Anyone who knows me knows I’m a fan of Bob Knight.
How can you not like a coach who won a then-NCAA record 902 games? Or a man who had just two losing seasons in 43 years as a head coach?
Those types of things accomplished by Knight are why myself and many other people respect him. On Tuesday, I had a dream come true.
How fitting that this “dream” came true a day after the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. I was sitting in the lobby of the Kansas City International Airport when I saw someone who looked familiar.
Although I never saw this man off the television screen, I recognized him after a double take. That man was indeed Bob Knight himself.
I couldn’t believe it. This was the same guy who I had seen numerous times on TV, and the same guy who I dressed up as on Halloween.
Shortly after I sat down and realized who was in my presence — and on my flight to Dallas — the boarding of our flight began. Knight was the first one to board the plane, while I was one of the last.
As I entered the plane, I saw Knight sitting on the left side of the front row, and he said “hello” to me. I then proceeded to shake his hand, and informed him that I was “one of his biggest fans,” to which he replied, “thank you.”
Following our brief encounter, I walked down the aisle to my seat. As a sports fan, it was a moment that I will never forget.
Before my flight took off, I texted everyone from my mom to Waelder boys basketball coach Jarvin Hall to Inquirer managing editor Lynn Adams to inform them about who I was on the same plane with. As great as it would’ve been to get Knight’s autograph or a picture with him, I took things in stride, remembered that I am a journalist and that such behavior is unethical.
While I probably could’ve said more, I didn’t have the nerve to inform Knight about my profession. I was afraid if I told him I was a sports editor, I would not have lived to write this column as he might have thrown me out of the plane.
Knight never liked dealing with the press, but he dealt with a lot of questions that he felt should not have been asked. He grew up — and started coaching — in a time where the media respected the teams, players and coaches they covered, and there were certain questions that simply were not asked.
Of course, Knight’s disdain for the press made for some very interesting quotes and youtube.com clips. One of my favorite Knight press conferences was during the 1993 NCAA Tournament when a reporter asked him if former Indiana Hoosier Damon Bailey was going to play the following season.
Knight responds by saying that he would have to wait until the following season. Knight then picks up an empty water glass and rubs it like it is a crystal ball.
After telling the reporter, “I see Bailey being better,” Knight is asked by the same reporter, “do you see him being the playmaker next season?” This question led not only to laughs by other journalists in the conference room, but also to Knight rubbing the glass again before informing the reporter in a few choice words that his question was unacceptable.
A lot of people associate Knight with being hot-tempered. I associate him with class and doing things right.
As head coach at three different institutions — West Point, Indiana and Texas Tech — Knight’s teams were never under violations of NCAA rules and regulations. He never violated recruiting rules, and the majority of his players graduated.
In fact, one of Knight’s players recently surpassed him in the all-time NCAA wins category. Mike Krzyzewski, who played for Knight at West Point, broke the all-time wins record with his 903rd victory on Dec. 6.
Krzyzewski, also known as Coach K, is the head coach at Duke. Knight was on hand to congratulate Krzyzewski after the Blue Devils’ win on Dec. 6.
Love him or hate him, Bob Knight coached the game with class and respect.
And for that, I will always be a fan.