Bobby Knight Resigns: Media Reaction and My Thoughts

Today I am going to talk about something a little off topic, or so it may seem, for this site. I want to talk about the resignation of a college basketball coach and the media reaction to that resignation. Yesterday, Bobby Knight, the winningest coach in NCAA Division I men’s basketball history resigned as head coach at Texas Tech. His replacement, and this is a crucial point, is his son, who has been his officially designated successor since 2005.

Bobby Knight really developed his status as one of the greatest coaches of all time while he was the head coach at Indiana University for 29 years. He also deveoped a reputation for a volatile temper while he was at Indiana. And it was that temper that got him fired from that university.

Bobby Knight really developed his status as one of the greatest coaches of all time while he was the head coach at Indiana University for 29 years. He also deveoped a reputation for a volatile temper while he was at Indiana. And it was that temper that got him fired from that university.

While at Indiana, Bobby Knight’s teams won three national championships – no mean feat. More importantly, for me at least, under Knight’s leadership, the Indiana University men’s basketball program had the highest graduation rate of any major college program. Bobby Knight stressed academics to his players and they listened.

The reaction to Knight’s resignation was, for the most part, favorable in terms of the major sports media. Most were glad that Bobby got to leave “on his terms” rather being forced out. But one columnist was quite unsympathetic and called Knight a hypocrit for walking out on the Texas Tech team in mid-season.

I suppose one can take that perspective, if one does not really understand what Knight did and why. I think you have to a father to really understand.

When Bobby Knight was fired from Indiana, he stayed out of coaching for one year. I think he took the job at Texas Tech for two reasons:

He wanted to get the record for most wins – not so much for personal glory as Mr. Forde seems to think in his column, but to show the media and the college basketball establishment that you can be the best without resorting to the high-powered recruiting and other less-than-honorable tactics of the basketball factories. Bobby Knight won his three NCAA championships with less talent than some of the teams he platyed against. The difference was that Bobby could mold the individuals who played for him into a team and it is teams not individuals that win NCAA titles. By staying at Tech long enough to get his 900th career win, Bobby Knight was giving the college basketball establishment, including media people like Mr. Forde, a giant middle finer salute.

Secondly, Bobby took the job at Tech so he could train his son to be a college basketball coach. The hiring of Pat and his appointment as Bobby’s successor-in-waiting, I suspect, was part of the deal that made Bobby decide to come back to coaching. I think if any of us had been disgraced by an employer the way Bobby had been by IU, we would have serious reservations about coming back into the same sort of job. Bobby did it for the one thing that means more to him, I suspect, than national titles, coaching records, or his own reputation – his child.

I can empathize with Bobby. I too have a volatile temper that has cost me a job or two in my life. I too stress the value of acadmics and honor. But, more importantly, like Bobby, my children always come first. I salute you, sir, and wish you happy hunting and fishing. You’ve earned it in my book and maybe someday there will be a basketball arean named after you, even if it is not the one at IU. But naming the athletes’ academic center after you would be even more appropriate.

Here are links to some of the media articles about Bobby Knight’s resignation, including Mr. Forde’s:

  1. Knight leaves on his own terms by Jeff Goodman of Fox Sports
  2. Doing it his way by William F. Reed for Sports Illustrated
  3. Knight’s final act a hypocritical one in a career full of them by Pat Forde of ESPN
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