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Talk hoops all year long in Luke Winn's blog, a journal of commentary, news and reader-driven discussions about the college game.
1/17/2008 01:32:00 AM

The Meaning -- Or Lack Thereof -- of 900

Bob Knight
After the game, Bob Knight told the Texas Tech fans, "You folks being here, seats being full for a change, really made a difference tonight."
There was no real expectation for Bob Knight to wax poetic about becoming the first coach in Division I history to win 900 games. Last week, before losing to Oklahoma State in his first shot at the milestone, Knight had said, "Who cares about 900?" Earlier this month, he publicly dissed Eddie Sutton's questionable quest for 800 wins at San Francisco. And so, in a news conference after Wednesday night's upset of No. 9 Texas A&M in Lubbock, when Knight was asked for a few words about reaching the mark, he offered this terse line:

"I'm goddamn glad it's over."

Just Bobby being Bobby, acerbic as ever. Hubbub over such round numbers, Knight has always said, is a result of the media being the media, over-milking milestones to sell papers. But how much should we really care about 900? It was a quality, 15-point win over a solid Aggies team, but there has been nothing truly inspirational about the way Knight has plodded toward 900 in West Texas, producing marginal NCAA tournament or NIT teams mostly outside of the national spotlight.

Knight hasn't been to the Final Four since he took Indiana there 16 years ago, in 1992, and there's little-to-no chance he'll be back there before he retires and passes the reins of the Red Raiders to his son, Pat. The idea of former pupil Mike Krzyzewski breaking the 900 mark at Duke -- and potentially passing Knight, should Coach K stay five or six more seasons in Durham -- is more impressive, in that it would be a success story without all the arrogance-fueled embarrassment mixed in. But there's a good chance, given that Krzyzewski may not want to coach until 2014 or '15, that the General will remain the winningest coach of all time. What he accomplished in the mid '70s to late '80s, when he was king of all coaches, is deserving of our admiration. But in the eyes of younger hoopheads, Knight has devolved into something of a cantankerous sideshow.

Before winning 900, Knight essentially made national headlines three times this season: The first was for upsetting No. 14 Gonzaga in the Great Alaska Shootout on Nov. 24. The second was on Nov. 29, when a Lubbock man accused Knight of firing shotgun pellets over his pool -- and then videotaped a confrontation with the General, in which the accuser seemed deranged while Knight was petulant and unapologetic. The third was on Jan. 5, for bringing his 21-month-old grandson up to the news conference podium after win No. 899, giving instruction in ducking the media's questions, and then saying "bulls---" while the kid was on his lap.

In the process of collecting that 899th win, which came against UTEP, Knight at one point lost his right shoe ... because he kicked the scorer's table in reaction to a charging call against the Red Raiders. Less than a minute later in the game, he picked up a technical foul for arguing a different call.

ESPN's Holly Rowe interviewed Knight on the floor after the 900th win, and just a few moments after a 46-word speech he gave to the fans, which included a backhanded compliment about "the seats being full for a change." Rowe threw him this polite softball for her final inquiry:

"Coach, I know you take great pride in being a teacher. What we saw you go over the game plan yesterday, that's what they did tonight. How gratifying is it that you really taught them and they executed it for you?"

Even in what should have been one of his finest hours, Knight the teacher could not shout down Knight the dark humorist/dictator, who chose instead to make a thinly veiled reference to the hide-chewing his players had averted.

"It's not gratifying," Knight said, "as much as it is just a damn good thing for them that they [executed]."

