Friday, December 15, 2006

A Prescription For Bobby Knight

By Eric Poole

The thought that Bobby Knight will soon overtake Dean Smith as men's college basketball's all-time winningest coach has me rooting for a heart attack.

Mind you, I'm not talking about anything fatal. That would be heartless. Just something that will force a medical professional to look Knight in the eyes and tell him he can't handle the stress of coaching college basketball.

The problem is, Knight doesn't suffer from stress. He's a carrier.

For something like 40 years, Knight has put his abusive — both physically and emotionally — personality on display in a wide range of ways.

Just last month, he hit a player in the face during a game. Knight's apologists tried to explain that away by parroting his own excuse that his player came to the sideline with his head down and he was just trying to get the kid's chin up.

These are the same people who praise Knight because his players get degrees, which sounds a little bit like that old saw about Mussolini getting the trains to run on time.

What killed me was that the player's parents came to Knight's defense. Any coach does that to my son and I'll be wearing his backside around at the end of my foot like a boot.

But that jab to the chin, the tantrums directed at sportswriters, the chair-throwing, hunting-buddy-shooting, rape-epithet-spouting, cop-punching, student-accosting, and throat-grabbing isn't why I despise Knight.

It's because of Knight's hypocrisy, which makes all that possible.

Bob Knight demands respect from everyone around him, but consistently fails to return the courtesy, especially for those who disagree with or question him.

Since no doctor is going to diagnose Knight with life-threatening stress, it seems inevitable that he will claim the record now held by Smith, who was one of college basketball's real class acts, the anti-Knight, if you will.

So I recommend that Knight complete a week-long anger management course. Not to manage his anger — that's a lost cause — but mine.

The goal of my seven-day program is to force Knight to experience first-hand the abuse he has heaped on others.

Day 1: Knight spends eight hours in a dunk tank. But while people are in front of him trying to hit the dunk target with softballs, the real throwers are behind him, throwing folding chairs at his head. And he's not allowed to turn around.

Day 2: Strapped into a chair with his eyes forced open "Clockwork Orange"-style, Knight has to watch an endless loop of a "The Simpsons" episode as Homer strangles an animated likeness of himself.

Day 3: For two hours, Knight has to sit in a chair, tape recorder in hand, while sportswriters from around the country yell insults and obscenities at him. For the next 22 hours, he has to watch the videotape.

Day 4: Knight gets shot by grouse hunters. I wanted to try this with grouse, but their little birdie feet aren't strong enough to pull the trigger.

Day 5: Knight has to work as a butler for a rap star and obey his every whim unquestioningly. Ideally, the rapper will be someone like Snoop Dogg, who would send his servant to procure certain substances at a certain Caribbean island.

Day 6: He has to work security at a sporting event while Puerto Rico police officers, dressed as coaches, take turns gut punching him for eight solid hours. During the beating, the cops find an illicit substance in Knight's possession.

Day 7: While in prison, Knight's cellmate is a very large, very violent man who sidles up real close to the Texas Tech coach and says, "It's inevitable, so just sit back and enjoy it."

If he can complete the program without his head exploding — and I'd bet against that — Knight is welcome to Smith's record. But first, I think he needs to know what it is like to be shown real disrespect, not the "disrespect" he perceives when someone has the temerity to question him.

Knight doesn't teach his players to respect authority, partly because he has respect for authority only when the authority figure agrees with him. He teaches them to fear authority, which is an entirely different animal.

There is a difference between a leader and a dictator. And that difference is as clear as the contrast between Dean Smith and the guy who is about to break his career victory mark.

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