The Biggest Bully on the Block


Ennui.  That was my state of mind last night.  I was flopped down on the couch, feet up, glass of wine in hand, wondering what to do next.  I then turned on the TV to catch Baseball Tonight on NASN.  I could not believe who was in the studio with Karl Ravech.  None other than Bobby Knight!  Bobby Knight!  I thought I was hallucinating.


For those of you who aren’t aware, Bobby Knight is a BASKETBALL coach.  He is the all time winningest college coach in the history of NCAA basketball, but he carries quite a bit of baggage.  He is mercurial, combative, and has a hair trigger temper.  He has gotten away with all of his documented transgressions due to his enormous success, and it has enabled him to spend the majority of his career bullying and intimidating anyone who either didn’t agree with him or crossed him.  His primary targets have been the press.  Amongst other notable achievements, he has a) slapped a Puerto Rican policeman, b) stuffed an opposing fan in a trash can, c) threw a chair at a referee, and d) choked one of his own players.


Over the course of his 42 year career, he has kept his most brutal derision and contempt for members of the press.  Among other things, one of his most notable quotes was, “If there is reincarnation, I want to come back as a sportswriter because they have never used their brains”.


Well, he may have a point there.  


With Bob Knight, there is no in between.  You either love him or hate him.  Despite his shortcomings, he has won, graduated his players, and shown a high level of integrity and veracity.


One thing he has never been is a hypocrite.  That’s why I had a difficult time seeing him on the Baseball Tonight studio.  Over the course of his career, I always enjoyed his repartee with the press.  He was extremely clever, and always had the last word.  The press always played the part of the deferential whipping boy, and it made for good copy.  And in many instances, he was correct.  Many members of the press are indolent, ill-prepared, and biased.  Some of those who attempted to stand up to him   faced subsequent professional repercussions. 


Even though Knight always had the upper hand, his press battles were always very entertaining.


Knight recently retired from coaching after a stellar 42 year career.  I always assumed   he would walk away from the limelight and spend his retirement fishing and hunting, which seemed to be his main passions away from the court. 


I didn’t have a problem with him criticizing the press.  However, it did shock me to see him in the studio, in essence a becoming committed press member himself.


It was interesting hearing about his love for baseball, and his friendship with Tony LaRusso.  They also showed an interview with the late Ted Williams, who was effervescent in his praise for Knight.  Knight then stated the reason he admired Williams so much was that they both had an adversarial relationship with the press.


Am I missing something??  There he was, biting the hand that was feeding him.


This whole episode is very reminiscent of John Thompson, another highly successful basketball coach, who, throughout his career, was highly combative with the press.  At 6’ 10” tall, over 300 pounds, with a deep baritone voice, he was indeed very intimidating.  Now that he is retired from coaching, he to has joined the press corps, and has a highly successful radio and TV gig in the Washington DC area.  He’s transformed himself from a sullen, contemptuous curmudgeon who was constantly antagonizing the press to an amiable grandfatherly figure.  The transformation seems genuine.  While coaching, Thompson only allowed the public to access part of his personality


I guess if you are successful, you can recreate yourself in a positive manner


Knight has always been highly intelligent, and provides keen insight.   At 67, he seems to have mellowed.   His methods were always excessive and controversial.  He was the biggest bully on the block.


With age comes wisdom.  Knight has a lot to offer, even in baseball.


It’ll be nice to see him share his baseball insights with us on a more regular basis.


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