Work in Sports
Posted: Tuesday March 28, 2000 02:48 PM
A long-ago interview with Knight was too touchy for this reporter
By Jack McCallum
Indiana University president Myles Brand decided last week that he will take the recommendation of a university sports advisory committee and appoint two university trustees to investigate accusations that the Hoosiers' basketball coach choked former player Neil Reed during a 1997 practice. According to Brand, here's how Bob Knight, contacted while on a hunting trip, reacted to that news: "I welcome it. I will do whatever is in the interest of the university." Boy, that sounds like Knight, doesn't it? There's no reason to suspect that anything will come out of the investigation; since the broadcast on March 18 of a CNN/SI report detailing Reed's claim, sentiment around Bob Knight U has remained squarely behind the coach.
Anyway, I bring up the following not to engender further controversy but because Knight's laying on of hands remains in the news: I was once choked by Knight. Well, maybe not exactly choked -- P.J. Carlesimo, for example, has a different take on choke than, say, Latrell Sprewell -- but certainly manhandled.
During the 1982-83 season I was dispatched to Indiana to write a story on the Hoosiers. About 15 minutes into our interview, when the subject of starting guard Jim Thomas was raised, Knight suddenly jumped up and grabbed me with one hand. Whatever his target area, he got a handful of shirt, neck and chest hair, and it hurt like hell. "We have got to get Jim Thomas playing harder!" he said, a small part of my epidermis still in his grasp. "He doesn't have enough fire in him."
After five to 10 seconds he released me. I stood there with a frozen grin, determined to show I could suck it up. What a strange way to behave, I thought later, as I examined the red mark in a mirror. Was it important for Knight to intimidate a sportswriter he had just met? Or did the fury of the moment, his uncontrollable desire for Thomas to amp up his play, just get to him? To this day I believe it was the former, but it almost doesn't matter. The net result is the same. This is a man who has lived on the edge for too long, a man with, in the words of The Sopranos' Paulie Walnuts, "control issues," a man who at any moment could Woody Hayes himself into infamy. Whatever you think of Knight, that would be a shame.
Issue date: April 3, 2000
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