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No excuses

Knight deserves to be punished for hitting player

Posted: Tuesday November 14, 2006 12:27PM; Updated: Wednesday November 15, 2006 7:43PM
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Bob Knight's temper flared up again during Texas Tech's win over Gardner-Webb on Monday night.
Bob Knight's temper flared up again during Texas Tech's win over Gardner-Webb on Monday night.
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There is no excuse for what Bob Knight did Monday night, just as there is no question as to what should have happened next. Knight deserves to be punished -- not just reprimanded -- and that means a one-game suspension at the minimum. Unfortunately, we know now that will not happen, thanks to the irresponsible statement Texas Tech athletic director Gerald Myers issued on Tuesday afternoon.

By now, I'm sure you all have seen the video of Knight hitting sophomore forward Michael Prince in the mouth as Prince made his way to the Red Raiders' bench during Monday's win over Gardner-Webb. Regardless of how severe you think that action was,áMyers' claim that "Coach Knight did not slap Michael" is patently untrue. In fact, what Knight did to Prince was worse than a slap.

Myers went on to say that "Coach Knight quickly lifted Michael's chin up and said, 'Hold your head up and don't worry about your mistakes. Just play the game.'" Also a blatant untruth. Check out the video, Coach Myers. You don't have to be a professional lip reader to know that's not what Knight said.

Myers concluded his statement by saying, "In my opinion, Coach Knight did nothing wrong." Even if you believe Knight deserves no punishment, not even a slap on the wrist, to assert that he did "nothing wrong" is flat-out shameful.

Knight, of course, will insist that no other coach would get suspended for this kind of transgression, but I'm not buying it. Sure, Knight is watched more closely than most coaches because he has verbally and physically abused people in the past. But if any coach in America hit a player in the mouth, he would make national news and deserve to be sanctioned. If anything, Knight's prestige is the very thing that is enabling him to avoid serious consequences here.

I have enormous respect for ESPN commentator Fran Fraschilla, who called the game Monday night, but he said two things about this incident afterwards that were ridiculous. First, he said, "This is coaching." Actually, it's not. A coach can yell and scream and berate a player all he wants. Even if Knight had taken Prince by the shoulders or grabbed his face to force him to make eye contact, it would have been inappropriate but not so egregious. Knight didn't pull a Woody Hayes and he didn't rear back and lay Prince out. But he hit the kid hard enough that Prince was working his jaw in obvious discomfort afterwards on the bench. That's not coaching, that's bullying.

Fraschilla also said "a hundred" coaches will do the same thing this season and nobody will notice or care. I challenge him or anyone else to watch every game the rest of the way and show me ONE coach -- forget about a hundred -- who hits a player in the mouth and doesn't get maligned and suspended for it.

Look, I understand things happen in the heat of the moment. I don't expect anyone to be perfect. But when someone makes this kind of mistake, he should man up, apologize and accept the consequences. Yet, we know that won't happen here. Knight would rather coach women and play nothing but zone defense than admit he has done something wrong. From where he sits, it's all about him. He's a victim, not a transgressor. Again.

I'm not so na´ve to believe that a one-game suspension would inspire Knight to change his ways. If it's one thing we know about this man, it's that he will never change. But despite what Knight and his apologists in the media will try to tell you, this is not about Bob Knight. This is about right and wrong. A coach simply cannot hit a player -- for any reason, under any circumstances.

When I called the league office Tuesday afternoon, I was told that Big 12 commissioner Kevin Weiberg would not have anything to say about this incident because it was "an institutional matter." That stand is an abdication of responsibility. At any rate,áthe matter is now closed, but not after Myers and Knight have given this great sport a big fat black eye, not to mention one very sore jaw.

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