San Antonio, TX (Feb 10, 2008) - The tall man walked slowly down the dark tunnel at The Ohio State University's St. John Arena. The darkness was such that you could not make out who it was until he got close to you. I could hear his voice as he said "Are we late? I am so sorry to have kept you all waiting.". As he came into the light I was shocked as it was Bobby Knight, apologizing that his Indiana Hoosiers were indeed a few hours late for a shoot around and for their head shots to be shot by CBS Sports production staff. I was floored, as I assumed based on what I had always seen on TV and read in the print media (the Internet did not exist yet) that he would be boiling mad that they were so late.
I had this view because as many times as I played golf with my barber, Emil Colosimo, and would listen to him speak about his friend Bobby Knight and what a truly good man he was, I was always bombarded with what the media would say about this man. The truth is that he was, like Woody Hayes, a complicated man. His record and loyalty to his players really should outweigh the mistakes he made in his professional life. We have all made mistakes. That is why I was very happy to read a recent column by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's (AJC) Terence Moore, where he wrote about a chance encounter between his brother and Coach Knight:
With emotion in his voice, Darrell said on Thursday over the phone from his home in Cincinnati, “To me, Coach Knight is one of the greatest human beings I’ve ever met, and everything that I heard about him before I met him was absolutely false. I still remember that encounter like it just happened a few minutes ago.”
Here’s what happened: With Indiana preparing for a basketball game at Wisconsin, Darrell strolled by the Hoosiers’ team bus while leaving one of his baseball practices. Everybody was aboard, except for Knight, clad in his famous red plaid jacket of those days. Knight began to take his first step on the bus to join the rest of them, when Darrell said, “Hi, Coach Knight,” as Darrell continued walking.
Knight turned and signaled for Darrell to come closer. “I didn’t know if he was going to chew me out for something or what,” said Darrell, laughing, who spent the next 20 minutes back then listening more than speaking. No doubt, Knight knew Darrell was a Wisconsin player of some kind by his letterman’s jacket, but the conversation never involved baseball, basketball or anything with athletics.
First question from Knight: What year are you in school? Then came how are you doing academically? That’s great, but are you taking advantage of all the learning opportunities you have at such a wonderful academic institution, and what are you planning to do with your degree after graduating? “He was like a guidance counselor with a bunch of great insight,” Darrell said. “I mean, here he was taking all of this time with me, and he didn’t even know me from Adam.”
This is who Bobby Knight was and is as a person. People may not like his style, and it is their right to have that opinion. But the media needs to focus on the all the good things Coach Knight has done, including the fact that his players do graduate and there was never a hoint of any recruiting scandals. That should be his legacy.
You can read Terence Moore's full column on the AJC Web site.