN showed a clip the other night of Fife crying when he learned Knight had been fired.

"It just showed," Fife said of the TV clip, "that we did nothing to get him fired, so it is sad those people feel that way."

Tonight, when the Hoosiers tangle with heavily favored Maryland for the national title, Fife will be Indiana's most important player even though he averages only 8.6 points a game. Fife will be assigned to guard Maryland point-machine Juan Dixon.

Kansas couldn't contain Dixon on Saturday night. Maryland's 6-3 senior guard burned the Jayhawks for a career-high 33 points.

"I have the utmost and amazing respect for Juan Dixon," Fife said. "I'm not really sure why he is still playing for Maryland. He should be playing in the pros right now."

Still, Dixon can't defeat Indiana by himself.

"I don't think that'll be the case even if Juan Dixon gets 40 points," Fife said. "It's going to take all five of us. I don't know how we're going to do that yet, but we have a great coaching staff and they're going to find a way to do it."

That way did not include a practice. All the Hoosiers did was listen to a scouting report from coach Mike Davis and his staff, and it wasn't just because it was Easter Sunday. It was because it was a Sunday.

"We haven't practiced on Sunday since I've been here," Davis said. "I just feel like, especially now, what can you do? We know our basketball team."

Meanwhile, those Knight cultists back home in Indiana will be waiting gleefully for Indiana to lose so they can gloat that the Hoosiers lost because Davis refused to conduct a Sunday practice before the national championship game.

On the flip side, if Indiana wins tonight, those Knight die-hards will be forced to eat crow or pack up their belongings and move to Lubbock, Texas.

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