Indiana Daily Student

Fellow coaches weigh in on Knight's future

Pure. Sensitive. Genius.\nIt only took a few seconds for former Hoosier star Isiah Thomas to narrow Bob Knight down to those three words. Now Thomas wants those characteristics working for him and the Indiana Pacers.\nThere are eight players on the Pacers' roster under the age of 27, and Thomas told the IDS Tuesday that Knight is the best person to help them grow as players. \nBut Thomas wants Knight to help more than the players. \nHe wants Knight, who called himself an "unemployed teacher," to teach him again.\n"He and I have discussed some things that I would offer to him," said Thomas, a member of Knight's 1981 NCAA championship team. "We want him to come and kind of mentor me into coaching (and give) the insights that he has to the game from a consulting standpoint, just until he figures out what he wants to do. Clearly what he has to give to the game of basketball, I think anyone would want access to."\nAfter two years as a player for Knight, Thomas knows exactly what kind of a man he would be dealing with, should Knight accept his offer. But Knight has given no indication of future plans.\n"He's pure because he's so honest," Thomas said. "You always know exactly where he stands. Thomas said. "There aren't any guessing games with this guy. He's sensitive because when you're dealing with that kind of honesty, you're on a nerve, you're very raw with it. And when you talk about his genius, you talk about the way he is able to see things and take it off the blackboard and make it come to life."\n Thomas remembered a day in 1981 when Knight taught him a lesson he'll never forget. It's the kind of lesson he thinks the younger Pacers might benefit from, the kind of lesson that defines a player and a man. \n "We were going to play Illinois in our first Big Ten game. He didn't like the way we were playing," Thomas said. "I came to practice and he said 'Get out.' I turned around and I left. He threw me out of practice and everything. \n "I went and sat in the locker room, and I realized that I had no place to go. And if I leave, that means I'm a quitter and I'm not going to let him make me quit. I walked back out of the locker room and I walked on the floor, and I started practicing and he smiled and that was it. But that moment for me was when I became probably the player I should've been. But it was tough getting there. And we went on to win the national championship that year."\n Tuesday was a day of reminiscing for everyone gathered at Knight's house. Digger Phelps, Notre Dame's winningest coach and one of Knight's best friends, drove to Bloomington Monday night to lend Knight his support. Phelps laughed as he remembered how he and Knight went golfing together one day at West Point and had to go fishing in a stream for old golf balls because they were so poor.\nBut that was about the only laughing that went on at Knight's house Tuesday afternoon.\n"It was almost impossible for him to win here," Phelps said. "He's ready to move forward and it's over. He needs to be himself by himself.\n"I went through the same thing at Notre Dame the last few years and he trusts me. He wants to pick my brain, and he trusts my guidance. He needs his space. He has been the impact here for 30 years. To cut it all off, he's hurt by it, and that's only human nature."\nThomas doesn't know if Knight will accept his offer or not. But he does know that Knight is not ready to let the game go.\n"He's in love," Thomas said. "He's in love with the game of basketball, and it's a deep, passionate, up and down relationship. It's a thing to him. It hurts. He's in love with a woman who doesn't want him any more."\nIDS reporter Peter Newmann contributed to this report.

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