Everyone on ESPN's announcing crew laughed. It was funny -- in a sad way.
posted by Luke Winn | View comments (26) |


Posted: 6:51 AM   by Anonymous Anonymous
I can see your point, though I think you are trivializing Knight's tenure at Texas Tech. Keeping in mind that he was lucky to even get a job after what had happened at Indiana, Texas Tech was terrible prior to Knight. Despite that, and despite obviously not having the recruits that Indiana would have, Knight has won 20+ games in every season but one there...a COMPLETE turnaround of the program. Additionally, and perhaps a hallmark of the very best coaches, Knight has a very high regard for education and the educational success of his players - an important aspect of intercolegiate atheltics that is becoming sadly more increasingly lost. As far as I have ever known, Knight has always run a clean program, devoid of any NCAA sanctions in recruiting or player discipline, he has commanded the respect of his players to the point that many of them stay all 4 years in school. Despite his coy response, Knight IS a teacher and an exceptional one at that.
Posted: 7:39 AM   by Anonymous Anonymous
What a sad, miserable man.
Posted: 10:16 AM   by Anonymous Anonymous
Bobbie Knight just keeps hanging on, coaching a marginal team in an awful league, still abusing reporters, bullying his own players, and in general embarrassing himself and Texas Tech. How many more profanities can he utter in public? How many more hunting "accidents" can he cause? How many more flower pots can he hurl at helpless secretaries? How many more college presidents can he embarrass? Those are the totals we should be counting, not these meaningless victories that he is piling up. He should have hung it up long ago. The game has passed him by, and it is sad to see him still coaching.
Posted: 11:00 AM   by Blogger Connie
When are people going to give credit to the women's teams. As of 11/1/07 Pat Summitt had 947 wins and the Vols have racked up 15 more since then. And, she did it with more class than Bob Knight.
Posted: 11:55 AM   by Anonymous ab
A sideshow? He recruits against Texas and A&M, Lubbock is in the middle of a desert, and he still took a historically bad basketball team and turned it into a program that regularly gets to the Tournament. Disliking someone is no reason to belittle his accomplishments.
Posted: 12:43 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
Bob Knight can coach, but he has always been a bully. He's like a bizzaro Dean Smith. I hope he retires after this year.
Posted: 2:03 PM   by Anonymous Take That
Texas Tech is not a historically bad basketball team. They were always in the upper echelon on the SWC and had a 30-2 '95-'96 Sweet 16 team before academic sanctions tore the program apart before Knight's arrival.
Posted: 2:31 PM   by Anonymous Jeremy
Robert M. Knight is a great man...a GREAT man...and an even GREATER coach. If there was such an example of a man being misunderstood, it is certainly Coach Knight. So he isn't the most pleasant person when it comes to the media and he shows emotion on the bench and suddenly he's a "sad miserable man." Give me an effing break!

