There is not a more fascinating character in college basketball than Indiana coach Bob Knight. His genius for the game is unquestioned, and the way he relates to his players, his friends, his enemies, referees and courtside chairs makes Knight a favorite subject for writers. As everyone knows, writers are not a favorite subject of Knight's. Few have had the stuff' to hold their own with him; two who did were SI's Curry Kirkpatrick (SI, Feb. 3, 1975) and Frank Deford (SI, Jan. 26, 1981). But until last fall Knight had never allowed anyone from outside his tight circle of confidants to spend an entire season with him—to record, unexpurgated, his many highs and lows.
Washington Post reporter John Feinstein, 29, followed Knight from the first day of basketball practice in October through Indiana's final, excruciating loss in the first round of the NCAA tournament to upstart Cleveland State last March. During those six months Feinstein came to understand the tempestuous coach as few writers ever have. An excerpt from his book, A Season On the Brink, to be published this month by Macmillan, begins on page 120. Feinstein kept a day-by-day diary and tape-recorded virtually every word Knight said to his players and assistants. Not surprisingly, keeping up—and putting up—with Knight was daunting. During the season, Feinstein wrote to a friend: " Bobby Knight is the best guy I've ever met; Bobby Knight is the worst guy I've ever met." Among other things Feinstein learned about Knight was that he isn't one to get carried away by sentiment; when Feinstein approached Knight to say his final goodbyes, the coach brushed him aside with a wave of his hand.
Like Knight, Feinstein is no stranger to controversy. While covering the Goodwill Games in Moscow last summer, Feinstein quoted two U.S. athletes who expressed their belief that Soviet pole vaulter Sergei Bubka was taking a performance-enhancing drug. The Goodwill Games, he wrote in the Post, "have acquired their first nickname: The Illwill Games." A few days later Pravda called Feinstein a "dull...roundish" reporter "who weaves the long-lost breath of the Cold War." Replied Feinstein: "Dull...maybe, but roundish is hitting above the belt." Wait until Pravda reads his Knight book.