And so, the inevitable. "It was diminishing returns," says Knight. "Either the kid changed, or I would have had to get rid of him. But he left on his own."
Actually, it may have been Wright's actions on Dec. 14 that guaranteed Funderburke's departure. "I could take all Coach Knight's yelling," says Funderburke. "But when I was packing my stuff back at my apartment to leave, Coach Wright came up the stairs and said he wasn't going to let me go. He was pushing me and stuff. He abused me. I'm not saying my life was in jeopardy, but he pushed me back on my couch. Then he told my mother he didn't do it. He lied. Why would I stay at Indiana after that? For that alone, the school should give me a complete release."
When asked about his meeting with Funderburke, Wright at first denied any physical contact. "Boy, oh boy, this is amazing," he said. "Hey, I didn't put him in no headlock. I'm six-seven, 245—I could hurt this kid. I didn't do that. But, yeah, I did grab him by the arm and put him on the chair. I cared about him. I wanted to talk to him face-to-face. I'm just so screwed up over this kid."
"Do we miss Lawrence?" says sophomore center Eric Anderson. "Yeah, we miss him—when I get in foul trouble."
But even as Knight's young Hoosiers basked in the glow of a 20-point rally to defeat Michigan 69-67 on Jan. 8 before following that up with an 81-79 OT loss to Purdue last Saturday, the freshmen who remain at Indiana were somewhat overshadowed by the one who didn't. "I'm finished talking about Lawrence Funderburke," says Knight. "I don't want to hear his name anymore."
Granting Funderburke his release might be the best way, and maybe the only way, Knight can achieve that in a season that is getting more interesting—but not any easier—for him every day.