Let's appreciate this tale of two coaches
He is the guy throwing the chair across the floor and almost hitting a fan in the front row. And he is the coach of that suffocating man-to-man...
Seattle Times staff columnist
He is the guy throwing the chair across the floor and almost hitting a fan in the front row.
And he is the coach of that suffocating man-to-man defense that takes nothing for granted and surrenders nothing easily.
He is the bully who was convicted in absentia for hitting a Puerto Rico policeman before a practice at the 1979 Pan Am Games, embarrassing himself and the entire United States basketball team.
And he is the choreographer of the motion offense, a swirl of sharp cuts and rib-rattling picks that, when run as well as his teams run it, works in 2006 just as it did in 1956.
Texas Tech's Bob Knight is the incorrigible coach who was fired at Indiana after violating the zero-tolerance policy the university imposed on him.
And he is the ingenious coach who took the Hoosiers to five Final Fours and three national championships.
He is a tyrant and a teacher.
He is petulant and he is a perfectionist.
He is profane and he is a Hall of Famer.
"I get a kick out of that son of a gun," Hall of Fame coach Pete Newell, a friend of Knight's for 40 years, said Thursday. "He can be such a monster sometimes, and he can be so considerate other times. He's a damn good friend, let's put it that way."
He is the toughest coach alive, and he also is the gentle man who devoted hundreds of hours of his time to coax, cajole and push his former player Landon Turner to a full, productive life after Turner was paralyzed in an automobile accident.
He is infuriating and he is inspiring.
If Texas Tech beats New Mexico on New Year's Day, Knight, whose team lost Thursday 74-66 to UNLV, will pass former North Carolina coach Dean Smith and become the winningest coach in college basketball history.
It is impossible to describe Knight tidily. He is a jumble of personalities. He is as hard on his players as any coach in history. He belittles them. He insults them. His sarcastic tongue is as sharp as Chris Rock's.
But man, can he coach.
He's won with and without a shot clock. He's won with and without the three-point line. He won with the self-disciplined athletes who played for him at Army. And he has won with the modern athlete, both at Indiana and at Texas Tech.
"He's helped so many coaches at his clinic," Newell, 91, said. "He set a standard for a lot of coaches, and that standard was that you don't cheat, and you don't bring kids into your program and babysit them for a couple of years and then let them go.
"Bobby is what he is, not one of those people who changes to please people. He can be very critical or he can be very, very friendly. I think he's improved a lot in the things that used to bother him. He's settled into things a little bit better now."
His style isn't for everybody. There are times I watch him on the sideline, even now at Texas Tech, and think that this is only a game and it should be more enjoyable for his players than he is making it.
And I don't understand why he has always been so condescending to most sportswriters and peripheral people like tournament directors and scorekeepers and clock operators. With all of his success, I don't understand why he's had to act the bully so often.
Why did he tell NBC interviewer Connie Chung in 1988, "If you think rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it?" At the time he seemed to be doing it just to be a contrarian.
In an interview two years ago, his son and his assistant coach, Pat Knight, admitted his dad had mellowed. I think, at 66, Knight has learned from his mistakes. If he is mellower, he also is smarter.
As someone who would have been a basketball coach if he hadn't gotten into sportswriting, I've slowly learned to forget about Knight's warts and appreciate what he has done for basketball. If he has mellowed, I guess, so have I.
Knight studies the game like a Nobel laureate. He teaches it like a Harvard professor. Watching his motion offense is like watching something created by Balanchine.
His style has survived every radical change in the game. And his presence has made basketball better.
He is as tough to figure as a quadratic equation. But Bob Knight can coach basketball as well as anybody, ever.
And this week, this season, he should be celebrated for all of the good he has brought to the game.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or email@example.com.
About Steve Kelley
Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
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