- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 16, 2000

The investigation lasted seven weeks. A private eye was hired to gather information. And here's my favorite part: The services of a forensic video expert were retained to analyze the infamous Neil Reed Choking Tape.

I'm not sure the Warren Commission was as thorough as Indiana University was in its inquiry into Bob Knight's misbehavior. But it was the Warren Commission I thought of yesterday when the president of the IU board of trustees talked about the "elapsed time of contact" between Knight's right hand and Reed's neck (2.3 seconds, for those of you scoring at home). It was the Warren Commission I thought of when this same trustee talked about Knight's hand exerting "enough force that [Reed's] head snapped back."

The only thing being assassinated this time, though, was what was left of a basketball coach's reputation. By the time university president Myles Brand and trustee John Walda were done yesterday, Knight had been embarrassed beyond all embarrassments. He had been suspended for three games, fined $30,000, instructed to apologize to offended parties and put on perhaps the shortest leash in coaching history. If Knight acts up in the future, if he verbally or physically abuses a player or pitches a vase in the vicinity of a secretary it "will be cause for immediate termination," Brand said. "This is a zero tolerance policy."

It never should have come to this, of course. And at least the university had the integrity to share some of the blame. Knight has been a runaway train for some time now, but no one in a position of authority has seemed to want to do much about it. He won and he won big and he won clean, so the occasional chair-tossing or jersey-grabbing or media-cussing episode was shrugged off as "just Bobby being Bobby," as the Price of Greatness.

Lately, though, these incidents have reached a critical mass. Walda referred to a "lengthy pattern of troubling behavior" by Knight and said "some [incidents] that haven't been aired [publicly] came to our attention… . There was a fight at practice that wasn't properly broken up by the coaching staff." (Yet when a reporter asked if there was a second videotape showing Knight behaving badly, Walda refused to answer, so who knows how bad the situation really got?)

For the longest time, I defended Bob Knight. I overlooked his antics, as many did, because his teams played such pleasing basketball timeless basketball, the kind that appeals to geezers like me. There's no Showtime with the Hoosiers, just hustling and picking and rolling and making the extra pass.

"You don't understand," I would tell people. "Coaches are extremists. They have to be because their job is to find out each player's limit, to get the most out of each guy. Unfortunately, it's not always a pretty process. I had a basketball coach once who, during a pep talk, threw a woman's purse at us. We won that night, so I guess the ploy worked. Every athlete has stories like that. Coaches are always looking for your hot button. And some of them will do almost anything to find it."

But somewhere along the way, Knight's extremism became too extreme. Or maybe it was that the world changed, and he didn't (aside from trading his checked jacket for a sweater). Whatever the explanation, it's clear he wasn't reaching players as he once did. When you have to lay your hand on a kid's throat to make a point, your message obviously isn't getting across.

Why Knight didn't recognize this is anyone's guess. If he really is as "bright" as silly Dick Vitale claims, if he truly is a man of "intellect," how can he be so lacking in self-knowledge? Why didn't he realize on any number of occasions that he had gone too far? Shouldn't there have been an alarm that went off in his head?

Heck, if Knight hadn't been backed into a corner, been caught red-handed on tape, he wouldn't be apologizing for anything right now; it would have been business as usual next season. But now we're supposed to believe the "General" is going to reinvent himself over the summer and return to the sideline a kinder, gentler but still successful coach. Pardon my skepticism.

After another general Patton was forced to humble himself before the troops, he led the march to Berlin. I don't see Knight leading any marches to Berlin, though. He's 59, 13 years removed from his third NCAA title and doesn't attract nearly the talent he once did. Indiana has lost its last two tournament games by 25 (to St. John's) and 20 (to mighty Pepperdine); unless Isiah Thomas sends Knight a superstar son, I wouldn't count on much changing in Bloomington.

In fact, if I were Knight, I'd be mailing my resume this morning to Indiana Pacers general manager Donnie Walsh. The Pacers will be looking for a coach after the season Larry Bird is getting out and a move to the pros might make sense for Knight at this stage of his career, might recharge his batteries. There's only one drawback: If he ever grabbed a player's neck, the player might grab back.

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