May 31, 2000
On hand to interview Coach Bob Knight were Lynn Houser and
Mike Leonard of HoosierTimes, Dave Kindred of The Sporting News,
William Guildea of the Washington Post, Ursula Reel of the New
York Post and Hubert Mizzell of the St. Petersburg Times. The
following is a transcript of that interview.
Knight: "Let me just say just a couple of things
about what happened and then we'll go from there. I really don't
want to dwell on what's happened. We've read reams about what's
"The whole thing starts with the so-called choking incident
aired on CNN. Here's my take on that. You take the accusations
that are made and compare those accusations to the practice tape
that somehow was taken was here and found its way into CNN hands
and you draw your own conclusions. I'll leave that one there.
"Of all of these things that have happened in the last month,
there are two kinds of things that have bothered me, and not
in any order.
"The first set of things would be the allegation of racial
remarks. I really take a lot of pride in what I've done over
the years in what I've done as far as minority kids are concerned,
whether they are playing basketball or sometimes kids not even
involved in athletics.
"The other thing was allegation or remarks toward women.
Now I'm not the greatest supporter of the women's movement. Nobody
would ever confuse me of that. But it's as frustrating and as
painful to me to be accused of going after women in a profane
way, as it is with the insinuation that I made racial remarks.
"The other thing is a genuine concern that there are times
when I feel I'm so right that nobody can prove me wrong, there
are times I seem to be a lot more confrontational on things.
That bothers me because that should be something I should be
able to control. I can't control what somebody else says, but
I can control what I do. That's a part of what's in the future,
my trying to do that.
"In my zeal to make a point, nobody has been better for
me than my wife. We must have five magnets around the house saying,
'The horse is dead; get off.' Anybody who knows me has said many
times, "Hey, I get the point.' I've got the nail in the
board but I try to drive the nail through the board sometimes."
Reed: "You obviously know you have enemies and critics
in the media. But have you been surprised by the vehemence and
viciousness and one-sidedness of this thing?
Knight: "Not really. Have you? Not greatly."
Reed: "Part of that is your fault. You have let but
a few people in your life, in your program."
Knight: "It's not something you can open up to everybody.
I can't have a practice and an hour after practice going one-on-one
with people. Just like with players, I like to look at people
who are interested in honesty and accuracy. There's nobody sitting
here at this table that agrees with everything I say. Nobody
has failed to write when you don't agree with what I've done
or said. But that has inhibited only momentarily the relationship
Mizzell: "Would you take us through the stuff with
the secretary (Jean Hartgraves, Clarence Doninger's secretary,
whom Knight allegedly had an angry exchange with)?
Knight: "No, that's all gone."
Mizzell: "Then you go to the Bahamas, return, do
an apology, talk to the president ... tell us what was going
on in your mind. Here's something you thought you had control
of and then all of a sudden ...
Knight: "I never assumed in this situation I had
control - ever. I think through this whole thing, perhaps more
than anything, that I just wanted to coach basketball. And if
there are some guidelines on what it takes for me to coach basketball,
then what are they?
If there's something I need to do to allow me to continue coaching
basketball, tell me what it is I need to do. Let's see and go
from there. That was my basic thought in this whole thing.
"The thing just kept going on and on. Originally and emphatically,
it was stated it was only going to be about the things brought
about in that initial TV thing. Then it got into ... I was surprised
when I was growing up that I didn't allow a neighborhood kid
to ride in a wagon with me. I was surprised that wasn't brought
up. Hey, I'm a basketball coach. If there are things I need to
do to change, what are they?
Reed: "Was there suddenly a rush of humility, that
this is something I really love doing and this could be taken
away? Did it hit you?"
Knight: "That's what I'm saying. I've always felt
that way. If you think back a little bit, I always get a kick
out of things written, said or done that I've never asked to
be written, said or done. I don't think that's something I've
ever been too conscious of things said or written. I probably
know you as well as anybody here and I don't think I've ever
asked you to write something or do something."
Reed: "You only asked me to do two things. You called
to ask if I could get one of your former players a job and after
I left the (Louisville) Courier Journal, you called to ask if
you could help me."
Knight: "I was really serious about the first one.
