Bob Knight betrays his former self on ESPN

March 25, 2010
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Former Indiana University basketball coach Bob Knight has gone soft.

The man who won three national championships as IU’s not-so-benevolent dictator now acts more like a doting grandfather than the tyrant many in the land of Cream and Crimson came to love.

Knight’s change struck me this morning as I listened to ESPN Radio. Knight was asked what Cornell’s coach could do in the locker room before the game to prepare his team tonight against Kentucky.

I must admit, it was a pretty ridiculous question. And a guy as smart as Knight sniffed out the stupidity of it right away.

The snarky Knight reared his head. He started to say that all that “Knute Rockne stuff” is overrated and that preparation must be done the week before.

Then he was cut off mid-sentence by Erik Kuselias. “Point taken,” Kuselias said, “… so what would you have done in the week before.”

Erik Kuselias! Look, I know I’m a sports business geek, but in his glory days Knight would have never let a guy like Kuselias, a self-proclaimed fantasy league freak, cut him off in the middle of a thought.

Kuselias couldn’t have cut him off more if he would have screamed “Shut up old man!”

Knight’s ESPN bosses must have lectured him good about rhythm and flow. Because The General didn’t miss a beat, taking Kuselias’ cue and immediately launching into a dialogue about what the Cornell coach should have done this week to prepare for mighty UK.

Then after taking his direction from Kuselias like the on-camera actor he has become, I knew I was in an alternative universe when Knight waxed poetic about how much he enjoyed his time on air with Kuselias (who was sitting in for Mike Greenberg) and Mike Golic.

I wonder if Knight realizes he has become the kind of glad-handing media type he would have detested in his previous life as a take-no-guff head basketball coach. Maybe it's for the better. But the selling out of the old Knight is a little sad too.

Oh how I long for the days when Knight was punching phones at the NCAA tournaments, stuffing LSU fans into trash cans, running from the law in Puerto Rico and berating NCAA aids at tournament press conferences.

Ahh, a little venom.

That would be nice.

But I guess it just doesn’t sell like it used to.
 

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  • New job, new role
    While I see the point of the article's opinion, Knight's role is much different than when he was a coach. If he acted today how he did when he was a coach, he wouldn't be kept around very long. That said, I personally enjoy when he does play-by-play on espn for college games. He obviously understands the game and will comment on most every play - what was done wrong, what was done right, etc. Most commentators only comment on the obvious and don't really understand what set up the play to make it possible.
  • Knight wouldn't approve of spelling errors
    In the spirit of Bob Knight, it's "Erik Kuselias," not "Eric Kasilias."

    Good think the General isn't fact-checking these days.
  • Why?
    With Randy Wittman's son playing for Cornell, why would Coach Knight want to start anything while talking about the Cornell team and their next game? You should have written about Knight/Randy Wittman/Ryan Wittman instead.
  • Knight = Hypocrite
    Didn't Bob Knight once say the sports journalism profession was only one step above prostitution? So does that make his current career path on the upswing or on the decline? As soon as he joined ESPN I added hypocrite to the long list of adjectives that describe the polarizing Coach Knight.