Look at his actions and what those who stick with program say about him upon exiting. Bob Knight always cares about the university and the students as well as the players on his team. Cheers to Robert Montgomery Knight, the General will always be loved in college basketball as far as I'm concerned!
Posted: 3:39 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
Regularly gets to the Tournament? Not quite. More like occasionaly gets to the Tournament, and this year's team has NIT written all over them, unless that was the Tournament you were referring to. Even when Knight's teams do make it to the dance they are beaten right away. Knight also mailed it in his last 6-7 years at IU, so it has been quite a while since he has coached a contender. But hey, he gets to live in a desert, play before 400-500 fans every game on a court that has more ads on it than a NASCAR. Congratulations for such a mighty achievement.
Posted: 4:46 PM   by Blogger Sam
Numbers, numbers, numbers. Dean Smith had the sense to quit at a good time and move on to other parts of his life. Does he get extra credit? Wooden did the same, and while I dislike D**e, I hope Coach K does not continue just for a number. I will respect whatever number he leaves on more than Knight's.
Posted: 9:41 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
Dean Smith was one of the most overrated coaches of all-time. Look at the recruting classes he has had. Carter, Stackhouse, Jamison, Wallace in the early 1990s. Jordan, Perkins in the mid-1980s. And how many titles did he win?
Posted: 11:14 AM   by Anonymous DrTruth
Take a look at Knight's roster. Exactly how many McDonald's All Americans does he have? Now look at any of the other coaches with whom he is compared. Heck, I could win with Duke's roster. Some argue that it took him more games than Smith to reach certain milestones. That is true, but he started coaching earlier and chronologically he reached those milestones earlier. Also lest we forget, he was the head coach at Army for 6 years, not quite the basketball powerhouse that is North Carolina where Dean Smith’s head coaching career started. And with the talent that Smith had over the years, he probably should have won 6 or 7 national championships instead of 2. In those days, Smith was always viewed as the Phil Michelson of coaching – he couldn’t win the big one. It took Smith 7 final fours to win his first national championship, and he probably had the best talent in the nation five of those seven times. Knight went to 5 final fours and closed the deal 3 of those 5 times. During that same time frame, he took two Indiana teams to the NIT before the NCAA was so greatly expanded. He won once and finished runner-up the other time. Smith coached players like Phil Ford, James Worthy, Sam Perkins, and the greatest player of all time Michael Jordan; while Knight has coached exactly one player (Isaiah Thomas) who went on to play in an NBA all star game. The knock on Smith in those days was that he didn’t get the most out of his players; the knock on Knight was that he got everything from his and they had no upside when they became pros (Kent Benson, Steve Green and a host of others whose names I cannot even recall).
When it comes to coaching basketball, Knight is Knight all the time - WYSIWYG. That makes him an easy target for many sports media personalities whose closest encounter with competitive athletics is the front row seats they are afforded at games, or the little league teams their fathers coached.
The bottom line is that beating Texas A & M was no fluke in spite of the fact that A & M’s talent is vastly superior to Tech’s. Given a week to prepare and even ball park talent compared to the competition, more often than not Bob Knight’s teams prevail as they did against A & M.
Posted: 12:22 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
WHO CARES is an understatement. Bob, noone even hates you anymore. You’re an irrelevant fossil that should do everyone a favor and just go away.
Posted: 1:53 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
I'd take this one man's contributions to the academic pursuits of his former players, libraries, his former players careers, and the fundamentals of the game over all the contributions of SI (if you can name any).

A former Hoosier in Aggieland.
Posted: 2:23 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
Until 2 seasons ago, Knight hadn't missed the postseason in 30 years. I'm willing to wager that's pretty unprecedented. I'd say that's quite an achievement. And this talk about him hanging on for numbers, I don't think anyone is in a position to question why a person continues to do their job.
Posted: 2:46 PM   by Blogger John G
Bobby Knight wins and graduates his students. Take the cioaches that have won 500 games AND their grauation rates. Knight, Coack K, Coach K, and Smith won and graduated students (at 85% plus rates). Can the same be said for Sutton, Olsen, Rupp, and others??

John G
Posted: 4:53 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
I knew some of you SI guys would be grinding your teeth with anger (envy perhaps) when he reached 900. Your obsessive hatred of the man is the sad commentary.
Posted: 4:55 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
One point missed in all this is that whether you agree with his means or not, the man gets his kids to play tough, hard-nosed basketball the way it was meant to be played... There are very few coaches that get their players to play with the intensity of Knights... For that, it will be a sad day when he retires.
Posted: 5:21 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
Arguing is pointless. Bobby Knight could give a s--- about what any of you think. And history doesn't care about the opinions of sports writers who probably never put on a jersey.
Posted: 10:48 PM   by Anonymous jgiufan
After watching I.U. and Bobby Knight during my undergrad years; 75-79 and my grad years; 80-82, I had the priviledge of watching some incredible coaching and basketball. No one can take away that thrill of fantastic basketball, no matter how many S.I. writers cry about poor,poor Bobby Knight. Most people want to work at a job they enjoy and Coach Knight obviously enjoys teaching young men how to survive LIFE. I will never convince you Bobby Haters and you will never change my mind or respect for the man and his brilliance as a Basketball coach. Love him or hate him, if we wanted to win the Olympics with amateurs again, no one could win except Coach Knight. I hope Coach keeps on coaching until he decides to retire and enjoy fishing, hunting, and whatever else gives him pleasure full time. Go Bobby Knight!
Posted: 5:21 AM   by Anonymous Anonymous
knight is an idiot. I am amazed he can get enough players to play for him to have a team. He is a jerk and does not have a history of sending players to the NBA. I am surprised kids today would put up with that.
Posted: 9:25 AM   by Anonymous Anonymous
Don't you know what you're getting with Bob Knight by now? It seems like these type of articles are about just as cliche as the points you were trying to make about Knight.

