Bob Knight skewers UK, Peyton Manning stays smart

December 18, 2009
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Ken Ungar, president of locally based US Sports Advisors, is fond of telling me that celebrities and high-profile athletes of all kinds must “stay true to their brand” if they're going to maximize their potential in a business sense.

He says they should choose what they want to stand for and what they want to be, and in words and in deeds, Ungar emphasizes, “stay true to your brand.”
Ungar is a former Indianapolis Motor Speedway executive who has transitioned into the world of sports marketing and athlete representation. He has penned a book about athletes traversing the world of sports business and his client list spans from race car drivers to the NBA Players Association.

I can’t help but think that Ungar would be proud this morning of Bob Knight and Peyton Manning. Not so much for what they said last night—I’m not here to say their stances were wrong or right—but for staying true to their brand.

Knight skewered University of Kentucky Coach John Calipari at last night’s Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame fundraiser. While standing at the podium, he unleashed this pearl:

“We’ve gotten into this situation where integrity is really lacking and that’s why I’m glad I’m not coaching,” he said. “You see we’ve got a coach at Kentucky who put two schools on probation and he’s still coaching. I really don’t understand that.”

While publicists among us might have advised Knight not to step into this fray and literally confront Calipari and his legions of Blue Grass followers head on, Knight was simply being true to his brand.

Blunt, honest and yes, holier than thou. It might be easy to criticize Knight for the latter.
But you can’t fault him for betraying the brand he’s crafted for more than four decades. That’s because the Knight brand—at least when it comes to following NCAA rules and regulations—is above all else about being “clean.”

Consider this testimony.
Sonny Vaccaro, who worked for Nike, Adidas and Reebok and conducted the nation’s biggest post-high school basketball player camps, said Knight set the bar so high at IU it makes it difficult for subsequent coaches. Vaccaro wasn’t just talking about winning. 

When asked recently to assess how many truly clean coaches are among college basketball’s elite, Vaccaro chose his words carefully, pondering national championships won and Final Fours made. 

“I guess three coaches, maybe four. I’m not 100 percent for sure about one guy,” Vaccaro said. “And even among that group, Knight stands alone, stands above. I’ve never heard a single thing about him, never heard anything. Nothing. He’s the cleanest one.”

When it comes to squeaky clean, you have to admire Manning. At least as it pertains to football and his team. He definitely polishes every word before it comes out of his mouth. Again, Ungar would be proud.

After last night’s Indianapolis Colts victory, journalists thrust microphones and tape recorders in Manning’s face and demanded an answer to a pretty tricky question, “What should the Colts do about their remaining two games? Should they try to win them and maintain the perfect season What’s the right thing to do?”

Manning spit out his answer faster than his lines in a Sony commercial. Remember, the question is what is the “right” thing to do, not what did Manning “want” to do?

“The right decision will be whatever decision the coach makes,” Manning said. “Because that’s the one everyone on this team will be following.”

Any less carefully worded response could have put Manning at odds with other players—or more importantly Colts coaches and management who think contrary to what he might have said in the post-game hype.

Did I mention that part of Manning’s brand is being “smart.”

Yep, I’d say he stayed true to that too.

  • Good for Bobby!
    I could not believe that the NCAA did so little to Calipari after he destroyed two programs. The fact that any University hired him again says a lot about what is wrong with the educational system in this country. A winning team is the most important thing, not education, ethics or legalities.
    Bravo to Bobby for speaking out, unlike the media which turns a blind eye.
  • Typo Alert
    First sentence should be using a "they're" instead of "their": "if their going to maximize their potential in a business sense."
  • Knight
    Kudos to Bobby for throwing Calipari and the NCAA under the bus! Could have done the same for Huggins.
  • Next NCCA chief
    I nominate Bob Knight to be the next head of the NCAA!
  • Another clean coach
    I think you can add Bo Ryan of Wisconsin to the "list of one so far". He does not chase after blue chip prima donnas who cut and run chasing fame and fortune after a year or two.
    He recruits team players with solid academic credentials. He doesn't promise them a role but assures them they will be expected to work hard in his system. The results speak to his integrity and coaching skills.
  • Knight smart too
    Manning isn't the only one who is smart and measured. Everything he said is done with a vengance, and I mean that literally. He's still mad at the NCAA, IU, Myles Brand and his comments about Calipari are more about that than anything else. He sets himself up to be holier than thou, but he is a tremendously conflicted and troubled person. And smart too.
  • R U Serious?
    Bob Knight has to be the biggest joke in years. How can such an abusive coach act as if he's holier than thou. His programs might be clean, but he has to be one of the worst role models that exist.
  • As a long time Boiler Fan, have my tickets for the Wooden Tradition already, I respect Knight for winning with a clean program. What I cannot respect him for is the way he handled himself in public and in front of his kids. I also cannot respect the University for allowing him to get so far out of hand just because he was winning.

    Had IU reigned him in during the late 70's and early 80's, he probably would have delivered another championship or two, Assembly Hall would be a pile of rubble and a new basketball palace named after Knight would be standing in its place. Instead, it is IU's program that is a pile of rubble and dreams of a winning season are all the IU faithful can think of.

    I think Crean is the right man, he just has a herculean task ahead of him. Hopefully IU fan gives him a chance. They are infamous for short honeymoons.
  • Bob Knight is an idiot
    Im not a uk fan or an Indiana fan, but I know Bob Knight has no room at all to talk about a coach like that. He is the same guy that shook down refs every game, throws chairs across the court, and has slapped his own players. Calipari may be breaking NCAA rules, but Bob Knight is an all around piece of crap.
  • Why did Knight get FIRED?
    Excuse me but wasn't Knight fired from Indiana? Why, because he was out of control. He couldn't control his temper, he lost control of his emotions and he lost top kids on the recruiting front because of his eratic behavior. He just lost it period, Knight is a hypocrite all you have to do is ask his ex wife. Teachers who have to yell and scream at players to make his/her point is a poor teacher. Calapari was not charged or found guilty of anything. The way Calapari handled the news about Knight was absolutely first class. Knight's people skills remind me of "Atilla The Hun" who was another loser.
  • olio
    Random: "throws chairs across the court" He threw one chair. I'm not defending even a single chair. But let's keep the fact straight, no matter how much venom you're spitting.

    "but Bob Knight is an all around piece of crap." If I were to have played NCAA hoops (I played soccer), I would have played for Bobby in a heartbeat. It has nothing to do with liking him.

    I'm guessing we can see Butler, Purdue, IU as clean programs, but flying beneath the radar. No one hears about the clean coaches, just the dirty ones.
  • King Knight
    Atleast Coach Knight acted out in front of the cameras. Calipari is trying to be sneaky about it. Knight didn't care what anybody saw or what they thought. I give kudos to Knight for that very reason.

    With what he did for everyone to see...he had nothing to hide.
  • Role Models
    Peyton said it succinctly... who do we want our role models to be and what kind of character do we want them to have? Whoever they are, we will follow.
  • heavy weight champ
    I know this...calipari never hit his players...we just need to go ahead and pay college players.

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