  • You must be joking!!!
    Mike, you gotta be kidding. Knight only demanded that kind of loyalty from his subjects. He never afforded it to most of the players whose sweat forged his legacy. Knight wouldn't think twice about selling out Wittman (and his son). After all, you're talking about a guy who has sold out him self for just 15 more minutes of fame. Problem is, he's fast becoming irrelevant, and we can only hope ESPN figures this out sooner rather than later.
  • Tongue in Cheek
    If you think Bob Knight doesn't have his tongue firmly inserted in his cheek while he's playing the role of talking head, you don't know him very well. He tows the company line for his huge ESPN paycheck and laughs all the way to the bank. Good work if you can get it. Knight is lots of things, but stupid isn't one of them.
  • Sad and pathetic
    I too remember how much Bob Knight detested sports journalists and agree that it is a bit hypocritical that he is now working for ESPN. While he may be doing this all tongue in cheek the question is why? He certainly doesn't need the money and he has lots of hobbies like hunting and fishing. I think it is because he has an ego the size of Texas. He thinks he is so smart and has so much to say about the game of basketball. I remember thinking during Knightâ??s last years at IU that he seemed a bit out of touch with the college players. Also the Knight of years ago would not have towed a "company" line even for a big fat pay check. If he was willing to tow the line why did he violate the zero tolerance policy at IU ending his storied career there? Hearing Knight on TV a few times the whole thing seemed a bit sad and pathetic to me â?? why canâ??t he just retire and go off into the sunset and leave the game behind?
  • Sad and pathetic
    I too remember how much Bob Knight detested sports journalists and agree that it is a bit hypocritical that he is now working for ESPN. While he may be doing this all tongue in cheek the question is why? He certainly doesn't need the money and he has lots of hobbies like hunting and fishing. I think it is because he has an ego the size of Texas. He thinks he is so smart and has so much to say about the game of basketball. I remember thinking during Knightâ??s last years at IU that he seemed a bit out of touch with the college players. Also the Knight of years ago would not have towed a "company" line even for a big fat pay check. If he was willing to tow the line why did he violate the zero tolerance policy at IU ending his storied career there? Hearing Knight on TV a few times the whole thing seemed a bit sad and pathetic to me â?? why canâ??t he just retire and go off into the sunset and leave the game behind?
  • As My Mother Used to Say . . .
    . . . there's a time and a place for everything.

    I have no problem with Coach Knight being snarky. He ran his team sort of like infantry officers run their units.

    And I have no problem with Broadcaster Knight being nice, polite and even glad-hand a bit.

    The general does his work in the field. The coach does his work on the court. And the broadcaster comes into your house, as a guest. Who wants a snarly, mean, miserable SOB as a guest in their house? I don't, and I'll bet the commenters don't, either. There's a reason Walter Cronkite was so successful on the Evening News, as were Bob Schieffer and Katie Couric, while ratings went down, down, down under Dan Rather. Rather was a hard-edged newsman, while Cronkite et al were, in fact, your uncle.

    As for why Knight's doing sports journalism -- who cares? Maybe he wants 15 more minutes of fame. Maybe he thinks he needs the money for some purpose. Maybe he simply loves the game and wants to share that love. Maybe he figures if he stays active, he'll live longer.
  • Coach Knight
    Coach Knight can't be irrelevant if he continues to attract the attention of this author and some of of these bloggers. The article's premise is absurd since the author was obviously unhappy with Knight as either a great, but tough-minded coach, or as a good tv analyst who doesn't attack his subjects on the spot. Let's face facts, some unhappy people make themselves happy( or is it miserable ?) by criticizing successful people. If the shoe fits, wear it.........BTW, I don't live in Indiana and have never met the man. But I've always admired his work......
  • yes sir
    Thanks DJ. You sure seem to have it all figured out. Now go back from whence you came. I only wish Kuselias had been here to cut you off. Billy B., a Hoosier.
    • Huh ?
      Billy B,
      So,your point is.......?
    • Knight
      Well Anthony, you seem to have missed where Kuselias steered the conversation to what Knight actually wanted to talk about, which was how you prepare to win games. Knight's whole point was that by the time you get to the locker room before the game, there's nothing more you can do. So, he didn't mind when he was asked what he would do to prepare in the week before.

      I am confident, however, that Knight would have snapped had Kuselias pushed the issue and continued to try to get something out of him about a good pre-game speech.

      I agree that Knight is as good an analyst as he is a coach. He doesn't say, "Oh, what an amazing play!" which I already know, he explains what happened to make that play possible. Knight and Jay Bilas are the two best color commentators in college basketball today.
    • Just proves he's a regular guy
      Bob Knight has just proven that he's not that unique and individual and that you can't judge a man until you walk a mile in his shoes. This may be a bizarre reference for those of you who don't get into food shows, but Tony Bourdain, a chef who is now all over the travel channel and foodtv, spent an entire book (two actually) deriding Emeril Lagasse and all other foodtv folk as sellouts and "personalities" putting their mouths out there instead of their food. He's joined them. He admits he's a hypocrite. RMK won't last that long as a commentator anyway. ESPN may be on cable, but they are still a "family-friendly" channel. How long do they want to spend bleeping the language of their own employees.

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