shooters!" says Florida's Lotz. "If Indiana gets within 15 feet, you
can walk the other way." And you can, except when the mighty Quinn is
firing. A celebrated two-sport star, Buckner has played on four different
international basketball teams and toured more faraway lands than Marlin
Perkins. But he shot only 34% and finished 50th among Big Ten scorers last
season. Moreover, during Indiana's five defeats in 1973-74 Buckner converted
only 13 for 58 attempts from the floor and made enough mental errors to
convince Knight that football was hurting Quinn's basketball. The coach made
him give up being a defensive back.
"I hope to go
back someday," says Buckner of football. And he would probably be wise to.
Indiana football Coach Lee Corso says, "If he returns he'll go in the fifth
round of the NFL draft." Meanwhile the husky junior guard has come on to
play the best basketball of his career. Against Wisconsin early last week he
made 13 of 14 shots to go with eight rebounds, eight assists and four
two free throws tonight," Buckner shouted to Laskowski on the bus.
shooter," Laz replied. "Wait till you go 2 for 12 again."
Buckner says his
improvement has not been the only difference in this season's Hoosiers.
"Last year we only thought we could get it done. This time we know
how." And May says, "You ain't seen nothin' yet. We're just getting
Knight claims his
ideal team would have better shooting at guard, plus more quickness and
rebounding on the front line. But even he concedes that the Hoosiers'
versatility is something to behold. Almost everybody is capable of filling in
at any position and all hands contribute to the chewing, clawing defense.
"Their D will keep them in every game," says Kansas Coach Ted Owens.
And so will Knight.
To report that
the raging temper is gone would be sheer nonsense, but somewhere along the way
the thorns of Knight's belligerence have blunted a little. However, his
devotion to the game at the expense of family and society endures. During a
Christmas tournament in Hawaii, the coach and his family stayed in separate
hotels, and Knight did not even see his mother, who had traveled out with the
rest of his clan. At home, Nancy Knight's little blocks that spell out "My
Bob Sexy" have been up on the wall for about two years, but Nancy says My
Bob Sexy has not noticed them yet.
Her husband can
still erupt at slight provocation. As a gag during a preseason booster luncheon
in Bloomington, Knight was presented with a seat belt by a guest dressed up in
a referee's shirt. Enraged, the coach exploded at the offender, shouted
warnings and chastised the entire room, which was full of many of his ardent
fans. "I really nailed 'em," he admits with relish.
infamous "friendly pat" incident earlier this season, when Knight
slapped Kentucky Coach Joe Hall on the head during a heated exchange at
court-side, Knight claims it was a normal, meaningless gesture for him. "If
it was meant to be malicious [as Hall suggested]," says Knight, "I
would have blasted the bleeper into the seats."
Last week Knight
had an altercation with a member of another of the endangered species on his
list, journalists. Having observed a writer chatting with one of his players
without permission, Knight went into his one-on-one intimidation routine. He
screamed, stomped and physically threatened the man, then stormed off reviewing
every bleep his military upbringing could dredge up. Later he apologized and
shared a relaxing dinner with the culprit.