â†µEvery kid needs a villain, whether â†µit’s the bully down the street, the â†µsnotty rich girl from homeroom or â†µthe gym teacher who makes you â†µwear hideous yellow uniforms while â†µrunning laps. Mine was Bob Knight. I â†µhad my dad to thank for that. â†µ
â†µWe were Illini fans, and Bob Knight â†µrepresented Indiana basketball less â†µthan he represented boorishness, â†µprofanity and unadulterated fury. â†µThe first book I ever read with an â†µobscenity in it was our own John â†µFeinstein’s A Season On the Brink. It â†µwasn’t really appropriate for a â†µ14-year-old, but my dad let me read â†µit because hating Bob Knight was a â†µsacred bond. It’s hard for dads and â†µteenagers to find common ground. â†µBob Knight served that purpose, â†µsplendidly. We watched every Illini â†µgame, but Indiana games were events. â†µThey allowed the Leitches to scream at â†µthe television together for two hours, â†µletting the General stand in for all we â†µfound wrong with the world. â†µâ†µ
â†µAs I got older, though, I noticed â†µsomething about Bob Knight: He was â†µa lot like my dad. They both were â†µmilitary men, they both insisted on â†µdiscipline and hard work, and they â†µboth had a problem with their faces â†µgetting really red when they were â†µreally mad. As I segued into adulthood, â†µwhen Knight finally was wearing out â†µhis welcome in Bloomington (that is to â†µsay: not winning as much as he used â†µto), I found myself having sympathy for â†µhim. This guy was part of my youth. â†µIt was like watching teenagers taunt a â†µchained old dog. And now that he’s on â†µESPN and flirting with returning to â†µcoaching (again), I should probably just â†µadmit it: I love Bob Knight. â†µâ†µ
â†µIt’s not just that he’s particularly â†µskilled on ESPN, though that helps. â†µ(He’s not exactly camera-ready, yet he’s â†µsmart, blunt and unsparing -- things â†µyou can’t say about many others on that â†µnetwork.) It’s mostly that Bob Knight â†µhas remained, resolutely, Bob Knight â†µthroughout the years. â†µâ†µ
â†µThat never happens. We are a nation â†µthat loves reinvention, second chances, â†µpublic relations. No matter what you’ve â†µdone, if you look sorry enough in an â†µinterview with Barbara Walters (or â†µBob Ley), we tend to say, “Oh, he looks â†µsorry” and move along. â†µâ†µ
â†µKnight has never done this. The â†µman lives by a set of core values, and if â†µthose values happen to clash with the â†µculture at large, well, sorry, culture at â†µlarge. How Knight acted in the ’60s â†µdidn’t fly in the ’90s, which is why â†µKnight is so “controversial.” But that’s â†µnot Knight’s problem; that’s yours. As a â†µkid, I thought Bob Knight was a brute. â†µNow that I’m older? Well, you know, â†µthere are some kids who could use â†µsome whipping into shape. Hundreds â†µof players have spoken about how â†µKnight changed their lives, prepared â†µthem for the world. I’m not sure that’s â†µsomething you gauge by your rank on â†µthe Scout.com recruiting lists. â†µâ†µ
â†µAll told, I’ve completely come â†µaround. If I had a son, I’d be honored â†µto have him coached by Bob Knight. â†µAnd, if you really pressed him on it, â†µI bet my dad would say the same thing. â†µâ†µ
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