"I think Coach Knight, in 1970, recruited a certain type of kid," says Pat Graham, an Indiana native who played for Knight in the early '90s. "In '80 he recruited the same kid, and in '90 he still does. It hasn't changed. He still wants the kid he got in the '70s, the hard-nosed gritty player. The problem is there are far fewer of those kids today than there used to be."
"Coach Knight hasn't changed; I just don't think kids want to go through the demands of his program anymore," says former center Todd Lindeman, who graduated from Indiana a year ago and played last winter for the CBA's Connecticut Pride, for whom Knight's son Patrick was an assistant coach. "They all think they're going to play in the NBA. They've got other options, and they're just not ready for his strict procedures."
Reed thought he was ready. Although he graduated from a high school in Metairie, La., he spent his sophomore year at Bloomington (Ind.) South High and looked at Knight with the requisite reverence. It was Reed's dream to play for Knight, and while he knew it wasn't going to be all smiles and slaps on the back, he still considered himself the ideal Hoosier: a scrappy, hardworking, basketball-savvy coach's kid. Indiana was the only place for him. "As a kid, you look at Indiana and say, Wow, I want to play there," says Reed. "But then you get here and find out what it's really like. It wears you down and eats you up. I don't care what anyone says: There isn't anyone on that team who doesn't dread going to the gym to face him every day."
It's like this, says Reed. The coach told him to leave, he left. Happens every day in college basketball. Happens a lot at Indiana, in fact. Since 1972 Knight has had 35 players leave the program before their eligibility expired, which Indiana says is only slightly above average for a Big Ten team. But in the last five years alone, eight of Knight's 18 recruits have left early or been kicked out.
Reed, however, refused to go quietly. "I know a lot of people are saying I was a bad kid, that I didn't hold up my end of the deal, but that just isn't true," says Reed. "I think the school should hold up its end of the deal because there is a problem there. And they should look into it."
Reed had hoped to finish this semester at Indiana and then transfer, but when he returned to campus after spring break, he found he was a pariah. The Indiana Daily Student ran a Page One headline that read, REED VOTED OFF BASKETBALL TEAM. Reed laughs at that one. Vote? Libya has freer elections than the Indiana basketball program, he says. In the days after his resignation, Reed says, he received 50 letters and 158 E-mail messages, many of them supportive. He said he heard from former players who applauded his stand, although he would not reveal their names. Others jumped to Knight's defense and insisted Reed was a problem child who set a poor example for the younger players. Said redshirt freshman Larry Richardson, "I've seen Coach Knight draw up plays and Neil go out on the court and do just the opposite."
"From what I've gathered from some of my buddies on the team, Neil had some problems and talked about leaving the team during the season," says Evans. "That can be such a negative thing to the young guys who are looking at him. I think highly of Neil in a way; he's a nice kid and I thought he was a pretty solid player. But when it comes to executing what Coach wanted done on a regular basis, Neil was not getting it done. I would just say that Neil was not cut out to play for Coach Knight. Some people are, some people aren't. Neil just wasn't one of them."
Apparently it took Knight a while to realize just how unfit Reed was for his system. In his last two seasons at Indiana, Reed was second among the Hoosiers in minutes played and was often on the floor at crunch time. "If I was as bad as some people say," says Reed, "then Coach must have been playing the wrong guy."
Lawrence Funderburke, a heralded Indiana recruit out of Columbus, Ohio, lasted one semester in Bloomington at the start of the 1989-90 season. Now playing professionally in France on the same team as Bailey, Funderburke has no trouble believing Reed's story because, he says, he lived through the same thing seven years ago. "My situation was almost identical to Neil Reed's: constant criticism and heckling, though no physical abuse," says Funderburke, who transferred to Ohio State and then had to sit out two seasons because Knight refused to release him from his letter of intent. "When I left, I was amazed people blamed me instead of Bobby Knight."
Reed isn't sure how many phone calls of support he received at his Bloomington residence because, he says, "the answering machine was in Andrae's room." Andrae Patterson was Reed's housemate and friend until Reed left the team. Patterson, also a junior, was encouraged to transfer by Knight at the same time Reed was, but he chose to stay. The other junior at that meeting, Mandeville, also decided to stick around despite Knight's threat to not play him next year.