Jay Bilas: I liked the Bob Knight I understood

  • Jay Bilas,

  • College Basketball AnalystNov 1, 2023, 07:30 PM ET Close College basketball expert for ESPN and ESPN Insider
  • Played and coached at Duke
  • Practicing attorney

There had actually never been anybody quite like him before, nor will there be anyone quite like him again.Bob Knight

, who passed away Wednesday at age 83, made an enduring mark on the sport of basketball and the American sports culture, and constantly did so on his own terms, in his own method, without description or apology. He was the most successful, reputable, prominent and powerful coach of his period and beyond. He was also the most questionable, slammed and feared coach of his time.Before his retirement, his career success and impact were unequaled. And while he was revered for his training, teaching and innovating, he could likewise be reviled for his habits. Nobody hedged in how they viewed and viewed Bob Knight.Editor’s Picks 2 Associated I had the opportunity of knowing Knight well,

and calling him a friend.

We worked together at ESPN, and would go on annual golf journeys throughout the summer season. He was the only relationship I ever had that I felt I had to discuss or justify. After all, while Knight’s favorable characteristics were many, so, too, were his questionable ones. He can amazing acts of compassion and consideration, yet also capable of questionable acts of stubbornness and thoughtlessness.Around 20 years back, I chose I would no longer attempt to explain or justify the relationship, since I could not.

The majority of people might not or would not be persuaded by my view of him– so I gave up trying. It wasn’t that I overlooked the negatives or justified any of his questionable habits or decisions. I felt the great surpassed the bad, and I felt I knew the real Bob Knight.Or, at least, I liked the Bob Knight I knew. Jay Bilas and Bob Knight worked together and road-tripped together. For ESPN Knight was a throwback, even in a throwback period. In my view, he might have coached any sport and coached it simply as efficiently as he coached basketball. He had an analytic mind, comprehended motivation and motivation, and had an extraordinary capability to break things down. Watching a football or baseball game with Knight was a special treat, as he could select apart the game simply as you would anticipate him to dissect a basketball game.His capability to see minute– yet essential– details on a basketball flooring was unequaled, and I have actually never ever seen his equal. I would find it tough to think that any coach anywhere

would not find out something from Knight seeing film with him, and feel rather uneducated after Knight would point out a detail he spotted that everybody else missed out on. I have actually likewise never seen his equivalent as an instructor of the game, especially in practice settings. He had the capability to get in and out of teaching situations without stopping play, an ability valuable few coaches have to that level.Knight’s practices were closed and personal, and they would be carried out without a practice strategy available to the players (and in some cases his personnel). Knight had the practice plan drawn up on an index card or two, and he thought the

players require not know the strategy in advance however ought to react to it in real time without pacing themselves to the strategy. I remember him as soon as informing me that he would let the players decide the important things he didn’t appreciate. If he didn’t care where the group ate, he let the players choose. If he called a practice on a Sunday however didn’t care whether it was early morning or afternoon, he let the players choose. But if Knight cared, there was just one person deciding: Bob Knight.Knight affected the most prominent minds in the game, and they sought out his suggestions and counsel.In 1984, after training Michael Jordan on the gold-medal-winning U.S. Olympic group, Portland basic supervisor Stu Inman called Knight for guidance on the upcoming NBA draft.

Knight counseled Inman to take Jordan, calling Jordan the very best basketball player he had actually ever seen.

Inman told Knight the Blazers currently had Clyde Drexler and required a center. Knight reacted, “Then play Jordan at center. “Knight was the first Division I men’s basketball coach to win 900 games. He was the most prolific winner in Big 10 history, won three NCAA titles at Indiana, went to five Final Fours and led the United States to the 1984 Olympic gold medal. He innovated the motion offense and affected countless coaches with his mentor of the game. One can not think of Indiana basketball without thinking about Bob Knight. Knight won over 900 games. He won 3 NCAA titles at Indiana and led Team U.S.A. to the 1984 Olympic gold medal. AP Photo Yet Knight led a complete life, one that basketball did not control. An extreme competitor,Knight wished to win as much as any coach ever has, however when the game was over and the work was done, Knight had other interests. He was a passionate angler and hunter, and the day after a game, he was simply as likely to be out searching or fishing in the morning before practice, or reading a book that had nothing to do with basketball. Exceptionally intelligent and well-read, Knight was keen to talk about any topic with equal interest to basketball, and appear simply as authoritative.His faults were bigger than life also. He could be unusually persistent, especially with the media. Knight once fielded a less than notified concern from a local media member and humiliated the press reporter with his reaction. After the interaction, I

asked him why he did that.” If an uninformed coach had actually asked you a silly question throughout a clinic lecture, you would have attempted to inform the coach. Why do not you do the same with the media? That guy most likely left a high school football practice to cover your group, then might have gone to cover the regional police blotter today. Why undress him in a minor press conference? “Knight paused, and acknowledged that he shouldn’t do that, but responded, “I simply can’t. I’m too far down the road to change now.”I seem like I comprehended. I simply didn’t concur. He was okay with sensible difference, as implausible as that seems to those who didn’t know him. However when he believed he was right, even when he wasn’t, there was no talking him out of it.Knight understood he had made substantial errors, and I understand he regretted them. He simply had a hard time admitting that and asking forgiveness publicly. An example I remember may be revealing. In December 2009, Indiana upset Pittsburgh in Madison Square Garden. I called the game from courtside.

