Basketball Managers Publish Book on Lessons Learned from Bob Knight
Jan. 28, 2014
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- During Bob Knight's career at Indiana University, more than 100 students served on his staff as volunteer managers. After leaving IU, these managers went on to have successful careers in business, medicine, law, education and sports.
Now, these managers have come back together to tell their stories and the lessons they learned working with Indiana Basketball under Coach Knight. A compilation of their experiences can be found in a new book, "Prepare to Win. Lessons Learned at Knight School;" compiled by former manager David Skibinski and edited by author and former sports editor Bob Hammel.
The IU Varsity Club recently reached out to Skibinski to learn more about the book and what motivated Coach Knight's managers to put it together.
Q. As an alum, what has your time at IU meant to you?
A. Indiana University provided me an ideal foundation from which to launch my adult life. My degree in biology education gave me a strong background, which has allowed me to spend the last 25 years in the life sciences and healthcare industry. The broad liberal arts curriculum has given me an appreciation for culture and society as I recall so clearly my introduction to jazz and more from Dr. David Baker's musicians, and my deep appreciation for American culture form Dr. (William H.) Wiggins. And, my education at Assembly Hall from Coach Knight prepared me in all facets of my life. I am always eager to say I am a graduate of Indiana University and boast of its many fabulous academic programs.
Q. What was it like to work as a basketball manager under Coach Knight?
A. Working for Coach Knight was a life changing opportunity for me. While working for Coach, you are exposed to a whole new way of thinking, a new way of approaching life, and how you engage people. When I worked for Coach, the opportunities to meet interesting people were immense. Whether it was someone from campus like former IU President Dr. John Ryan, or coach's teammate John Havlicek, or nearly every major college basketball coach in America, you were exposed to people at the top of their profession, and personally could witness them in action.
It may also surprise some folks to know how much responsibility Coach delegates. Coach gave the entire managerial staff a terrific amount of responsibility, and expected you to deliver. It was always challenging to be part of Indiana Basketball, but that was the point, to compete at the highest level. As a result, the expectations were always high, and our margin for error was very small. And that may be the fine point of working for Coach Knight - you did not want to disappoint him, the team, the University, and maybe most importantly, yourself. With Coach, your performance would be measured, whether you were a player, a coach or a manager - anyone affiliated with the program. One of the best things about working for him was that he was extraordinarily fair. In fact, he often reiterated the important difference between being fair and equal.
I can tell you, for a kid from a modest family upbringing in Hammond, Indiana, I had the recurring thrill of introducing myself to people all across America with the following phrase: "Hello, I'm Dave Skibinski with Indiana University Basketball." I always felt, and to this day, can still feel a chill with those words, because they set a high level of expectation. Those words, due to the program Coach Knight built, meant a myriad of things: integrity, preparedness, execution, academics, decorum, responsibility, and so much more.
Q. What inspired you to write the book, and could you give an overview?
A. I was inspired to lead the effort to create "Prepare to Win. Lessons Learned at Knight School," during the all-time basketball reunion hosted by Tom Crean and the Cook Group. That event, the summer when Coach Crean came to IU, brought together generations of IU basketball players and staff. As I rekindled relationships with my former manager colleagues, and those that preceded and followed me, I recognized the tremendous amount of success from this group that worked for Coach Knight. On my way home to Los Angeles, I thought that it would be great to create a book to tell the untold stories about Coach Knight, and one that recognized his tremendous influence as an educator on young people.
"Prepare to Win" is a collection of essays of various lengths by 39 of Coach Knight's former managers. The essays describe the lessons the managers learned from Coach Knight, and how those lessons translated into success in each person's personal and professional lives. The essays are organized over the decades Coach Knight was at Indiana. We added essays from long-time Indiana sportswriter Bob Hammel, former player Glen Grunwald, and team trainer Tim Garl. To add some color, each decade features memories and favorite moments from behind the scenes of Indiana Basketball. We also dug into IU's and the managers' personal archives to add photos and images from across the 29 seasons of Coach Knight's tenure.
Q. Any particular memory or experience with IU Basketball that stands out to you?
A. One of my favorite behind-the-scenes moments actually occurred in my senior year at IU. I was playing catch-up on my studies headed towards finals on a Saturday night at the IU library. It was probably around 11 p.m., and as I was departing the library, I looked inside the undergrad reading room and saw that one student remained. That lone student was our starting center, Ray Tolbert. That image of Ray has always summarized for me what made Coach Knight better than the rest. Ray was a true student-athlete, who, through dedication and self-discipline, was gaining the education he was promised. Coach Knight set and maintained the standard, and Ray met it with gusto.
On the court, one highlight is certainly when Butch Carter hit a jump shot in Madison Square Garden, at the buzzer, to defeat Purdue for the National Invitational Tournament Championship in 1979.
Q. Any other closing thoughts?
A. It has been a terrific journey over the last two years, to reconnect with, and in some cases meet, so many former IU Basketball managers. Their collective success speaks volumes about the many lessons we all learned, with learning how to "prepare to win" the underlying theme. On behalf of all the former managers, I would like to thank Coach Knight, his assistant MaryAnn Davis, Bob Hammel (who volunteered to edit the book), and Scott Dolson, and other members of the Indiana University staff who helped make this book a reality.
"Prepare to Win. Lessons Learned at Knight School" can be purchased on Amazon.com and the Indiana Business Journal Publishing Bookstore. All profits from the book will be contributed to charity, including the Bob Knight Library Fund.
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