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Frank Deford
January 26, 1981
Bobby Knight may be tremendously successful on the court, but off it, Indiana's controversial basketball coach often stalks the insignificant
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January 26, 1981

The Rabbit Hunter

Bobby Knight may be tremendously successful on the court, but off it, Indiana's controversial basketball coach often stalks the insignificant

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Success is feminine and like a woman; if you cringe before her, she will override you. So the way to treat her is to show her the back of your hand. Then maybe she will do the crawling.


As Bobby Knight is the first to say, a considerable part of his difficulty in the world at large is the simple matter of appearance. "What do we call it?" he wonders. "Countenance. A lot of my problem is just that too many people don't go beyond countenances."

That's astute—Bobby Knight is an astute man—but it's not so much that his appearance is unappealing. No, like so much of him, his looks are merely at odds. Probably, for example, no matter how well you know Coach Knight, you have never been informed—much less noticed yourself—that he's dimpled. Well, he is, and invariably when anyone else has dimples, a great to-do is made about them. But, in Bobby's case, being dimpled just won't fly.

After all: DIMPLED COACH RAGES AGAIN. No. But then, symbolically, Knight doesn't possess dimples, plural, as one would expect. He has only the prize one, on his left side. Visualize him, standing in line, dressed like the New Year's Baby, when they were handing out dimples. He gets the one on his left side. "What the bleep is this?" says little Bobby, drawing away.

"Wait, wait!" cries the Good Fairy or the Angel Gabriel or whoever's in charge of distributing dimples. But it's too late. Bobby has no time for this extraneous crap with dimples. He's already way down the line, taking extras on bile.

"Countenances," Knight goes on, woefully. "I just don't have the personality that connotes humor. It kills me. I get castigated just for screaming at some official. And the other coach? Oh, he's perfect, he's being deified, and I know he's one of the worst cheaters in the country. It's like I tell my players: your biggest opponent isn't the other guy. It's human nature."

Knight happens to be a substance guy in a style world. Hey, he could look very good in polyester and boots and one of those teardrop haircuts that anchormen and male stewardesses wear. Very good: he's tall, 6'5", and dimpled (as we know) and handsome, and the gray hair and embryonic potbelly that have come to him as he crosses into his 41st winter are pleasant modifying effects.

In the early '60s, when Knight was a big-talking substitute on the famous Jerry Lucas teams at Ohio State, he was known as Dragon. Most people think it was in honor of his fire-snorting mien, with the bright and broken nose that wanders down his face and makes everything he says appear to have an exclamation mark. Only this was not so. He was called Dragon because when he came to Ohio State, he told everybody he was the leader of a motorcycle gang called the Dragons. This was pure fabrication, of course, but all the fresh-scrubbed crew cuts on the team lapped it up. It was easy. People have always been charmed by him; or conned; anyway, he gets in the last word.

It's never neat, of a piece. When Knight stands up, coaching, with his hands in his pockets, he looks like a street-corner guy. But with his tousled hair, the tie forever undone, there's also a childish aspect to his appearance:

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