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"I played five minutes and I could barely walk, much less run," Kitchel remembered. "I had to come out. That night he [Knight] came to see me. 'I know how hard you tried, Ted,' he said. 'You gave this team everything you had and I want you to know I know that and appreciate it.' It was as if he knew it was over and he didn't have to get all over me anymore. He had done what he had to do."
Someday Knight would tell Alford how much he appreciated how hard he had tried. But not on New Year's Day 1986. He picked on Alford and picked on him and finally, when Alford shot him another look, he threw him out. "You go take a shower," he screamed. "And if you ever give me another rotten look like that you'll never play here again."
The last thing the team needed 24 hours before playing Michigan was a Knight-Alford feud. Knight realized that. Five minutes after bouncing Alford he went into the locker room after him. His angry words could be heard from the floor. Both reappeared a few minutes later and Alford made it through the end of practice.
But Knight would not have been Knight if the end of practice had marked the end of the incident. He called Alford out of the locker room after dismissing the rest of the team. "I want to tell you just how mad I was at you after that Kentucky game," he began. The Kentucky game was now 24 days ago. No matter. Knight was still getting the last word.
Indiana played poorly against Michigan and lost, 74-69. The locker room was a morgue. "Boys, is this going to be last year all over again?" Knight said. "Are we ever going to win a game that means something again?"
The sense of dread hung heavy in the locker room. The coaches' tape session was stormy, Knight getting up and leaving several times to walk off his frustration. Finally, just after 2 a.m., the coaches went out to eat. Knight never said a word until he stood up to leave the table.
He looked at his four assistants, each of them bleary-eyed with exhaustion. "I waited nine——months to play this game," he said. "Nine months. I can't tell you how sick of basketball I am right now. If I never see another basketball game in my life, that will be just fine."
Three days later, Michigan State came to Bloomington and beat the Hoosiers 77-74.
Déjà vu. They were reliving the nightmare. They were 0-2 in the Big Ten; both losses were at home.
The next day Knight went hunting, leaving the players to his assistants. One of them, Royce Waltman, asked the assembled team: "How many of you worry about making a mistake because you're going to get yelled at by Coach?" For a moment, no one moved. Finally, Calloway put his hand up. Soon, 16 hands were up. "Do you feel that way, Steve? " Wright said, turning to Alford.