I never thought I would be an apologist for former college basketball coach Bobby Knight (who recently retired as coach at Texas Tech), but in response to the Feb. 11 letter “Coach is gone and good riddance,” I believe Knight needs a defense. I observed Knight at a basketball clinic and, like the writer of the letter, found him arrogant, abrasive, crude as well as misogynistic and chauvinistic. He was excoriated by women’s groups for treating rape as a joke and putting feminine accessories in some of his players lockers to challenge their masculinity.
You won’t find him on a talk-show guest list and even legendary basketball coach John Wooden is quoted as saying that although he admired Knight, he wouldn’t want his own son playing for him. Still, let’s give the man his due.
Many fathers and recruits liked his boot-camp, macho mentality, believing it built character. He was a master of strategy and human nature. He produced some excellent players; two have gone on to coach at Duke and Iowa. These players-turned-coaches, like several others, are indebted and faithful to Knight while having jettisoned most of his negatives. His players went to class, studied and graduated. Knight himself was a respected and demanding professor.
By contrast, an Indiana coach was forced to resign this year before season’s end. Although very popular, very diplomatic and a media favorite, the coach had one flaw — he cheated. Knight’s players’ conduct was basically scandal free. I believe Knight’s problem was one of power. His disdain for administrative authority and his caustic style were an anachronism.
He did some deplorable things, but he doesn’t deserve to be incarcerated as the writer said. Nor is sports ridiculous, although some of the owners, coaches and players are.