Whether you like his coaching style/personality or not, it's hard to dispute the success he has had. I'm not talking solely about wins and losses. I'm talking about coming to Tech and building teams that people actually go out and watch. Taking Tech to the Sweet 16 for the first time in ages. Running a clean program. Who else dismisses his All-Conference player for academic reasons before he is declared academically ineligible?

And another thing...if Bob Knight was so bad, why do kids and their parents still come and play for him? I know Tech isn't going to be a basketball mecca, but these kids compete and they choose to do so for Knight.
Posted: 10:32 AM   by Anonymous Anonymous
You all kill me, leave the man be. If you don't like him then don't watch his games and don't read the articles about him. He is an ass, so what. He knows it and makes no appoligies for it. Take him the way he is or don't bother to recognize the man. He wins, he knows basketball and that's what he does. Everybody that runs across him in public tries to do something to get a rise out of him. I grew up in Indiana watching him build champions and loving every minute of it. Do I want to be his friend, no, but I respect the man's accomplishments and still love to watch his teams. If it wasn't for all you whinning ass, bleeding hearts then the things he does wouldn't be that big of a deal. If TT is fine with him and the job he is doing then go cheer for your team and hope you don't have to play him. If you're a TT fan then you need to enjoy the fact that you have a living legend at your school. Are the players or staff making comments about his behavior? Is the school administration investigating his actions every other week? Not that I have heard of. Luke Winn is like 15 years old, just because this kid has a degree in journalism doesn't mean he knows squat about B-ball. The little whanker probably can't even dribble. I almost thought I was on ESPN.com for a minute, with the BS opinionated column I was reading. So, Coach doesn't want to make a big deal about getting to win 900. And he played it off with his usuall attitude, I LOVE IT. The media for most parts is a pain in the ass do he gives em some of their own medicine. If we got some facts instead of opinions from the media and if they didn't try to sensationalize everything then he could probably stomach it a little better. Coach Knight wants to do his thing; coach b-ball, hunt and fish and visit with his other old crusty buddies and stick it to you whinning little babies as often as he can. SO TAKE IT.
Posted: 2:51 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
While taking Coach Knight's 'Coaching Basketball-HYPER 405' class at IU in 1989 I was amazed at the reverance his staff and players had for him. He was and likely still is respected for his leadership abilities as well as his graduation rate. While not a saint by any means you have to respect his accomplishments

And it should be noted that he has yet to receive any harrassment complaints. Can a number of his peers or dropouts say the same? (Thomas and the Nics organization)
Posted: 6:40 PM   by Blogger Alex
"Bobbie Knight just keeps hanging on, coaching a marginal team in an awful league, still abusing reporters, bullying his own players, and in general embarrassing himself and Texas Tech."

Yes the big twelve sucks, any league that has the best team in the country and the best player in the country surrounded by teams that are all good enough to beat almost every other team on a given night. I would say that 20 wins a year is easy.
Posted: 2:48 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
Knight has always gotten more out of mediocrity than any coach I've ever seen. He doesn't produce NBA talent, he doesn't recruit NBA talent, but he wins. Even his Indiana teams didn't produce much in the way of NBA talent, but he did produce smart players and coaches. I think that is way more impressive than Smith or K who always had a bench full of NBA prospects. Knight is the best true coach of basketball, not just talent, since Iba. Many coaches are rather unpleasant people and Knight is certainly not a real socially acceptable guy, but the main reason he's hated is that unlike many coaches, he is painfully consistent in his antisocial behavior when dealing with all people, including the press. Journalists always like coaches who kiss up to them, ala Les Miles (ahem), even if they are complete jacka**es to everyone else.