- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 28, 2000

The clock is ticking on Indiana basketball coach Bobby Knight, and maybe it's about time.

If those charges by former Hoosier Ricky Calloway that Knight slapped and punched players can be proved, it's time for Indiana to unload him. The sooner the better.

We don't know the charges are true, of course. That remains for the university's in-house investigation or perhaps even a court of law to determine should one or more of the supposedly abused players decide to sue.

Yet perhaps the biggest indictment of Knight's once superb program gone awry is we can easily believe Calloway is telling the truth.

I don't know Ricky Calloway from Cab Calloway, the old song-and-dance man, so I have no idea why he has come forward more than a decade after transferring to Kansas to escape Knight's clutches. On the surface, though, there's no reason to doubt his honesty in supporting recent Indiana transferee Neil Reed's claims he was choked by Knight.

And if we know anything at all about Bobby Knight, it's that his ferocious temper causes him to lose control. The best evidence of this came, overwhelmingly, in John Feinstein's best-selling book about Knight's program in the late '80s, "A Season on the Brink." Understandably, Knight did not like the book. One day he called a news conference and called Feinstein a pimp and a whore.

Feinstein's response was all-world: "I wish he'd make up his mind so I'd know how to dress."

Sometimes Knight's behavior has been ludicrous. One day some years ago, he wrote me to complain about a generally favorable column in which I mentioned that he sometimes disciplined his players harshly. Not true, Knight said, adding, "My players love me."

The same day I received the letter, Knight got himself all over the sports highlight shows by grabbing a player by a handful of shirt and/or skin. What's more, the player was his son, Pat, if memory serves.

Surely, there was no more emphatic evidence of Knight's instability than his reaction this season when reporters asked if a game with Iowa would be special because former Hoosier Steve Alford was coaching the Hawkeyes.

"Do you have any idea how many games I've coached against my former players?" Knight replied, his neck becoming almost as red as his sweater. "If I treated every one of those games as special, I would have been like this years ago …" And Knight thrashed around, tongue extended, in a grossly insensitive imitation of a village idiot.

Alford whom Knight once punched savagely in the stomach when he was Indiana's captain, according to Calloway denied yesterday his former coach had ever abused him. Like I said, we don't know what is the truth and what isn't at this point. As far as Alford's denial is concerned, however, we do know one thing: Coaches tend to stick up for one another.

No matter what happens to Knight, there's a bigger issue: Should highly successful coaches whose programs bring their schools millions of dollars be allowed to conduct themselves and their fiefdoms any way they choose?

It isn't an easy question to answer. Take Duke, for instance. The revenue generated by Mike Krzyzewski's basketball teams can build lots of libraries and science buildings. Does that give Krzyzewski whose name never has been linked even to a minor scandal the right to act like a despot if he so chooses?

Of course not but Coach K does.

Name any famous college basketball or football coach and you will find a man who towers over his campus and players. Knight does. So does Krzyzewski. And can you picture any former president of the University of Alabama approaching Bear Bryant and saying, "Coach, I want you to be nicer to those nice young men who are playing for you"?

Sometimes, though, these autocratic types are laid low by their own feelings of invincibility. The closest thing to Knight might have been Woody Hayes, the nasty Ohio State football coach who acted as if he would like to chew and spit out any and all critics. But one day, old Woody made a mistake; he punched a Clemson player on the sideline during a bowl game. That gave Ohio State the opening it had been looking for, and before he could say, "Gosh darn it, what happened?" Woody was an unwilling retiree.

Calloway's charges could be the lever that lets Indiana eject Knight (and perhaps give his job to Alford?). Knight is a lot more vulnerable than he was back in the days when the Hoosiers were winning three national titles under his ungentle hand. Sooner or later, he will say or do something that results in his becoming an ex-member of the X's and O's fraternity. In fact, he already may have.

It's a shame, too, because very few people in any sport have coached as well as Bobby Knight. The man is practically a genius at everything except controlling himself.

Ultimately, we are all responsible for our actions. Coaches, athletes, politicians and entertainers are no different it's just that many think they are.

Some years ago, Knight made a big deal of wanting to be called Bob because, he said, "Bobby is a little boy's name."

That's why we call him Bobby.

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