Every time I check my RSS feeds’ sports sections, I see some reverential piece about what Bob Knight means to college basketball. And certainly, despite the boorish behavior and antagonistic attitude, he’s proven to be a great teacher of basketball. His lack of big successes over the past 15 or so years is notable, but anyone can see his teams competing, never quitting, and moving the basketball around.
He graduates his players, gave his salary back at Texas Tech because he felt he didn’t deserve it. He was the lightning rod who loved the power and attention, he has coached great players and great coaches (Isiah Thomas, Mike Krzyzewski, Steve Alford are some notable ones.
Kudos to that.
But a midseason retirement smacks of Bobby Petrino behavior. Basketball at Texas Tech, it was too tough? Bob Knight was tired? It wasn’t fun for him? All of the players he made do wind sprints, they were tired too. It wasn't fun for them. The constant drilling, the regimented nature of college basketball, it's tough on the kids too.
But Knight wouldn’t have them quit. He would NEVER have accepted a quitter. Bob Knight represented commitment when you didn’t think you had any more in you. He represents dedication. Toughness. Stubbornness.
It’s one thing to be pushed out or asked to step down for poor performance. Or to announce your retirement effective the end of the season. But quitting is the one thing sports fans hate from their players, and they should hate it more from their coaches, the people who are supposed to instill those values in the players, and by extension, inspire us to our own intestinal fortitude.
Usually, everyone knows the resignation as a soft firing. And when the coach just up and quits mid season, it brings the bile out of the players who put their trust in their head man (or woman). Just the other day, I heard Joey Harrington unable to hold his tongue when asked about Petrino’s punk move to quit the Atlanta Falcons with weeks left in the regular season on NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. Even Bill Parcells with his wanderlust waits until the end of the season to move on. Only Pat Riley is comparable with his quit, then remove the new coach, then quit again… and even he’s waiting until the end of this season. Quitting mid-season is a punk move.
It’s a sad day. Gary Parrish of CBS Sportsline speaks on how quitting casts an unfavorable light on Bob Knight's legacy and obviously, I agree.
Bob Knight is turning the reins over to his son, Pat, who played for his father, has grown up with basketball, is the assistant head coach (now head man at Texas Tech) and has even coached a few games. But Bob Knight is leaving the Red Raiders with an untested legacy coach who we’ve never seen as a head man for a full season. Sometimes the "legendary head man naming a successor" plan works (Washington State, Drake) well. And a lot of times, it just doesn’t work at all (Georgetown, St. John’s, Oklahoma State).
But Bob Knight has sullied his legacy, no doubt.
So let’s look at a top ten of Bob Knight moments via YouTube. These cover the media blowups, when the better or worse moments probably behind the scenes. Now we know where Belichick learned his media style from.