It was a substantial win for second-year coach Tom Crean, and it was the very first time Bob Knight, then doing studio deal with ESPN, had actually been in the very same building as Indiana since being fired in 2000. The day after that game, Knight and I had actually remained in New york city to watch UConn play Kentucky in the Garden. It was John Calipari’s very first season at Kentucky, and we wanted to see it personally. While sitting in the stands enjoying the game, Knight leaned over to me and stated he wanted to get my ideas on something.

“I believe I truly f– ed up last night with Tony La Russa after the game,” he stated. Knight then told me that his buddy and baseball legend La Russa had actually called him right after Indiana’s win and told him he hoped Knight would go into the Hoosiers’postgame locker space. Knight stated he informed La Russa there was no way he was going to do that– that it would remove from Indiana’s win and make him the story. It would be unfair to the players and to Crean. La Russa didn’t buy the description and pressed him on the issue, telling him he required to be the”bigger man “and check out the locker space. Knight stated he blew up at La Russa and informed him,”Damn it, Tony, I’m not over it yet! I do not believe I’ll ever overcome it!” He then hung up on La Russa.Knight was genuinely impacted by the exchange. From our conversation, it ended up being clear to me that Knight wasn’t upset at La Russa, and he wasn’t angry at Indiana. But he was still harmed over his dismissal. While Knight was unpredictable at times, he was also extremely psychological and might be fast to tear up. He didn’t understand how to show it or voice it through the bravado he showed. In that, he was constantly a throwback.

Jay Bilas and Bob Knight invested a great deal of time together, including trips and rounds of golf. For ESPN Driving with Knight was a distinct and, at times, frightening experience. I never ever saw him use a safety belt, so riding with him suggested sustaining the excruciating, recurring dinging of the unfastened seat belt chime, all while Knight pretended he didn’t hear it. And driving with Knight typically implied you were heading someplace to consume. He was a lover of holes-in-the-wall. Knight was far more comfortable consuming at a dive than at a pricey steakhouse. And his beverage choices bordered on obscene for my taste. He would mix lemonade with Dr Pepper, or worse.Once, Knight and I were doing a game together at Kansas and he wanted to get something to consume on the drive from the hotel to Allen Fieldhouse. I believed, improperly, he wanted to get a sandwich to take to the arena– I was wrong. He wanted to stop and sit for lunch. The game remained in less than two hours. I called the manufacturer to tell him what Knight wanted to do and that I had long shot of talking him out of it. The manufacturer asked:”Do you believe you can make it to the arena by the opening pointer?”I stated yes, and he

informed me to do my best. So we took a seat at an Applebee’s in Lawrence with shocked Jayhawks fans looking at Knight and approaching for autographs and pictures. We made the suggestion by about five minutes.Knight was also a genuine piece of work on the golf course. He delighted in playing however was not consumed with the game. While in Scotland once, Knight was strolling to the green for a short chip shot and asked to borrow my sand wedge. After he hit his shot, I observed that he had his own sand wedge with him and asked why he required mine.” If I struck a bad chip, I didn’t wish to throw mine. “I wasn’t sure whether that was a scheduled joke or he was dead severe. I think he liked it that way.Knight’s acts of generosity were seldom advertised, and if I had publicized those I understood of while he lived, he would not have liked it. Knight bet the famous Fred Taylor at Ohio State, and near the end of Taylor’s life, Knight would slip into Taylor’s hospital room to hold his hand. When a legendary basketball talent critic was having financial trouble late in life, Knight paid his outstanding bills and rent, without informing a soul. Get your preferred live sports, stories and originals with ESPN+, Disney + and Hulu. Update to a Disney Package strategy and begin streaming something for everybody today! Knight’s on-again, off-again relationship with Mike Krzyzewski, my college coach and coach, was an aching spot with Knight and me. I never ever understood it. I knew how proud Knight was of Coach K, and how much Coach K meant to him. But, I just couldn’t wrap my head around how Knight would negatively respond to any perceived slight or miscommunication that, to others, was irrelevant. I could always tell where the relationship was to Knight at any provided time. When Knight asked, “Have you talked to Mike? How is he doing?”I knew things were in an excellent place. When he asked,”How is Krzyzewski?”I knew something was askew. Honestly, it was a great lesson. Knight allowed little things to affect a crucial lifetime relationship. In doing so, he injured himself and he injured Coach K. Seeing that from both sides, I silently promised that I would aim to never let that happen in my life. None of that was worth the expense, and I think Knight would concur with that, were we to speak about it.The total photo of Bob Knight is made complex and more nuanced than it appears from the exterior. He leaves this world as one of the great coaches in American sports history and one of its most compelling figures. He lived among the wealthiest basketball lives in the game’s history, and is woven into the fabric of the game like couple of others. He won championships and gold medals, wrote books, and broke bread with people of numerous different walks of life, from world leaders to taxi drivers.Whatever one thinks about Bob Knight, positive or unfavorable, I will not argue. But without affordable argument, the basketball world lost an American original.

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