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Bad boy Bobby bows out, Longworth caves

by Jim Longworth

I am a flawed, weak human being. I gave my word to Ogi Overman, to Brad Krantz and to my wife Pam that I would never again write about or speak of Bobby Knight. I do so now at the peril of losing two friends and a spouse, not to mention a father-in-law who is a Bobby Knight fan. I suppose, however, it takes a flawed human to criticize another flawed human. So here it goes.

I was outraged by the love fest that occurred last week as Bully Bobby announced his resignation as head coach of Texas Tech. The reason he gave for leaving was so that his offspring assistant Pat could get a jump-start on taking the reigns next season.

Whatever.

Following the announcement, every so-called sports journalist did backflips to see which one could heap the most praise upon Knight. ESPN’s Jay Bilas snagged the first exclusive interview with Bob because Jay had been Knight’s best on-air suck-up. It was Bilas who last year joined the chorus of Knight supporters in rationalizing the coach’s violent behavior as something “every coach does.”

You may recall that a firestorm erupted last season when Knight balled up his fist and struck one of his players under the chin. Bilas, Texas Tech president David Schmidly and other Knight defenders claimed the coach was merely trying to get the boy’s attention by “lifting” his chin. Later, the boy’s parents were trotted out to show their support for Coach Crazy. Had they not done so – or had the young man filed charges – the kid would have undoubtedly found himself off the team, or sitting on the bench the rest of his natural life. Knight should have been fired after that incident, but he wasn’t. And it wasn’t his first transgression. Since none of the spineless sports reporters will examine Bobby’s past criminal behavior objectively, allow me to summarize his finer moments, courtesy of the Indianapolis Star archives.

1976: Knight pulled guard Jim Wisman off the court by his jersey during a nationally televised game

1979: While serving as US Basketball Team coach at the Pan American games in Puerto Rico, Knight was arrested on charges of assaulting a police officer over a dispute about use of a practice gym. Knight fled the country and was convicted in absentia.

1985: Bob threw the now famous chair across a basketball court in protest of receiving a technical foul in a game against Purdue. Fortunately no one was injured.

1993: Knight kicked his son Patrick (then a player for Indiana) in plain view of the fans, who booed the coach for his abuse.

1995: Bobby berated an NCAA volunteer at a news conference, and Indiana was fined $30,000.

1997: During a practice session, Knight grabbed player Neil Reed and choked him. Knight denied the incident until a video of the assault surfaced on CNN.

1998: Indiana University was fined $10,000 when Knight made nasty remarks about a referee. Bobby agreed to pay the fine.

1999: Knight choked a man in Mexico.

2000: Indiana University athletic director Clarence Donninger reported that following a verbal argument with Knight, he felt physically threatened by the coach. That same year, Knight verbally abused a university secretary, calling her a “fu**cking bitch.”

Other incidents also surfaced while Knight was at Indiana, including: throwing a ceramic vase at a secretary, showering her with glass; attacking his assistant Ron Felling by throwing him out of his chair; and punching and choking sports information director Kit Klingelhofer just because Bobby was unhappy with a press release.

Only after Knight started having losing seasons did Indiana give him a warning (how’s that for hypocrisy?) But despite this zero-tolerance policy, Bobby assaulted a another student, was fired and then re-surfaced at Texas Tech.

Cowardly, suck-up sports journalists love to praise Knight for his many accomplishments, and those in television frequently display Bobby’s win-loss record on screen. What you never see is a full-screen graphic of Knight’s violent and abusive behavior. These Knight groupies also share a common mantra: Bobby was a great teacher and his players graduated. Pardon me while I reach for the barf bag. First of all, Knight had nothing to do with graduation rates. And even if he did, students are supposed to graduate. That’s their job.

Second, coaches are, in fact, educators. And, as someone who once taught at a university, I can tell you that if any professor had grabbed, choked, hit or profaned a student, his teaching days would have been over.

Ironically, Knight is now being heralded for his record breaking 900-plus victories, but had he been fired after the 1979 arrest in Puerto Rico, or after assaulting his players, or abusing his staff, he would have never reached 500 wins, much less 900. Therefore his record, like his character, is tainted.

Bobby Knight is a disgrace to higher education and to the game of basketball. His superiors at Indiana University and Texas Tech share the blame for enabling his violent behavior. And sports journalists who turned a blind eye to abuse should look for another line of work, because their complicit behavior is disgraceful as well.

There’s nothing much anyone can do now to punish Bobby Knight for his crimes. Still, the NCAA should at least ban him from having anything to do with college athletics in the future. That would send a belated message to his victims and to other potentially abusive coaches that such behavior will not be rewarded.

Again, I apologize to my wife and friends for breaking my promise and ranting about Bobby Knight. I am not worthy of their respect, and I deserve to be choked.

Jim Longworth is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Fridays at 6:30 a.m. on ABC 45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 10 p.m. on WMYV (cable channel 15).

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