No, there was never a time - you use the word humility - I've
always felt fortunate to coach basketball. Next to sportswriting,
you do as little as you have to do. It's a pretty great thing.
I think sportswriting would be pretty good for those people who
Kindred: "Was there a point where I'm about to lose
this job? What prompted you to go to him (Brand) and say, 'I
really want to coach?'"
Knight: "I thought it was important for the president
and I to sit down and talk. It was more important to me that
he wanted me to coach. That was more important than anything
else. Now, if president wants me to coach, what does he want
me to do?
"There are basically two reasons why I'm the Indiana coach
today. One is our players. They have been very supportive throughout
this whole thing, relative to why they came to Indiana, the fact
that they want to play in our system, with us running it and
coaching it. I want to do the very best job for our players because
of that support.
"The second thing is our president. I mean the president
has made a decision here that not everybody agrees with. I want
to do the absolute, utmost that I can to show everybody that
the president was right in his decision. He is a very fair person,
an extremely thoughtful person. The decision he made he gave
a lot of thought to and though it was the fair thing to do. I
am appreciative, not necessarily of the decision that was made,
but I am appreciative of the fact that a person that is a thoughtful
and fair as he is came to that conclusion."
Guildea: "Are these restrictions going to keep you
from being an effective coach?"
Knight: "I don't think so. There are all kinds of
ways over the course of a season that you become an effective
coach. Sometimes you're effective coach by staying the hell out
of everybody's way. Other times you say things.
"You put the two words down, 'ineffective' and 'effective'
and there's not a whole lot of difference. And so, to be effective,
you go through a variety of things. There are enough things out
here that make you an effective coach that I think I could live
with basically any set of parameters in that regard as long as
I haven't had my mouth taped shut. I've got to talk a little
Reed: "A lot of people said you want to stay on this
job to break Dean Smith's record. Correct me if I'm wrong, and
I know you will, but I think you just want to have one really
good basketball team."
Knight: "Well, I just really enjoy coaching. If I
don't enjoy coaching, why do I really need it? I don't need it
financially, don't need it my family, don't need it for ego,
for anything. I know what I've done for the game of basketball.
I know what basketball has done for me. I'm just not ready to
quit coaching. If we win 1,200 games, I may not be ready to quit
coaching. I may be ready to quit coaching when we've won more
game. I can't tell you many games (Adolph) Rupp has won, how
many games Dean Smith has won. I can't tell you how many games
I've won, unless I stop and think about it a little bit.
"So, I've always said the game means more to me than anything
else. If we play the game right, we're going to win a lot of
games. We've played the game pretty well, so consequently we've
won a lot of games. Records, as far as that goes, I could care
less. The best coaches, the best teachers of the game, in many
respects are not the coaches who have won the most games. I'm
sure there are some great teachers of the game of basketball
that are nowhere near among the coaches who have won the most
Mizzell: "The polls are guessing when the coach blows
- A, Game 1; B, when an official ticks him off; C, whatever.
That's the mentality a lot of the country is in."
Knight: "I've got a great plan. I am considering
starting a lottery and letting people bet on it - Game 1, Game
2, Game 5, whatever, and then turn the proceeds over to the library.
The library would be so far ahead, it would be a great thing."
Leonard: "Coach aren't you concerned about people
Knight: "Is that new? Have you been to one of our
press conferences after a game?"
Knight: "Would you say I've been at a press conference
that I've been baited? You don't think so?"
Reed: "I think the mere sight of (CNN/SI's) Curry
Kirkpatrick kind of baits you."
Knight: "My point is, I don't think this will be
something that's new. A key word for me is 'approach.' I can
approach things one way, or approach them another, or still approach
them a third way. Going at things, or taking on things, has always
been my style. Well, there are pitchers, guys who last in the
major leagues long after they can't throw 90 miles per hour,
because they develop a split-finger (fastball) or something else.
Sometimes there are changes in style, changes in approaches.
I will be surprised that there's anybody who can bait me into
any kind of difficult situations."
Reed: "Does that include officials and fans?"
