Bobby Knight Just Fades Away

Apparently Bobby Knight was just tired, couldn’t stand to coach another game at Texas Tech. Just a couple of months after signing a three-year contract extension. No angry outbursts, no getting in trouble for pushing or shoving someone. Not even a departing speech, at least not publicly. He just quit.

Few coaches have ignited the level of controversy that Knight generknithoodated while compiling a record 902 victories over 40 seasons. The pity is that he will be remembered as much his tirades as he was for his coaching abilities.

Those who respect Bobby Knight point to his teams’ exceptionally high graduation rates, his flawless record of NCAA compliance, three NCAA basketball championships, and an Olympic gold medal. Then there are the instances where he performed genuine acts of kindness or was extremely generous to fans of his basketball team.

Fellow coaches Denny Crum, Rick Pitino and Joe Hall have alluded to Bobby Knight’s upstanding character. Rick Barnes of the University of Texas even counted him among the great teachers. “He has affected countless numbers of people with his teachings and ideas, people he could never realize that he has touched,” said Barnes. “And that will continue in time as we pass down those teachings to future generations.”

One has to assume that Barnes was referring to basketball teachings. He fell far short in other areas of life. If you are a fellow coach, a basketball player or a fan of Indiana basketball, Bobby Knight is a great guy, a tower of strength, a beacon of humanity. Good thing he was winning all those games, huh?

Knight also set a horrible example of how not to treat people. He apparently believed his won-lost record entitled him to humiliate and belittle basketball referees, conference officials, members of the media, his own players at times. His abilities and decisions were beyond reproach, not to be questioned.

If you tuned in Texas Tech basketball, you didn’t do it to see a great master at work. A Bobby Knight outburst might occur at any second and you didn’t want to miss it. X’s and O’s will only take you so far. His public temperament betrayed him, stripping away any chance for Knight to be remembered as a good teacher or great coach for many.

Crum, Pitino Still Differ On The 3

Former Louisville basketball coach Denny Crum and current coach Rick Pitino have always had different approaches when it comes to employing the three-point shot. Don’t see either of them changing their opinions in the near future.

Still an avid fan who attends U of L home games, Crum has been reserved in his comments about Pitino, acknowledging at times that Pitino is a good coach and an excellent recruiter. But after the UConn game, which U of L lost while connecting on 11 of 33 three-point attempts, Crum could no longer restrain himself.

On his local radio show, Crum was highly critical of the number of “bad” three-point shots in recent games. While acknowledging that players should be responsible, he pointed the finger at Pitino for allowing players to get away with taking so many out-of-balance shots, suggesting that Pitino’s coaching was at fault.

Crum, it can be argued, saw a great career frizzle away because he was slow to adopt the three-pointer. This probably affected his ability to recruit good shooters in the nineties (yes, we remember Boo Brewer). Pitino, meanwhile, took great advantage of the shot while taking three schools to the Final Four and a national championship and becoming one of the most sought-after college coaches in the game.

It’s difficult to argue with Crum’s assertion that too many attempts are coming while players are not in balance and that some players should not be taking three-point shots. Crum would never have put up with it. Jeremy Hazzel, of Seton Hall, would have been sitting at the far end of the Crum’s bench [instead of collecting 29 points as he did recently in burying U of L].

Even more difficult is denying Rick Pitino’s overall success in giving players the green light to shoot the three. Pitino believes the three-pointer is the great equalizer. He encourages his players to be aggressive, not timid in shooting threes, often living and dying with his three-point philosophy.

After a loss, it is too easy to find fault with coaching philosophies, a fact with which Denny Crum should be well acquainted. Fans respect your opinion, coach, but we place even greater value on your restraint.

Derrick In The Present

Now that’ s more like it, Derrick Caracter getting emotional. Clapping his hands. Waving a fist. Clapping his hands. Going strong to the basket, making the difficult shots.

Scoring 17 points, grabbing four rebounds and being called for only two fouls [one of them a phantom foul], helping U of L score an important win over St. John’s. Being named player of the game by both the TV and radio broadcasting crews.

Representing the university well in his radio interview following the game, saying all the right things, knowing he has to continue working hard to get better. Acknowledging that he has not been contributing much lately, pledging to bring it in future games.

Coach Rick Pitino said he told Caracter a couple of days ago that players who play exceptionally hard always look good, that you can’t dwell on what’s happened in the past, have to work hard and get it done in the present.

What that means is enjoy the moment, Derrick. But the St. John’s game is history. Gotta prove yourself all over again Monday night in a challenging road game at UConn. Play exceptionally hard.

Work In Progress

A lot of good things happened in U of L’s 80-60 win over South Florida, pushing the Cards’ record to 14-5 overall and 4-2 in Big East conference play. Among them:

– Terrence Williams handing out 10 assists in the first half. Has U of L ever had a more unselfish player as physically talented as Williams?

– Earl Clark hitting eight of 12 shots for 18 and eight rebounds. Probably more motivated as a reserve than as a starter.

– Defense holding the Bulls to 40 percent shooting, 22 of 55 shots from the field, 5 of 16 from three-point range. The carnival shooters from Seton Hall relegated to ugly memories.

— Jerry Smith, consistently good, never shot happy even though he’s the team’s best shooter, serious about defense.

But there continue to be some troubling issues:

– Team relaxing, letting up when it gets a good lead, lacking a killer instinct, allowing South Florida to get back to within 14 points in the second half.

– Edgar Sosa forgetting his role as play maker, getting lost in traffic, killing momentum. Everybody loves the guy but if this continues, Edgar is going to keep losing playing time. Rick Pitino may even forget to put Sosa in for a couple of games.

– David Padgett missing layup after layup. Obviously, still recovering.

– Derrick Caracter going backwards these days, rarely contributing in the last two games.

Putting The Pieces Together, How Soon …

Not as bad as Kentucky, about even with Cincinnati, not as good as Dayton …

Before the win over UK, U of L fans would have had been deluding themselves if they gave this basketball team a five on a scale of 1 to 10. The Cards had lost to four teams they could have beaten while not looking very impressive in achieving the nine wins.

A win over Kentucky, the hated arch rival to the east — no matter how bad the Cats are — is reason enough for temporary amnesia about early season play. Beating the Wildcats on their home court, shutting up their vocal fan base, has that kind of effect.

Assuming the win over the Cats was the result of “smart play” and not driven by high levels of adrenaline, Card fans have a number of reason to believe this team can still be among the best U of L teams in a couple of decades:

  • The miraculous return of David Padgett with his leadership abilities. Padgett’s desire to play basketball is exceeded only by his will to win. He has earned his position as a leader, and his teammates are taking note.
  • Juan Palacios, if he plays like he did in Lexington, will be another stabilizing force on the front line.
  • Derrick Caracter seems to have discovered the ability to feed open teammates. That’s good because the opposition is becoming more effective in stopping him around the basket.
  • Jerry Smith is exuding confidence behind the three-point line. Knows when to shoot and when to dish.
  • Terrence Williams obviously has the physical attributes. Showed last season he can play smart and under control. That’s the form to which he needs to return.

Meanwhile, Andre McGee and Edgar Sosa need to settle into their respective roles. How soon that happens depends on how quickly Sosa comes around. Earl Clark? Quite a bit of ability but low levels of intensity thus far. If he ever becomes a team player, look out.