Knight, Robert Montgomery 1940- (Bobby Knight)
KNIGHT, Robert Montgomery 1940- (Bobby Knight)
Born October 25, 1940, in Massillon, OH; son of Carroll (a railroad worker) and Hazel (Henthorne) Knight; married April 17, 1963; wife's name Nancy Lou (divorced); married Karen Edgar, 1988; children: Tim, Patrick. Education: Ohio State University, B.S., 1962.
Office—Men's Basketball, Spirit Center, Texas Tech University, Indiana Ave., Lubbock, TX 79409.
Basketball coach. Cuyahoga Falls High School, Cuyahoga Falls, OH, assistant coach, 1962-63; U.S. Military Academy, West Point, NY, assistant coach, 1963-65, head coach, 1965-71; Indiana University, Bloomington, head coach, 1971-2000; Texas Tech University, Lubbock, head coach, 2001—. Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, trustee. Military service: Served with U.S. Army.
National Association of Basketball Coaches (member, board of directors).
Most Valuable Player, Orrville, OH, High School, 1957; Big Ten Coach of the Year awards, 1973, 1975, 1976, 1981, 1989; National Coach of the Year awards, 1975, 1989; named National Coach of the Year, Associated Press and Basketball Weekly, 1976; coached 1979 U.S. gold medal Pan-American Games basketball team; coached 1984 U.S. gold-medal Olympic basketball team; coached Indiana University NCAA national championship teams, 1976, 1981, 1987; inducted into Basketball Hall of Fame, 1991.
(With Bob Hammel) Knight: My Story (memoir), Thomas Dunne Books (New York, NY), 2002.
Robert Montgomery "Bobby" Knight is one of the highest achievers in college basketball history, and certainly one of its most controversial figures. His coaching record includes many national championships, as well as Olympic and Pan American team gold medals, and he has several times been named National Coach of the Year, unanimously in 1975. Knight insisted that his players maintain their academic standings, and in the twenty-eight seasons he coached the Indiana Hoosiers, only two of his four-year players failed to complete their degrees.
Knight was born in an industrial town, and his father was with the railroad. Knight played several sports in high school and was a great admirer of Ted Williams. Baseball was his first passion, but Knight's stubbornness changed his direction when he turned to basketball in defiance of a suspension by his baseball coach for failing to follow an order. He already had leanings toward coaching and later in his career shared friendships with coaches of basketball, baseball, and football, including Vince Lombardi, Bear Bryant, and Joe Paterno.
In attending and graduating from Ohio State University, Knight prepared for a career in law, his father's hope. He majored in education and minored in government and history. On the court, he played mostly as a substitute for Buckeye coach Fred Taylor, but he picked up coaching tips that he used during the year he coached high school basketball, then the next eight at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he became head coach after two years as an assistant. Knight was inspired by General George Patton and by Colonel Red Blaik, former Army football coach and author of You Have to Pay the Price.
Knight adapted to the strict discipline of the Academy and used it in his training, but he is also a man who plays by his own rules, often causing problems in his interactions with administrators and staff. After his only losing season with Army, he resigned and accepted the position of head coach at Indiana University.
Knight applied his strict disciplinary methods to a shocked Indiana team. He toughened practices and forbid alumni from viewing them, which he considered a distraction, and he demanded silence when he spoke with the players. It all paid off when they came in third in the regional conference. Knight began to recruit the most promising high school players, offering only his winning program to young men who were often tempted with promises of money, guaranteed grades, and other incentives. And his teams won. They ended the 1976 season undefeated and took the NCAA national championship. Knight coached players who went on to successful careers, including Quinn Buckner, Isiah Thomas, and Steve Alford.
Knight coached the 1979 U.S. team in the Pan-American Games held in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Although they won the gold medal, Knight became embroiled in controversy for swearing at a player, verbally putting down an official, and for engaging in a physical encounter with a policeman. For the last, he was fined and sentenced to jail time, which he avoided by returning to the United States. Indiana finished in the top two the next two years and won its second national championship in 1981. During the Final Four, Knight dropped a Louisiana State fan into a trash barrel.
Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) Sports offered Knight $500,000 a year to head the telecasting of the NCAA tournament, and Knight was ready to take the job until his star player, Landon Turner, was injured in an automobile accident and paralyzed. Knight spent months raising money for Turner's care and turned his recruiting responsibilities over to his assistant coaches. The team finished in the top three over the next three years, and Knight took the U.S. team to gold in the 1984 Olympics held in Los Angeles. This team included players Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, and Chris Mullin.
In the following years at Indiana, he continued to collected championships and accolades. But he also continued to court controversy. In 1997 Knight was investigated for striking guard Neil Reed, and the school instituted a "zero-tolerance" policy that Knight breached continuously over the next few years—seriously in 2000, when he allegedly grabbed freshman Kent Harvey by the neck.
Sporting News reporter Mike DeCourcy wrote that, "just as the university ingenuously conceived the zero-tolerance policy to put the onus on Knight to behave, it recognized how foolish it would have appeared to terminate its legendary coach on the word of one student whose story was contradicted by other witnesses. But the administration also saw this as the latest example of Knight's refusal to change the way he operated." DeCourcy noted that Indiana University president Myles Brand "explained Knight affronted alumni by refusing to participate in several popular gatherings of Hoosiers supporters. He said there was an incident in which Knight [verbally] abused a high-ranking female official at IU. Knight declined to follow the athletic department chain of command, essentially by continuing to ignore athletic director Clarence Doninger." In spite of his difficulties with the administration, Knight remained popular with fans and students. He learned that he had been fired by phone while on a fishing trip in Canada that he had refused to postpone. Brand said he regretted dismissing Knight but felt it was in the best interest of the university. Knight ended the season with a three-game losing streak.
Knight began coaching the Texas Tech University Red Raiders in 2001. The first season yielded a record of twenty-three wins, ten losses, and the team went to the NCAA tournament. Following the season, Knight collaborated with Bob Hammel, the awarding-winning sportswriter who had been with the Bloomington Herald-Tribune until his retirement, to write his memoir Knight: My Story.
Sports Illustrated's Charles Hirshberg wrote that "the book is his [Knight's] opportunity to spit bile, as only he can, on those he considers responsible for his firing. Which would make an amusing read if one didn't have to wade through heaps of dross to get to it." Hirshberg noted Knight's expressions of gratitude, reminiscences, and the motivational quotes by Patton and Lombardi, and said that when he "finally gets down to the business at hand—shedding his enemies' blood—he's thoroughly entertaining."
"Only mildly repentant, he now insists that his dedication to winning and his tough style were his undoing," commented a Kirkus Reviews contributor. Library Journal's John Maxymuk felt that Knight tells his story "with opinionated gusto not often seen in these politically correct times." Booklist's Wes Lukowsky wrote that "Knight displays here his palpable affection for his players and his reverence for the game and the great coaches who preceded him." A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that "college hoops fans can learn more about the game from this book than from most instructional guides."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Feinstein, John, A Season on the Brink: A Year with Bob Knight and the Hoosiers, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1986.
Knight, Bob, and Bob Hammel, Knight: My Story (memoir), Thomas Dunne Books (New York, NY), 2002.
Booklist, January 1, 2002, Wes Lukowsky, review of Knight: My Story, p. 774.
Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2002, review of Knight, p. 87.
Library Journal, February 15, 2002, John Maxymuk, review of Knight, p. 152.
New York Times, March 10, 2002, Dave Anderson, "Bob Knight puts His Rebuttal to Indiana in His Autobiography," p. SP3.
Publishers Weekly, February 18, 2002, review of Knight, p. 89.
Sporting News, September 18, 2000, Mike DeCourcy, "Incorrigible, Unyielding …Unemployed," p. 52.
Sports Illustrated, April 1, 2002, Charles Hirshberg, "No One—Except Himself—Is Spared When the General Unloads," p. R6.
Wall Street Journal, March 28, 2002, Erich Eichman, review of Knight, p. A18.*