Once again, I heard someone on television suggest Indiana bring Bob Knight back to Indiana. I wish someone would go ahead and do it.
That's right. Bring him back.
Of course, it's never going to happen. I wonder why anyone even broaches the topic. We've gotten proof in the last week that folks don't want that.
I'd respect his return greatly. It isn't every day a a big-time basketball program makes a clear move to show a priority for sportsmanship over success. And the outrage for Indiana fans has been impressive. I can't help but think that, had these allegations of impermissible phone calls been levied against an SEC football coach, the coach would laugh it off and his fans would hem and haw about how this wasn't a big deal. Of course, the specter of sanctions probably pissed a few folks off, but this does seem to be an issue of principle.
So go ahead and show how much you care about this principle, Indiana. Hire Knight.
It doesn't matter that I think he's a boorish bully. He's objectionable. And, at this point, just tired, something I witnessed at his last NCAA Tournament press conference in Winston-Salem. That said, folks in Indiana think he's virtuous. If they think hiring Knight would score a blow for good in the battle against evil, more power to 'em.
I know Indiana won't, though. And I also know that a lot of those "Bring Back Bobby" folks don't want him back, either. Being right isn't going to interfere with being good. They want to win some games. Maybe a Big 10 championship here and there. Or, that place Indiana's been a few times--the Final Four.
They want that more than they're mad at Sampson. How else to explain Sampson receiving ovations at Assembly Hall, even though the thing that had folks angry in the first place is still in place? And it was impossible not to notice that the cheers rose as Indiana built leads. But we know the score--winning cures all.
Over the last few weeks, we've all heard about how important it is at Indiana to win honestly, to do things the right way. It's a torch the school has carried for decades, and certainly one it can be proud of. If there is anything to give Knight credit for, it was his ability to achieve incredible success with that ideal in mind.
Indiana fans surely showed how important winning clean was to them when they treated Sampson with staggering indifference when he took the court before the Wisconsin game, and then later booed him before the Hoosiers played Michigan State. Sampson's made Indiana look bad, and the people weren't happy about it.
Wouldn't have those problems with Knight, certainly.
Then again, Indiana wouldn't win too many games, either.
In all this talk about whether Indiana should bring Knight back, I don't hear a lot of people pointing out that Knight lost his fastball 15 years ago. His last seven NCAA tournament appearances at Indiana ended on the first weekend. Only one Sweet 16 appearance in six full seasons at Texas Tech (and it isn't like the Red Raiders would have made it this year if Knight had stuck around).
I'm not a Bob Knight fan. That his players can point to their degrees and think of their old coach is worth something, but not enough to obscure his towering legacy of boorish, bullying behavior. The only way his record on the court or in his players' lives would trump everything else would be if it could be shown that treating people with something less than decency was essential to his quest to help the kids. Sorry, but I think there are other ways to pull those things off, so Knight's methods were unacceptable.
He's probably the greatest tactician in college basketball history. In this day and age, that'll and a buck might get him a cup of coffee. A well coached cup of joe, but a cup of joe all the same. Knight, being who and what he's insistent upon being, cannot win in the modern big-time college hoops environment. That's just how it is.
Bring Bobby Back? Please.
But if Indiana did, it would be a bold statement. It would be a money-to-mouth collision, where the image of Indiana's emphasis on following the rules would meet the bottom line, and integrity would win. I could do nothing but respect that.
But let's not pretend that winning isn't the biggest deal. If Sampson could be kept around until the end of the regular season, and Indiana reached the Final Four, you can rest assured he'd reach an almost heroic status along the way.
Think Bob Knight could pull that off at this point? Neither do I.