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Knight is forever putting people back on their heels, testing them, making them uncomfortable in some way. Stop them from scoring points, and they won't be prepared to stop you. Although it's fashionable to say Knight rules by intimidation, he actually rules more by derision. He abuses the people he comes into contact with, taking the license to treat them as he does his players.
"O.K., it's true sometimes I intimidate a kid," Knight says. "Usually when I first get him. That sets up the best conditions for teaching. But that's only true with basketball players, not with anyone else. I don't think I'm overbearing with people, but look, that's an awfully hard thing for a man to judge of himself."
Most find him guilty. But, here, you judge. Here's five minutes of typical Bobby Knight. This isn't extreme Bobby Knight. This isn't Puerto Rico Bobby Knight. This is just some everyday stuff, the way he keeps an edge, even over people he likes.
It's practice time, and two of Knight's acquaintances are sitting at the scorer's table. One is a black man, Joby Wright, who starred on Knight's first Hoosier team in 1971-72. Six years after his athletic eligibility ran out, Wright returned to Indiana to get his degree; now he's going for a master's in counseling and guidance. All along, Knight helped Wright and encouraged him with his academics, as he has many of his players. In Knight's nine years, only one Hoosier among those who have played out their eligibility has failed sooner or later to get a degree.
The other person at the table is a white woman, Maryalyce Jeremiah, the Indiana women's basketball coach. Now it's an accepted fact of life—disputed, perhaps, only by Nancy Knight, Bobby's wife—that Knight is a misogynist, but Jeremiah he at least abides. She's a coach, after all.
Knight advances on Wright, and says, "Hey, Joby. Do me a favor."
"I want you to get my car and go downtown." Wright nods, taken in. Knight slams the trap: "And I want you to go to a pet shop and buy me a collar and a leash to put on that dog out there." And he points to one of his players, a kid Wright has been working with.
O.K., it's a harmless enough dig, and Wright laughs, easily. But Knight won't quit: "Because if you don't start to shape him up, I'll have to get some white guys working on him. You guys don't show any leadership, you don't show any incentive since you started getting too much welfare."
Wright smiles again, though uneasily. Now, understand, Knight isn't anti-black. Just anti-tact. That's the point. One of his former black stars once recalled a halftime against Michigan when Knight singled out two of his white regulars as gutless, and then went over as they cowered and slapped their cheeks, snarling, "Maybe this'll put some color in your faces." It isn't racial prejudice. Still, still....