Indiana Daily Student

National figures respond to Knight removal

Bob Knight's dismissal after 29 years at IU has sent shock waves through the entire country. Here are the thoughts of Murray Sperber, Jay Bilas and Digger Phelps and John Feinstein after hearing the news released in President Myles Brand's Sunday afternoon press conference.\nThe Critic:\nAs men's basketball coach Bob Knight leaves IU after 29 years of roaming Assembly Hall's sidelines, English and American Studies professor Murray Sperber hopes to be back in the classroom sooner than expected.\nThe IU faculty member, who has been a vocal critic of Knight is currently on an unpaid leave of absence for the fall semester. His agreement with the University would have him back in a paid position for the spring semester, but not teaching classes.\nWith Knight's removal as basketball coach, Sperber said he hopes he can return to teaching in the spring.\n"I, for one, will be very relieved when this is over and when the media circus leaves town," Sperber said Sunday from Montreal. "I hope I can go back to being a critic of the overuses of college sports and not a Knight critic. I hate that I was branded a Knight critic.\n"I hope now I can come back to Bloomington and the circus that has surrounded the University will finally blow over."\nSperber took leave after receiving numerous threats from Knight supporters, he said. \nThrough the entire process, which began with the release of a CNN/SI report that Knight had choked former player Neil Reed at a 1997 practice, Sperber said the University had to be above the achievements of one man.\n"The Trustees and Brand should have always seen this in the terms of the University," Sperber said. "Coach Knight has brought many positives to this University, but in the past year, the negatives have far outweighed the positives.\n"It is very important for the University to put this behind them. No one person can be more important than the University."\nSperber said he hopes attention can now be focused off the storied basketball program and onto one of the best public universities in the nation.\n"I look forward to the day when I read in the national press about new research this school has produced," he said. "Or a story about the music school, or the business school. IU has so much to offer, but it has been silenced by what has gone on over the past year." \nOther critics of Knight did not wish to comment.\n"I've seen it on TV, but I can't comment on it," said Iowa basketball player, Luke Recker, a former IU basketball standout, who transferred in 1999.\nTerry Reed, the father of Neil Reed, also refused to comment on Knight's dismissal.\nThe Analyst:\nIn a Web chat Sunday evening, men's college basketball analyst Jay Bilas said five IU players could transfer following the dismissal of coach Bob Knight.\nFreshmen Jared Jeffries, George Leach and A.J. Moye, sophomore Jeffrey Newton and junior Dane Fife all could leave, according to Bilas. The only way they'll stay is if assistant coach Mike Davis is named interim coach, he said.\n"That is a natural reaction for a kid that has just lost his coach," said Bilas, through ESPN.com. "But when the smoke has cleared and each player has had time to think, each will wind up doing what is in that player's best long term interest." \nBilas added that Davis is in a difficult position with ties to Knight, but has opportunity to become coach.\n"Knight will expect Davis to resign in support of Knight, but this would be a good opportunity for Davis to make something positive out of a negative situation," Bilas said. "Davis has family and financial concerns as well, as we all do, and he has been a very good and very loyal assistant to Knight. Davis has been instrumental in Indiana's better recruiting efforts over the past few years and has been supportive of the players. While I think that Davis would be an excellent choice as an interim coach, there may be an unwillingness on the part of the administration to hire a Knight assistant right now. That is truly unfortunate." \nIn the chat, Bilas also said the chances of Steve Alfrod taking the interim position are "very slim."\nThe Friend:\nDigger Phelps, a close friend of Knight's, was confused and shocked by the statement Brand made, formally dismissing Knight from his position as men's basketball coach.\n"Back in May, President Brand instituted a 'zero-tolerance' policy," Phelps said from his home in South Bend. "If there was a policy of zero tolerance, then why wasn't Knight dismissed after the first violation?\n"Or the second? Or the third? Or the fourth? Or the fifth?"\nAt the conference, Brand unearthed five forms of misconduct since the instatement of the zero tolerance policy. Included in the accusations were, insubordination to Brand himself, as well as disregarding the proper chain of command through the athletic department. \nBrand also cited an exchange between Knight and a female athletic department worker which violated the letter and the spirit of the zero tolerance agreement.\n"If these things were going on, why wasn't he fired in May or June?" Phelps said. "Why'd they wait until now? I'll tell you why -- because when this latest thing went public Thursday, they had no choice."\nPhelps, who accompanied Roy Firestone for an interview of Knight in May following the University's sanctions, said that Knight's basketball career is most likely over.\n"He'll take some space and do nothing," Phelps said. "There's nothing he can do. He loves Indiana and he loves his players. Now, all of the sudden, that's all taken away from him."\nPhelps tried to contact Knight Thursday through his office, but was unable to reach him. The two often play golf together when Knight travels to South Bend or when Phelps is in Bloomington.\nA former Notre Dame coach and now ESPN analyst, Phelps said the loss of Knight will be especially difficult for his players.\n"I feel bad for all the players," Phelps said. "They lived through this whole thing once in the spring. When I looked at the final eight last year and saw Purdue, Wisconsin and Michigan State, I knew Indiana should have been right there with them.\n"It was horrible for the Reed story to break when it did because it destroyed that team. They were as solid as any team in the country. And now it looks like it might happen again. It's a shame."\nThe Author:\nAuthor John Feinstein followed coach Knight around during the team's 1985-86 season, and Feinstein's resulting book, "A Season on the Brink" became the best-selling sports book of all time.\nFeinstein said that throughout his chronicling of the season, Knight was "both the best person I've ever met and the worst person I've ever met, depending on the day and his mood." The author said he had an encounter with Knight similar to that of Kent Harvey's. Feinstein recalled that he, Knight, and a few others were walking out of breakfast one morning at a Minneapolis restaurant when someone asked Feinstein what he was going to do that day.\n"I said something to the effect of, 'Oh, I'm going to do what I do every day, I'm going to follow Knight around,'" Feinstein said. "And Bob whirled around and said, 'Don't you ever call me Knight. Call me Bob, call me coach, call me coach Knight, but don't ever call me Knight. You're almost 20 years younger than I am, and no one calls me Knight.' And that's with a lot of profanities omitted."\nFeinstein said Knight and he later discussed the incident, and Knight realized Feinstein had meant his comment in a joking manner. When Feinstein heard about the circumstances surrounding Knight's firing, "There was a ring of truth to it," he said.\nThe author heard about Knight's dismissal while in his car Sunday afternoon and was "shocked" by it. Feinstein said he found it a little amusing that it took an event that was highly publicized to warrant the coach's firing. Based on the standards set last spring by Brand, Feinstein said Knight probably should have been fired about four months ago. "It seemed more like a 99% tolerance policy to me," said Feinstein, referring to Brand's zero tolerance policy for the coach.\nStill, Feinstein said it took courage for Brand to do what he has done in firing Knight. The job for the IU administration and the basketball department now is to find someone who is loved in Indiana, he added. Feinstein suggested that the first phone call should be made to Iowa coach Steve Alford, with Larry Bird being possibly a second choice.\n"This is a very sad day," Feinstein said. Knight's denial of his emotional state and the "enabling" behavior of those around him probably made the dismissal inevitable, he said, but Feinstein was quick to emphasize the coach's positive contributions to the sport. "He stood for most of what was good in basketball," Feinstein said.\nIDS reporter Christy LaFave contributed to this story.

Like what you're reading?

Get more award-winning content delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for our Weekly Recap.

Signup today!
Like what you're reading? Support independent, award-winning college journalism on this site. Donate here.

Powered by Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2022 Indiana Daily Student