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BACK HOME IN INDIANA
It really wasn't much of an incident. Indiana's Jim Wisman had made a couple of bad plays in the course of the Hoosiers' 72-67 overtime defeat of Michigan. Coach Bobby Knight, in abruptly taking Wisman out of the game, had grabbed him by the jersey and pulled him to the bench. Lots of coaches show fits of temper during games, but Knight is especially volatile, and an alert Indianapolis Star photographer got pictures of the annoyed coach tugging the abashed player. They were good pictures, a lot different from the standard run of basketball action, and the Star ran them on page one. The AP and UPI, also impressed, sent several photographs out on the wire, and pictures of the "great jersey pull" appeared in newspapers all around the country.
Knight was furious. He criticized the Star on his TV show the next day, blaming the paper for publicizing one brief flaw in an otherwise superior game and asking why it could not have run a picture of Kent Benson tipping in the basket that sent the game into overtime. Knight's loyal listeners bombarded the Star's office with indignant phone calls. Photographer Jerry Clark received a hefty batch of critical mail, including several threats of physical punishment. The rival Indianapolis News ran an editorial "commentary" in defense of Knight, whose team is currently ranked No. 1 in the country.
The next day the Star ran a riposte "commentary," declaring that while Knight was indeed winning, his antic behavior was losing friends for basketball and Indiana. It also published the coach's home and office phone numbers and suggested his fans call him and tell him of their support. Knight threatened to ban all photographers from Indiana's next game (a ban he rescinded before putting into effect).
The ridiculousness of the whole affair soon became evident. Bob Collins, sports editor of the Star, surrendered. "I believe Bobby Knight is the best basketball coach in the country," he wrote. "I know he has the most loyal followers in the known world. I fired from the hip. And they fired back. It was no contest. I lost." Knight calmed down, and the furor did, too. Wisman, the player involved, had no criticism of the coach's behavior. "It didn't bother me a bit," Wisman said. "I understand Coach Knight. What bothered me was the mistakes I made." At practice a day or so after the Michigan game Knight reduced his squad to helpless laughter when he cheerily called out to Wisman, "Jimmy, either you're going to learn our offense against the press or you're going to get a tearaway jersey."
To his credit, Knight also said, "If I'm going to accept praise, I've got to accept criticism." It's unlikely, however, that he will go so far as to agree with Indiana Football Coach Lee Corso, who said in a TV interview a few days after the hassle, "But it's only a game."
Basketball is certainly stimulating the way Indiana plays it, but for all-out excitement you had to be in Spartanburg County, South Carolina a couple of weeks ago at a game between girls' teams from Mabry and D. R. Hill junior highs. D. R. Hill broke from the barrier with a rush, dominated play and at halftime led by 26-0. Undaunted, Mabry came back fighting, turned things around (boy, did they turn things around!), scored 28 consecutive points and won 28-26.
Let's see Bobby Knight top that.