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It was not Knight's night
William F. Reed
December 24, 1979
After Kentucky's late burst beat No. 1 Indiana, Hoosier Coach Bobby Knight wished more than ever he hadn't let Indianian Kyle Macy slip off to the Bluegrass State
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December 24, 1979

It Was Not Knight's Night

After Kentucky's late burst beat No. 1 Indiana, Hoosier Coach Bobby Knight wished more than ever he hadn't let Indianian Kyle Macy slip off to the Bluegrass State

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Bobby Knight was sitting in his office one day last week when a couple of matrons came in bearing dishes covered with aluminum foil. "What've you got for me now?" growled the Indiana University basketball coach. The women, Grandma and Jean Smith, former proprietors of Smitty's South Side Cafe in Bloomington, Ind., still ply their favorite ex-customer with goodies. Knight peeked under the foil and said, "I'll eat anything but that raisin-and-coconut stuff you brought me last week. I thought you were Kentucky fans or something."

A few minutes later Knight eased his 6'5" frame into a chair at his "new spot," an eatery named Kilroy's. He was in a carefree, almost ebullient mood, and after bantering with the waitress, he turned his thoughts to the upcoming game against Kentucky in-Lexington's Rupp Arena. His No. 1-ranked Hoosiers had just run their record to 4-0 with a difficult, but impressive, 76-69 win against Georgetown. Nevertheless, Indiana had yet to play a game on the road, or to face a team with the talent and depth of Coach Joe B. Hall's sassy young Wildcats.

If Knight was uptight about meeting Kentucky, it didn't show. It wasn't that he was so confident of winning. Not at all. It was just that Knight considers ratings meaningless until the end of January, when teams have had the chance to jell. He also thought the polls were overrating his team. And he knew that the Hoosiers wouldn't be at full strength against Kentucky. Steve Bouchie, a 6'8" freshman forward, hurt a foot in Indiana's opener and hadn't played since. "He's doubtful for Kentucky," Knight said, "and without him we can't do nearly as many things." Moreover, sophomore Guard Randy Wittman told Knight after a poor performance against Georgetown that he had injured his left ankle in an earlier game against Texas-El Paso.

Instead of fretting, Knight sat in the restaurant and laughed about how, as a kid growing up in Orrville, Ohio, he had spent many nights listening to Kentucky basketball on Louisville's WHAS. He was a Kentucky fan in those days. " Ohio State didn't have a radio network then," said Knight, who went on to play on the great Lucas-Havlicek Buckeye teams. " Kentucky was what I could always get by flipping around the dial." He even admitted that, on his part at least, there is more love than hate involved in the Kentucky-Indiana rivalry, one that galvanizes every basketball nut in those neighboring basketball-nutty states.

Meanwhile, down in Lexington Joe Hall was wondering about the roller-coaster tendencies of his team. On Monday night the Wildcats were a many-splendored thing in a 126-81 romp over South Carolina—the worst licking ever handed a team coached by Frank McGuire. "They might be the best in the country," said McGuire, marveling over Guard Kyle Macy's textbook jump shots, 7'1" freshman Sam Bowie's alley-oop stuffs and Kentucky's remarkable depth. "They just keep coming at you in waves."

Only two nights later, however, Kentucky was lucky to escape with a 57-56 win at Kansas. Afterward, Hall was so upset with the Wildcats that he castigated everyone at his press conference. He blamed his guards for being "selfish" and his frontcourtmen for being sloppy.

Going into the Indiana game, Kentucky had lost only once in seven starts—to Duke in the season-opening Hall of Fame game in Springfield, Mass. Hall had learned from those early games that he had a lot of guys who could play well. But which five played the best together! "It'll take a while for them to settle in," Hall said. "I don't know what this team is going to be. What makes me feel good is that the young players are playing so hard." The young players—freshmen Bowie. Derrick Hord, Dirk Minniefield and Charles Hurt—give Kentucky both a fine bench and a shot at the next several NCAA championships.

Aside from a love of fishing and a hatred of losing. Knight and Hall share a respect for Macy, Kentucky's splendid 6'3" senior guard. A native of Peru, Ind., as a high school senior in 1974-75 Macy was interested in playing for Knight, who at the time had the No. 1 team in the country. When it became apparent to Macy that Knight wasn't nearly as interested in him as he was in Knight, he began to consider other schools. He finally picked Purdue, and so did Jerry Sichting, another top Indiana high school prospect. Sichting has had a fine career at Purdue, and Macy, who transferred to Kentucky after his freshman year, has developed into perhaps the finest all-round guard in the country.

"As I look back at it, the biggest mistake I've made in recruitment was not signing Sichting or Macy," Knight says. He admitted his error to Macy last summer while Macy was practicing at Indiana for the U.S. Pan Am Games team that Knight coached. "One day while Macy was shooting free throws," Knight says, "I said to him, 'You know, if I wasn't such a dumb son of a bitch, you'd have played your entire career right here in this building.' Kyle just laughed."

For his part, Macy has a lot of respect for Knight. "He really sticks up for his players," Macy says. "He's a lot like Coach Hall, as far as the yelling and all is concerned. Both are easygoing off the floor, but perfectionists on it. Both are disciplined coaches."

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