He demanded respect from his players without respecting them or others. He demanded discipline from others without controlling his own temper. Obviously, he expected others to live up to standards he didn’t choose to live up to himself.
What’s sad is that he could have been a great coach. He wasn’t really. He was good, yes, but not great. Because as tremendous as the IU basketball record is, it would have been better if he’d held himself up to the same standards of personal excellence that he tried to hold his players to. Imagine what a legend IU would be now if he’d kept and cultivated all the players who left over the years and went on to have great seasons and careers at other schools. Imagine what a legend IU would be if Bob Knight had cultivated a relationship with the press; if he’d created the kind of good publicity that brings money, attention and good will to the university. Imagine what a legend IU would be now if Bob Knight had nurtured the support of all ofthe staff surrounding the athletic program.
But he didn’t; so I guess we’ll never know.
I’m disappointed… unhappy… frightened by the level of denial that people here in Indiana have about his abusive nature, or at least their willingness to excuse it or rationalize it away by comparing all the “good” things he’s done.
It’s that same feeling I get about Mike Tyson and people’s reaction to his rape conviction. At that time, I wrote a long essay about how society prefers to live in collective denial about the true nature of the rapist; how we imagine the rapist is a guy wearing black hiding in the bushes, jumping out and raping women, and then hiding again, as though that’s his profession.
So when it turns out to be the high-school sports star, the next-door neighbor, the co-worker, the relative, or the celebrity, people can calmly rationalize that it can’t be true. This guy, is, after all, someone we know, and he wouldn’t do that. So the woman must be mistaken/lying/deranged.
But I recognized violence when I see it; I’ve known from an early age what an abuser is like, how he acts, talks, thinks, reacts. I can tell a few minutes after I meet someone whether he beats his wife or kids, whether he’s raped someone, or whether he has an explosive temper and might seriously hurt someone someday.
I see that in Bob Knight.