SI Vault
Alexander Wolff
September 18, 2000
Bob Knight's controversial 29-year reign at Indiana came to an ironic end when he gave a student an unmannerly lesson in manners
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
September 18, 2000

Knight Fall

Bob Knight's controversial 29-year reign at Indiana came to an ironic end when he gave a student an unmannerly lesson in manners

View CoverRead All Articles
1 2

Brand was unmoved. In the end, after years of incidents that had already been found to constitute "a pattern of inappropriate behavior," it was a relatively innocuous episode—not, said Kirk Haston, the Hoosiers' junior center, "a blip on the radar"—that brought down Knight.

To hear Brand enumerate all the instances over the summer that hadn't yet come to light raised a question: Would Knight still be employed if Harvey hadn't gone public about his run-in with the coach? Brand conceded he might. "If that were the only instance that took place, we would not be here today," he said, "but in my estimation, in a short period of time, we would have been."

Brand cut a very different figure from the man who seemed so wishy-washy while announcing last spring that Knight would stay. This time he often sounded like a disappointed parent who adopts a tone of "this hurts me more than it will hurt you." But if Brand seemed to be diminishing the importance of the Harvey incident as he listed Knight's transgressions, he may have been doing so to take the onus off a suddenly vulnerable student on his campus. "This young man has been caught up in events well beyond his own personal responsibility," Brand said.

Many Bloomingtonians were unwilling to spare Harvey the blame for Knight's exit. Of all the undergraduates who might have crossed Knight's path, Harvey turned out to have a uniquely troublesome pedigree. He's a stepson of Mark Shaw, a Blooming-ton author, lawyer and radio personality who had regularly criticized Knight on a talk show until deciding to give up the program in July because, he said, his stepsons—Kent Harvey is a triplet—were about to enroll at Indiana.

Shaw says he and Harvey wanted only an apology from Knight, not his head. But after Sunday's announcement, an estimated 4,000 students marched on Brand's campus residence, Bryan House. Though much of the crowd was as festive as it was angry, alternating chants of "We want beer!" with "F—-Kent Harvey!" the protesters burned the president in effigy on his own lawn while police in riot gear looked on. Meanwhile Harvey was receiving death threats, and his home phone number and class schedule were posted on a pro-Knight Web site. As of Sunday he was no longer on campus and had been offered police protection. Harvey may eventually get an Indiana education, but for the moment it isn't likely to consist of much more than private tutorials with English professor Murray Sperber—a Knight critic currently on leave because of threats to his safety from Knight supporters—at Indiana's Elba campus.

On Sunday evening Knight returned from Canada and met with his players in an emotional session at Assembly Hall. They were still in a state of shock, and several spoke of transferring. (On Monday, junior guard Dane Fife announced that he would do so at Knight's urging, but seemed to reconsider after the players had a meeting with Doninger.) But as Harvey demonstrated, young men sometimes say ill-considered things. It appeared that Indiana could probably avoid mass defections if the school retained assistants Mike Davis and John Treloar, which Doninger says he is considering. A source close to the team says that Knight offered to take all his assistants with him to another campus in 2001-02, when he expects to be coaching a big-time college team again, and Davis told a Birmingham radio station that Knight had offered to pay his salary for the forthcoming season. Late Sunday night, outside Assembly Hall, Knight used a bullhorn to thank a crowd of students for their support and promised to hold a rally this week to give his side of things. (Knight did not respond to SI's request for an interview for this story.)

"This is a sad day," Doninger told SI on Sunday. "After Myles made his decision in May and I reflected on it, I realized it was Solomonic to give a guy who had done a lot of good things one last chance. But the atmosphere hadn't changed, even after Myles had gone out of his way—and been much maligned for it—to give Bob another chance. I genuinely hoped it would work. Myles did too. That's why he's so disappointed that it didn't."

Normally we applaud constancy of character. We're suspicious of the protean man who sways with each situation. And in large part Knight owed his success to an unbending nature. His doctrinaire approach as a coach won him many games, even if the victories came less regularly as the years wore on and the world around him changed and he didn't. But Knight was unbending in every other sphere of his life as well, from demanding that his players go to class to acting any way he chose as long as he believed he was in the right. Brand actually expected him to adopt qualities he has never had—the very qualities that in a twist made last week's drama appear to be lifted from the Greek canon. Knight had the hubris to try to teach a freshman last week something he had never learned himself.

Would that we all learn "manners and civility." Would that, someday, Bob Knight learns them too.

1 2