It is impossible to approach this topic at an angle all parties would find fair, or exact or thorough. Therefore, I'll approach it the only way I know how: bluntly.
Bob Knight is a blessing and a curse to IU. He has brought the University three national championships and hundreds of wins, and he graduated an incredible number of outstanding athletes and citizens.
History will most likely remember Knight as a controversial figure, but foremost as an excellent basketball coach.
With that said, kudos to President Myles Brand for firing Knight.
Zero tolerance is a term that needs to be defined about as much as chokehold -- while it might conjure slightly different situations in the minds of various people, the general public has a clear and total understanding of the terms.
Anyone who is not an idiot knows that, in part, zero tolerance means without exception. Bob Knight is no idiot, just a man with a short temper and a specific purpose.
It's a sad day when a student has so little respect for a member of the IU staff that he would address him in such a blunt and informal manner. It's a sad day when a man cannot control himself and feels he must lecture a stranger, a student and a member of the IU family on his version of respect.
Bob Knight was paid by IU to guide the lives of the 12 or 13 players under his direct control, both on the court and off. It was never his job to be the etiquette watchdog of this campus.
When Brand issued his policy May 15, Knight publicly and completely submitted himself to the guidelines established. With that, Knight set himself up for the inevitable.
Knight is the one whose violent temper caused him to throw a chair across the basketball court. Knight is the one whose overreaction at practice caused him to assault former basketball player Neil Reed. Knight is the one who continuously verbally abused players, officials and members of the press. Knight is the one who felt a Canadian fishing trip was more important than staying in Bloomington and fighting for his job.
I'm curious if Knight really ever believed he could do the whole zero tolerance thing. Is the man disillusioned, or does his understanding truly not comprehend the term zero tolerance, or was he just lying so he could keep his job a few extra months?
As for Brand, he backed himself against a wall with the "zero-tolerance" policy. His look of pain at Sunday's press conference showed he wasn't completely comfortable with his decision.
Nevertheless, to protect himself from embarrassing his reputation and that of IU, he has to put his money where his mouth was, so to speak.
In the end, I commend Knight for laying his hand on freshman Kent Harvey. In doing so, Knight brought a swift and sudden end to his employment, but he has done more for his permanent reputation than all the sanctions and policies Brand could ever imagine.
When historians study Bob Knight, they will find a man who was a successful basketball coach. More importantly, they will find a man who did things his way, a man who did not care about final warnings and zero tolerance. Those yet to come will be able to remember Knight as a man who was, first and foremost, true to his own ideology.
A lesser man surely would have shriveled in the gazes of the president and the trustees, the rich bureaucratic old men who have nothing better to do than create and destroy destinies. Yet Knight did what he believed needed to be done. He certainly taught Kent Harvey a lesson he will never forget.
In the end, Knight must go. Rules are established for a reason, and he surely broke more rules than Pete Rose, Darryl Strawberry, Clem Haskins or any other modern sports figure who was removed with fewer qualms.
But in standing up for what he believes, Knight created in himself and his legacy a sense of pride far beyond championships. He is steadfast beyond the glory of any trophy, and he is true to a higher degree of satisfaction than any award could ever give.
This legacy will not fade away overnight. Knight's mark on Bloomington will be as permanent and long-lasting as that of any other citizen in the city's history.
So I wish a hearty farewell to Bob Knight. Just so he knows he brought it on himself.
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