“He’s the kind of guy who would throw a beer party and lock the bathroom door.” —fellow coach George Raveling, on Bobby Knight
For a final entry to our highly subjective endeavor, we offer up none other than The General as our ultimate standard-bearer. The beleaguered Indiana University coach has always had his defenders—look at the winning record, the three NCAA titles, they’ll say, the players’ graduation rates, the tough love, the character building. We’ll look elsewhere. We’ll turn to Knight as the embodiment of an alarmingly common late-century phenomenon: the coach as creep.
Petulant, mean, condescending, abusive, tyrannical, disagreeable, loutish, petty, threatening—these are just a few sides to the multifaceted Knight. Indelible imprints? How about the late-’70s wire photo of Knight shirt-yanking some poor sod (Jim Wisman) from a game; the famous ’85 cross-court chair toss following his double-technicals and early exit for an obscenity-laced tirade; the callously indelicate photo-op of Knight playfully brandishing a bullwhip to a black player’s backside at the ’92 NCAAs? Insensitive? Not for a guy who once told interviewer Connie Chung, “If rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it.”
On the international front, we’ll look beyond Knight’s gold at the ’79 Pan Am Games in Puerto Rico and focus instead on events surrounding his practice-session assault of a security cop. “Fuck ’em,” Knight told reporters, after getting jeered at the awards ceremonies. “The only thing they know how to do here is grow bananas.” Convicted in absentia, Knight would later brag of having mooned the country through the plane window: “That’s the last thing I wanted those people to see of me.”
Ever the goodwill ambassador, Knight once climaxed an ugly courtside shouting match with a Soviet coach in ’77 by pulling a Khrushchev and pounding his shoe on the scorer’s table. “Coach crazy,” said his Russian counterpart afterward. In a rematch 10 years later, Knight’s Hoosiers trailed 66-43, when the coach faced an automatic heave for a third T. “If I go,” he told the refs, “my team goes with me.” And so they did, with 15 minutes remaining, to forfeit the game.
Oh, but there’s so much more. An ’81 postgame duke-out that left an LSU student slumped in a garbage can; the sideline kicking of his own son (Knight claimed he got all chair); the hordes of player problems and defections; last summer’s parking-lot skirmish with a guitar maker over an alleged racist remark; the hanging of a tampon in a player’s locker to mock his play.
If Knight has any regrets over his stormy career, it may be having uncharacteristically allowed then Washington Post reporter John Feinstein access for an ’86 book on the Indiana program. The result was an unflattering best-seller that left Knight labeling the author (among other things) a “pimp” and a “whore.” Feinstein enjoyed the rare last word: “I wish he’d [Knight] make up his mind so that I can decide on my wardrobe.”