Bob Knight betrays his former self on ESPN

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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