Jul 09, 2020
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Hushed Knight

HE JUST SITS THERE.

There are literally millions of people watching him at this moment, but it doesn’t seem to interest him.

He is hunched over, arms crossed, staring blankly into the camera, as if nothing at all stimulating is anywhere in the vicinity.

The moment is so awkward and long that it seems he blinks a million times before changing his attention to his colleague that sat just feet from him.

These were the opening moments of Bobby Knight’s debut as an ESPN analyst on SportsCenter.

After Knight’s retirement earlier this year, I wasn’t sure what would become of the hot-headed general.

Knight made a name for himself as one of the biggest hot heads in the history of the NCAA. Knight was known to verbally abuse players, coaches and referees, but he was probably best known for physically abusing folding chairs that made their ways to the center of the court.

All jokes aside, Knight’s fiery moments were because he loved the game of basketball.

The yells, the screams and the throwing were the product of a man possessed by a will to win. That will to 902 wins, making him the coach with the most wins in NCAA history.

On Wednesday night, none of that was present.

The first time Knight opened his mouth there was not a yell, an enthusiastic phrase, not even a firm statement; he simply agreed with his better spoken co-analyst Richard “Digger” Phelps.

Knight spoke with a low tone as if he had just lost a game, and had answered one question too many during a press conference.

There was no excitement in his voice, but his answers to questions were both insightful and compelling.

To make matters more awkward he sat next to two well-spoken men with great posture and well cut suits.

Knight’s lack of media experience stuck out like a traveling fan at an Oakland Raiders home game.

Knight sat hunched with his arms crossed, or his elbows on the table, wearing a crew neck sweater.

Knight wore his signature crew neck sweater with a collar sticking out, but the color red was nowhere in site. The red of Indiana and Texas Tech was replaced by a green similar to the Styrofoam found in the bottom of an oversized fake plant.

The Texas Tech logo on the breast of the sweater was replaced by an ESPN logo. Not only was the logo replaced, Knight’s passion was replaced too, by an overwhelming sense of tedium.

I sat there and watched for some sign of life from a coach that I’d admired as young child.

A coach I hoped to be cut from the same cloth as.

Finally it happened.

Knight was asked how far his former team, Texas Tech, would go in the upcoming NCAA play.

When Knight spoke about Texas Tech, he referred to the team as “we.”

Finally the general manned the ship. He talked about how partial he was to the team and went on to talk about how tough he thought the team really was. His somber eyes lit with excitement, and he spoke with the enthusiasm of a coach swollen with pride of the performance of his team.

It seemed evident that the coach of more than 40 years missed being on the court, and it was evident that I wouldn’t miss seeing his bland banter on TV.

If you ever read this coach Knight, come back — basketball needs you.

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