Knight: "Part of coaching is I understand what I'm
to be able to do is to coach. There are some limitations. I think
it's up to me to follow Karen's advice. 'When the horse is dead,
"I've always done that with officials. I just read about
an official named Richie Weiler, who worked for years and years
in the Big Ten. Somebody just sent me an article from a Chicago
newspaper that he thought without reservation that I was the
best coach to work for in the Big Ten. I've had that come to
me from other officials. So I can't be that bad with officials
if they feel that way. Now there are a couple who don't have
any reason to feel that way."
Kindred: "Will there be something in your thought
pattern that will say, 'I can't let myself do this, can't let
myself do that?"
Knight: "No, what now happens is like when you're
on the tee and you think, 'I absolutely can't hit it right.'
And nine times out of 10 where do I hit it? Right. I don't think
you can approach any set of circumstances by saying, 'I can't,
I'm not supposed to.' I have to know what I can do, and then
I can do what I can do."
Guildea: "A lot of people think you can't change.
What makes you think you can?"
Knight: "I think I know me better than they do."
Reed: "Do you think in the TV age, in this age, with
the camera focused on you, that any time you scowl or do this
or that ..."
Knight: "It's always been that way. It's not going
to change. Whether it's me coaching or Pete Smith, if you get
a camera man and tell him, 'I want a full range of emotions,'
he can get them in 10 minutes from any coach in the country.
You can put a coach in any emotional situation you want, from
all they way to total ejection to complete elation. A lot of
things have come together to make analysis, evaluation and scrutiny
a lot different today."
Mizzell: "What do you believe the president means
by 'zero tolerance?'"
Knight: "I think in these areas of concern they expect
me to do just exactly what they want me to do. Here's the biggest
problem with those sanctions. Some of those will inhibit me from
doing some pretty worthwhile things, like going to a fundraiser,
like speaking to a group. Now I speak to a group and somebody
is really offended by what I said. That is an inherit thing in
those sanctions. If you want to be as careful as you possibly
can, you eliminate all those things where you can have a problem.
That's one end of the spectrum."
Kindred: "What about dealing with the press this
season? Will you speak to the press?"
Knight: "I don't know. That has to be decided. I'll
see the press gets the information on the game. I spent a season
or two when I just handed out a list of comments that was just
as good as anything that could have been asked me. I very honestly
tried to answer everything that took place in the game and gave
everybody the same information. What I'll do, I don't know."
Reed: "You mentioned a minute ago you still enjoy
coaching and yet you haven't enjoyed some of the changes in the
game - the shot clock, the 3-point shot, the Big Ten Tournament.
Has that in any way detracted from your enjoyment of coaching?"
Knight: "Not really because I think the Big Ten Tournament
and rules changes are apples and oranges. The word 'control'
has always been associated with me. Would you agree with that?
When rules are made that involve time or distance, which is what
shot clock and 3-point play are, they take away from coaching,
or control. As a coach, when we had a five-point lead with five
minutes to play, what did you think?"
Reed: "You were going to win."
Knight: "So that becomes a challenge. Can we work
our system, work effectively with less control? That becomes
a challenge there. I don't like the game as well, but if affords
a challenge and challenge is a part of coaching. This whole thing
becomes a challenge to me now."
Mizzell: "Did you come to the realization that 'I
really like coaching more than I ever led myself to believe?'ø"
Knight: "No, because it's been a long time since
I ever needed a dollar. What keeps me going is coaching. I like
to coach. I like these kids. So that for some time has been my
We've been good but not really good. In fairness to our players
I should say that on occasion we have been really good, but we
have not been consistently good. I want to see us get to the
point where we are really good."
Mizzell: "Was the apology your idea or something
Knight: "I talked about that. I had absolutely no
problem with that. I've often looked back on things, and said
"Here's a thing you don't understand. There are a lot of
times I've done something I'm really happy with, something I
know I've done the right way. And then there I times when I haven't.
But it's the times I haven't, in somebody's opinion, that we're
"If anyone of us could go through life doing a fairly good
percentage of things the right way, that's fairly good, whether
it's you or me. That's basically what I've tried to do and basically
have been pretty good at it, which doesn't in any way lessen
the chagrin I have.
"Jack Hartman (former Kansas State coach) once asked me,
'Do you sometimes go home at night and have a tough time getting
to sleep?' I said, 'Yes, and you tell me why.'
He didn't even hesitate. He said, 'Because you wish you could
take back something you said at practice.' That's exactly right.
