He looked at Winston Morgan, a fifth-year senior playing without a scholarship, and said, "Do you?" Morgan nodded assent. "——. Lying son of a bitch. Show me out there and I'll believe it. I come out here to practice and see this and I just want to quit. Just go home and never come back."
Knight was hoarse from yelling. The tape started. It ran for one play. "Stop. Stop it," Knight said. "Daryl, look at that. You don't even run back down the floor hard. That's all I need to know about you, Daryl. All you want to be out there is comfortable. You don't work, you don't sprint back. Look at that! You never push yourself. You know what you are, Daryl? You are the worst——I've ever seen play basketball at this school. The absolute worst——ever. You have more goddam ability than 95 percent of the players we've had here, but you are a——from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet. An absolute——. That's my assessment of you after three years." Finally, with Thomas fighting back tears, Knight turned on the rest of his team. For 10 more minutes he railed at them, called them names, told them they couldn't beat anybody. He told them not to come to practice the next day or the day after. He didn't care what they did. "Get them out of here," he told the assistants. "Get them the——out."
Knight walked out onto the floor. He was drained. He turned to an assistant, Kohn Smith. "Go talk to Daryl," he said. Knight knew he had gone too far with Thomas, and undoubtedly he had regretted many of the words as soon as they were out of his mouth. But he couldn't take them back. Instead, he would send Smith to talk to Thomas.
Thomas cried. Smith comforted him. Thomas was facing the same questions everyone who comes in contact with Knight faces sooner or later: Is it worth it? Does the end justify the means? He knew Knight just wanted him to be a better player. He knew Knight liked him and cared about him. He knew that if anyone ever attacked him, Knight would come to his defense. But was all that worth it for this? This was Knight at his meanest. Every player who comes to Indiana faces the screaming, raving Knight at some point. Some leave because it isn't worth it to them, but most stay. And in the end most become convinced that Knight's way is the right way. But now Thomas wondered. He wouldn't have been human if he hadn't wondered, if he hadn't cried.
Two days later, Knight called Thomas into the coaches' locker room. Knight put his arm around Thomas and told him to sit down. He spoke softly, gently. No one else was in the room. "Daryl, I hate it when I get on you the way I did Sunday, I really do," he said. "But do you know why I do it?"
Thomas shook his head. "Because, Daryl, sometimes I think I want you to be a great player more than you want you to be a great player. And that just tears me up inside. Because there is no way you will ever be a great player unless you want it. You have the ability. But I can coach, teach, scream and yell from now until doomsday and you won't be any good unless you want it as bad as I do. Right now I know you don't want it as bad as I do. Somehow I have to convince you to feel that way. I don't know if this is the right way, but it's my way. You know it's worked for other people in the past. Try, Daryl, please try. That's all I ask. If you try just as hard as you can, I promise you it will be worth it. I know it will. Don't try for me, Daryl. Try for you."
Someone once asked Isiah Thomas, the former Hoosier star (who is no relation to Daryl), what he really thought of Knight. "You know, there were times," Isiah answered, "when, if I had had a gun, I think I would have shot him. And there were other times when I wanted to put my arms around him, hug him and tell him that I loved him."
Those words, perhaps better than any others, sum up the love-hate relationship between Knight and his players, even between Knight and his friends. To know Bob Knight is to love him. To know Bob Knight is to hate him.
In less than 48 hours Daryl Thomas had seen the black and the white. He had felt the full range of emotions. The following Saturday, when Indiana beat Kent State 89-73 in its first game of the season, Daryl Thomas was Indiana's best player. Not for Knight. For himself. But it was only one game. A long season lay ahead.