Bob Knight is someone who has never shied away from controversial moments, but on Monday, Feb. 4, he shocked the world. His controversial moments have never been all that surprising until now. The legendary coach, who has 902 career victories, resigned from his position as the head basketball coach of the Texas Tech University Red Raiders. As we look at this sudden and shocking occurrence, it brings up questions. The first and immediate question is about the timing. The question is, why now?
The fact is that Knight had been hinting that he might leave at the end of the year, but he stepped down with 11 games remaining. This brings us to the next thing – the fact that Knight has always been polarizing. Knight has been disappointed with the efforts made by Texas Tech to improve its facilities and the fact that the arena the Red Raiders call home never fills to capacity; however, Knight has taken an action that highlights the very paradox that is Knight.
He has always said never to quit, yet we have to question what message he is sending by stepping down 11 games before the season ends, with a team that has an outside shot at making the NCAA tournament no less. What is his sudden resignation, if not quitting? So here is an introduction to Knight and an example of him preaching a value while his actions are saying the opposite.
With Knight at least temporarily gone, what do we look at? The first thing is to ask a follow-up question: is Knight done? For the better part of his life, basketball has not only been his profession, but it has also been his passion.
It would be hard to imagine Knight not coaching or somehow being involved, but right now that is the situation. This leads to yet another question: if Knight is done, what kind of legacy will he leave?
It is worth repeating that Knight’s coaching career has been filled with contradiction. He has always been someone who demanded that his players attend class, yet, when he was a student, he was someone who often did not attend class.
He is someone who preaches patience, yet he shows none. He is someone who preaches self-discipline, yet has none himself. And now we see him seemingly quitting on his players when he tells them not to quit on each other. Yet again we have the paradox that is Knight. We have the value being preached and the actions that say something different.
As we examine Knight, we have to wonder, how will he be remembered? We can start with his reputation. Knight is a man who is revered by some and reviled by others. He is respected by his peers around him and hated by those who have heard of his abuses.
So do we remember his 902 wins and his three national championships? The answer for the greater faction of the population, in all likelihood, is no. The way Knight will be remembered by most is by the infamous images he has provided us with. The lasting images of him throwing a chair and choking a player are what will define him in the eyes of much of society.
For most of the population, the lasting image of Knight is of the obscenities he has said in his interviews and during his team meetings.
So now we are left with speculation. Whether you like Knight or not, there is no question that he made an impact. And, most importantly, whether or not you agree with his methods is insignificant because you cannot argue with his success. The bottom line is that Knight is one of the greatest coaches in history and you cannot refute that.
You may ask why, in spite of his antics, should we acknowledge this man as a great coach? How is it that there are people who will ignore his actions in favor of his impressive statistics, justifying his antics by the number he has in the win column? They claim that his outrageous actions are really just effective methods of discipline. One would even be compelled to inquire why in the world we would talk about Knight. The answer comes in the form of one word – success. Plainly stated, Knight’s coaching success is unmatched. He is, after all, the winningest coach in the history of Division I men’s college basketball. Also, it is important to mention that Knight has had some of his greatest success with significantly less talent than many of his contemporaries. All this explains why, in the long run, it is important that we realize that despite the antics and the controversy, Knight is simply a great coach.
Gillenson is a member of the class of 2010.