Any coach who places demands on players feels that way. I believe
a kid, however it's done, deserves to be challenged and pushed.
If he isn't, then he has a right to be upset with the teacher."
Kindred: "When you talk about challenge, you have
used that word a couple different ways. Players want to be challenged.
Do you feel this challenge to you has been too long in coming?
Do you wish the trustees had said, 'straighten up,' five years
Knight: "I don't wish that, but if that should have
happened, then it should have happened five years ago, or 10
years ago, or 15 years ago. If there was a feeling 15 years ago,
whenever, then sit me down and tell me. I don't have any problem
with guidelines. If a kid makes a mistake, I'm going to say something
to him. If I make a mistake, somebody needs to say something
to me at that point. If I continue to make a mistake, just as
if you continue to make a mistake, I'll bench you. If I continue
to make a mistake, it is nobody's fault but mine."
"I've been dealt a hand of cards here. How I feel about
it doesn't make any difference. What I have to do is play those
Mizzell: "Are you a good card player?"
Knight: "Depending upon the game, Hubert. It's tough
to win with 2s and 3s sometimes."
Mizzell: "A popular perception of you is that, 'Here
is a guy who can discipline the hell out of his players but he
can't discipline himself."
Knight: "What do you think? You've seen us play a
lot. What do you determine by discipline? I've never been arrested.
If you were to check the number of technical fouls the coaches
in this league have gotten over any number of years, I probably
would receive less than most and sometimes less than everybody.
I've been here 29 years and anybody who has been with me at a
game realizes that there is a pretty good harassment going on
as far as I'm concerned. And I've gotten in a verbal confrontation
with a fan twice in 29 years.
So, I think it depends upon your interpretation of discipline.
There are certain instances where I wish I had shown better discipline.
I'd be an imbecile if I didn't think that."
Reed: "How many times have you walked away from something?"
Knight: "That's what I mean. How many times have
you seen me walk off floor with my head down, no matter what
is said? Again, it goes back to percentages. It's kind of like
the guy gets the headline who leaves, whether it's here or whatever,
and the five guys who stay and really talk about how much they
enjoy staying, get one or two lines down at the bottom of the
Guildea: "Do you believe you've got to be careful
not to even touch a player?"
Knight: "No. I think if I remember the phrase correctly,
'within those things that pertain to coaching.' So, if say to
a player, 'You're at abad angle,' and I move him there, that's
part of coaching. There are times when you have to coach through
Mizzell: "You talked about crowds, about situations
where people are coming at you. How do you deal with that?"
Knight: "I deal with it like I've always dealt with
it. In my 29 years, I've only said things to fans twice."
Leonard: "The armchair analysts have sat back and
said, 'Well this guy needs to go through anger management.' Have
you thought about that at all?"
Knight: "I think my wife is as good an anger instructor
as a person could have. It's not going to make me a different
person - a different approach, maybe. She is really good at looking
at things and doesn't hesitate to tell me what she thinks."
Reed: "Does she tell you that you don't have to be
Knight: "When I was seven years old, my mother used
told me there were different ways to do things. I know that.
As I look as these things, where we are and what we are trying
to do, I have to do basically all the time basically what I think
I do most of the time.
That's about as fair a way as I can say it. There obviously will
be a lot of people who think I can't do those things all of the
time, but again I think I know myself better than most people
Mizzell: "At the end of this season, might there
be a different kind of satisfaction for you, knowing you dealt
Knight: "It would be a lot like when we won the NCAA
the first year they had the shot clock and 3-point shot. That
was totally opposite of the way that I have coached for years.
This won't be totally opposite, because I haven't been asked
anything I can't do. Some people think this is going to be a
complete turnaround for me. It just isn't. It's simply incumbent
on me to do all of the time what I do most of the time."
Kindred: "Would you have fired you?"
Knight: "Nope, would never have considered it."
Mizzell: "Some people say the 'sacred cow' continues
to exist. What is your summation of this whole circumstance."
Knight: "There will be a time and a venue when I
give my whole summation of everything. I don't think this is
exactly the time because I don't think this has played itself
out. I need to go through this season, with all that goes on,
just to have an idea what my take on all of it really is."