- The Washington Times - Monday, September 11, 2000

Indiana University, bless what remains of its academic soul, should not have fired Bobby Knight yesterday.

It should have fired him long, long ago.

Ever since John Feinstein published his classic book "A Season on the Brink" in 1987, the world has known Knight for what he is the biggest bully as well as perhaps the biggest genius in college basketball.

If you're the charitable sort, you could say Knight is a tragically flawed individual whose brains and ability have been wasted simply because he could not control himself.

You also could say that about William Jefferson Clinton.

I'm not that charitable, though. I dislike Knight for the humiliation he has visited upon countless young men who came to Indiana eager to play for him. I dislike him for the embarrassment he has caused his former employer. Most of all, I dislike him for the unpleasant coaching ethic with which he has infected countless peers: You have got to be tougher, meaner and louder than the next guy to win.

Actually, you don't. I remember a gentle soul named John Wooden who coached UCLA to seven count 'em, seven more NCAA championships than Knight without raising his voice, at least in public.

Back in May, university president Myles Brand announced that Knight had been placed on the equivalent of administrative probation after trying to ascertain whether he could bring his hands together while grasping a player's throat. The next untoward incident would bring dismissal, Brand said.

Yeah, yeah, everybody said another university caves in to a highly successful coach whose teams bring in lots of TV money that causes campus libraries and student centers to spring out of previously unfertilized soil.

Guess what, folks? Brand and his trusty trustees weren't kidding. They had given Knight one last, perhaps unmerited chance, and he blew it big time by venting his spleen during what Brand called several subsequent incidents. The latest, grabbing the arm of a student who addressed him as "Knight" without the proper honorific, was merely the last flaw.

Of course, the student was rude. Of course, Knight should have admonished him, but not physically. Heck, this student didn't even play for him.

And if you really want to feel sick, how about those news reports that the student, Kent Harvey, has received phone and e-mail threats to his health for being the so-called cause of Knight's latest contretemps?

Have some people no shame back home in Indiana?

For shame.

Bobby Knight was not some wise and wonderful philosopher or teacher who deserved to be venerated. He was a basketball coach, for heaven's sake, and a pretty unlikable one at that.

As you know, Knight was neither the first or last college coach to be elevated beyond human proportions. Take a former and a current paragon in the basketball-batty ACC, Dean Smith and Mike Krzyzewski. No hint of improper behavior has besmirched their names, but do they deserve to be accorded the status of demigods in neighboring precincts of Tobacco Road?

No way but they are. To quote the estimable Al Davis of Oakland, Calif., just win baby.

In one way, we shouldn't blame those Division I-A football and basketball coaches, good and bad, who rule their fiefdoms like God's gift to humanity. Perhaps we should blame instead the disgusting hypocrisy of college sports that allows educational institutions to bring in athletes whose academic qualifications are suspect at best and ludicrous at worst all in the name of winning lots of games and producing lots of money for everybody except the jocks themselves.

Any coach worthy of his shoe contract will swear on a stack of game plans that his primary goal is to educate his players. Sure, but only on the field or court.

At least you have to give Knight this: He wasn't hypocritical. What you saw what was you got, and if you didn't like it, you could lump it.

Yesterday Knight took his lumps, and they were way overdue.

One anecdote bears repeating here. Several years ago, Knight corresponded to complain about my calling him Bobby in a generally positive column. He didn't like it, he said, because "Bobby is a little boy's name."

Sad to say, Knight had many chances to grow up, to put away his self-destructive and childish temper, and never did. That's why I still call him Bobby.

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