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"Don't worry about it," Knight said sadly. "We're going to start with them shooting a foul. I just got another technical."
When Locke left Army to coach at Miami of Ohio, Knight was given the head job, and the Cadets quickly discovered that what they were learning on the court was not much different from what they were learning in the classrooms. Knight decided that a lack of height among his troops did not have to be all that much of a disadvantage (because of West Point regulations his tallest player was 6'6"). Like any good commander, he would use discipline. After all, hadn't the much-admired Colonel Red Blaik? Knight had read Colonel Blaik's You Have to Pay the Price when he first went to West Point. He reread it when he became head coach and he would read it a third time when he went to Indiana. He had also drawn heavily from Vince Lombardi and General George S. Patton, and from the good basketball minds: the late Joe Lap-chick, Clair Bee, Pete Newell and, of course, Fred Taylor.
"I never met Colonel Blaik at West Point," says Knight, "but I tried to study everything that had made him a winner in that environment. I talked to his former players; I went over his every move. And then I patterned myself after him. Colonel Blaik was an extremely intelligent individual and he was a great organizer. The ability to prepare to win is just as important as the will to win.
"You have to look at it this way. It is a fallacy to say that Army's players are naturally disciplined. They are up at 10 minutes before six because they have to be. They are required to go to class. They march to lunch; they march to dinner. Chin in. Chest out. Gut in. All day. Well, when four o'clock comes and it's time to practice basketball, the most natural thing for them to do is to expect to relax and have fun."
Knight laughs, but the humor never reaches the hazel eyes once described, probably by a player who made a mistake, as a pair of laser beams. His is a no-nonsense face. The nose is misshapen by various batterings and there is a long scar in his left eyebrow and a smaller one on his left cheek. There are other such battle mementos gathered across 32 years. When their intense owner speaks of discipline it is like hearing the Pope talk of God.
Knight places a hand at chest level. "Say that this is civilian discipline," he says. The hand moves up to his chin. "This is military discipline." Now the hand is lifted above his head. "And this is my discipline."
And so, disciplined, Army's Cadets did something they had never done before: they won a lot of basketball games. In six years under Knight they won 102 and lost but 50; beat Navy all six years; had the most victories for an Army team (22) in a season; played in four National Invitational tournaments; had a team defense that three times led the nation, was second once and third another time. And once Army finished 16th in the final national team standings, the only time Army has been in the top 20.
But as Army rolled to new heights, so did Knight's reputation as the enfant terrible. He drew so many technical fouls they began to call him Bobby T. Once, it is said, he splintered a chair at the scorers' table.
"When I started it was always a battle between me and the officials," says Knight. "But you can't coach like that. It just took me a while to learn. I guess it was because our kids were so small and worked so hard that when some official blew one—and they are human—I went nuts. It's hard to sit still when you see your 6'1" kid beat some 6'9" guy and then get called for something he didn't do."
If Knight sometimes has reacted violently from the bench, he has never permitted his players the same liberties on the floor. They are schooled in tough but clean basketball. He has a passion for following the letter of the law. During his first year at Indiana he was offered an All-America high school center from the South if he would see that the player's girl was given a scholarship, too. Knight said no. "Actually, it would have been legal," he says. "But sometimes things legal aren't ethical." Then there was the prep star who visited Indiana, listened to the legal list of athlete's goodies and asked, "Now what else?" What else was a ticket home.