Knight was not conceding the Kentucky game by any means. Even after he had made the decision to keep Alford out of the game, he still honestly thought his team could win if the players held together and played smart. Friday's practice was as intense as any since the season began. Alford sat alone in the locker room.
"We are not going down to Kentucky to lose," Knight said after practice. "We are not going down just to go down. If we play with our heads and our hearts, there is absolutely no reason why we can't win this game. We can give them a lot of trouble with some of the things we do with or without Alford. Let's get dressed and get down there."
Later, speaking with friends, Knight expressed his disgust with Alford. "I'm not even going to take the little son of a bitch on the trip," he said. "Screw him." But Knight never told Alford he wasn't making the trip. Alford didn't know whether or not Knight wanted him to accompany the team to Lexington.
Alford went to Dakich for counsel. "If he wants you there and you aren't, it's irreparable and you're in bigger trouble than you are now," Dakich told him. "If he doesn't want you there and you are there, then he just leaves you on the bus. You have to go unless someone tells you different." So as the team bus rolled silently through the darkness to the airport Friday night, Alford was in his customary seat at the very back. When the bus arrived at the airport, the players, as always, got off before the coaches.
As Alford passed Knight, the coach sat up straight in his seat as if someone had stuck a rod in his back.
"Alford!" Alford stopped. "What the——do you think you're doing? Get back in here. Didn't you hear me tell you that you weren't making the trip? "
"Well then you must be deaf. Can't you do anything right?" And so on.
As Knight boarded the plane, Alford was left sitting forlornly on the bus.
Yet Alford almost played in the game. Driving back to the team's Lexington hotel after Saturday morning's practice, Knight was thinking aloud. "It's just not right for Steve not to play in this game," he said. "I've got a mind to have him fly down here and play him. There's no way the NCAA will suspend him for more than one game. Public opinion would bury them if they did." But Knight's original decision stuck.