The pep band was
warming up and the early arrivals were just starting to fill the seats in
Indiana University's Assembly Hall when the silver-gray Ford LTD eased through
a truck delivery door and stopped near the varsity basketball locker room. In
the front seat sat Landon Turner, wearing a neck brace and his
cream-and-crimson letter jacket. He had come to see the Hoosiers open their
defense of the NCAA basketball championship he had played such a major role in
winning in Philadelphia last March.
It wasn't until
Turner's father, a husky man who used to play some basketball himself, opened
the car door that the extent of what had happened to Landon became clear. Once
the most agile of big men, he now had to wrap his arms around his father's back
to hoist himself out of the car and into a waiting wheelchair. It was a
struggle. The 21-year-old Turner has regained much of the 240 pounds that he
carried on his 6'10" frame last season when, almost overnight, he developed
into one of the most powerful and intimidating forwards in the college
But now he is
paralyzed from the chest down, the result of an automobile accident last July
25, when he lost control of his car on one of the two-lane blacktops that
wiggle through the countryside to the east of Bloomington. It hit a culvert and
So last Saturday,
instead of suiting up for what promised to be a marvelous senior year. Turner
was sitting in a wheelchair in an anteroom under the bleachers and staring at
the program for Indiana's game against Miami of Ohio. Dominating the cover was
a photograph of Turner as he took off for a smashing dunk against Minnesota
said Turner softly, mesmerized by the photo, "I remember that. I got the
rebound on the other end and took it all the way."
His reveries were
interrupted by a knock on the door. When Turner looked up he saw Bobby Knight,
the coach who for three years had goaded him into fulfilling his potential.
Turner was a wonder for Knight in the NCAA tournament. He guarded the
opposition's best and dominated them all. He also filled the hoop with power
layups and soft jumpers. Knight saw no way that Turner wouldn't be a first-team
All-America this season.
this?" said Knight, rubbing a hand slowly along the stubble on Turner's
cheeks. "I got a razor for you over in the locker room."
Coach," Turner said.
But he was
smiling as Knight left the room. "I grew a beard and a mustache in the
hospital," said Turner, "but he made me shave 'em off." The smile
grew wider. "I'm still a part of this team so I've got to stick with the
For a man who is
regarded in some circles as having the sensitivity of Attila the Hun, Knight
has been magnificent in the Turner case. Although he won't admit it, perhaps
for fear of revealing a side of himself that he doesn't like to show, it was
mainly because of Turner that Knight decided to stay in coaching and remain at
Indiana instead of taking a lucrative color commentator's job offered by CBS.
At the time of the accident, Knight was on vacation in Idaho and just about
convinced that he should take the money and run. After all, he was 41 and had
two NCAA titles, an NIT championship, six Big Ten crowns and the universal
respect of his peers. And he was finding it increasingly difficult to psych
himself up for the coaching rituals that he had been through so many times.