|Editions | myCNN | Video | Audio | Headline News Brief | Feedback||
Larry King Live
Bobby Knight Discusses His Past at Indiana and His Hopes for the FutureAired September 27, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, a legendary coach and his controversial fall: Bob Knight exclusive for the hour, next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Great pleasure to have Coach Bobby Knight with us for the full hour tonight. We don't have to tell you -- if we have to tell you who he is you're living on another planet.
Thank you very much for coming here, Coach.
BOB KNIGHT, FORMER INDIANA UNIVERSITY BASKETBALL COACH: I appreciate the opportunity.
KING: My pleasure.
If you -- on coaching itself -- I want to touch a lot of bases, we are going all over the scope tonight. If you were sending a kid to college, what kind of coach do you want to coach him?
KNIGHT: Well, I want him to play for a guy that understands what he is as a player, makes sure that he's going to come away from it with a lot more than just having been a basketball player, that -- I feel that a coach is a teacher and I think that a coach's greatest success is for a player to say that, this was the best class I had while I was in school.
KING: Should a coach remain close to a player when he's done playing? Should I expect that my son should keep in touch with his coach?
KNIGHT: I think your coach should keep in touch with your son, I think that -- not your son with the coach. I think that once a player is done, I think it's a coach's responsibility to say, hey, you worked hard, you did what I wanted to do, I demanded a lot from you and now it's my turn to help you, you let me know whenever I can help you with something. I think that's a big part of it.
KING: You were a good player, right, at Ohio State?
KNIGHT: Yes, decent player.
KING: Why did you want to coach? KNIGHT: Sometimes I wonder. I played all the way through high school. I played football, basketball, and baseball. I was around sports. I've always been around older people. The coaches that I played for were good friends of mine. I thought the world of my college coach Fred Taylor. And I think my interest in sports was just that -- OK, if I can continue doing this it's something that I'll do the same thing all my life, and I enjoyed it an awful lot as a kid, and you can kind of remain a kid forever.
KING: Baseball is your favorite sport, though, right?
KNIGHT: Yes, it really is. I think I was probably a better baseball player than anything else.
KING: Why not baseball manager then?
KNIGHT: Well, you know, I didn't play baseball after high school except in the service, continued to play a lot of fast pitch softball and just got -- I think -- I really like the intricacies of basketball. I like what basketball -- what all is involved with it from the standpoint of trying to put your offense together to score against your defense, or trying to have our defense in such a way that you have a tough time scoring against it.
KING: What was West Point like, your first coaching job?
KNIGHT: I thought it was great. I mean, I really enjoyed coaching there. I -- there were a lot of challenges because of the amount of time you could have with the kids. I went there as an assistant under Tate Slock (ph), who did a great job there. Army hadn't won a game on the road in almost three years when Tate started as a head coach, and then we developed over the next eight years. We went to the NIT six different times. So we had a great time with it and it was neat to see a school, West Point, that was -- from a sports standpoint was so football oriented all of a sudden realized that basketball is not bad.
KING: And they put a lot restrictions on you, though, with practice time, right? They've got to go to class. The coach has no stretchability at the Point, right?
KNIGHT: Well, not a lot, and -- but I felt the idea of going to class was a pretty good one and so I continued that when I've coached other than at West Point.
KING: Your kids have to go to class?
KNIGHT: Well, either that -- they have two choices: they can go to class and play, or they can skip class and not play. Usually they go to class.
KING: Why was that so important since winning is also important?
KNIGHT: Well, you can win and go class. I mean, when I recruit your son the thing that I tell you is that he's going to get an education. I think that's my foremost responsibility with your son, and the only way he's going to get it is to go to class. So that becomes, I think, paramount for kids with us, and I think that's probably why in all the time that I was at Indiana, 29 years, I think I only had four kids who played four years for us that didn't have a degree, and only one kid that played two years. I think we had eight or nine junior college players and only one of them that played two years didn't get a degree.
KING: Did the Point teach you discipline a lot?
KNIGHT: Well, I think that discipline is a really inherent thing at West Point, but, Larry, there's kind of a misconception about discipline and athletics at a service academy. And you've got discipline at this level at a service academy across the board, everywhere.
KING: They're going to be officers.
KNIGHT: Whatever, you know, classroom, intramurals, walking to class, going to the dining hall, going to the mess hall. At a civilian institution, the discipline comes down in here somewhere, and the kid at the service academy wants to get away from that. Boy, when he goes to basketball practice, he'd like to have a good time. He would like to...
KNIGHT: And it's a -- that's a concept that people don't understand about the service schools. I felt that, when I coached at West Point, with their demands here, my demands had to be up here. They had to be higher than the -- than the Point's were.
KING: You had such extraordinary success at Indiana. You also coached a gold medal Olympic team. You coached Michael Jordan.
KNIGHT: Well, yes. I'm not sure how much anybody coaches him, because...
KING: What was that like?
KNIGHT: Oh, it was great. I mean, he -- to my way of thinking, he's the best player in a team sport that's ever played anything.
KING: Any team sport?
KNIGHT: Any team sport. Nobody has been able to do the things with a team that Jordan could do.
KING: Tommy Lasorda said today, winning the gold medal -- the United States won the gold medal in baseball today in Sydney -- was a bigger thrill than the World Series.
KNIGHT: Well, Henry...
KING: What was the Olympic like to you?
KNIGHT: Henry Iba once said that, when you coach your college team, you represent your university, your community, maybe your state. But when you coach the Olympic team, you represent your country. And I would have to agree with Lasorda. I don't think there's anything that could be a greater thrill than to take kids into competition representing the United States and see them win.
KING: And the pluses -- you never had an NCAA violation, right?
KING: Didn't want freshman to play.
KNIGHT: No, I...
KING: You thought the freshman should play separately from varsity.
KNIGHT: I would still like to see that. But we'll never get back to that.
KING: So everything about you has had a clean career, right?
KNIGHT: Well, I would hope so. I think so.
KING: I mean, when look -- about winning, kids coming to school, graduating -- so when we continue, we will find out what happened.
Coach Bobby Knight is the guest on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE: an extraordinary saga in American sport and beyond.
Don't go away.
KING: We are back with coach Bobby Knight. When -- what happened? I mean, that's the simplest way. Well, I'll tell -- let's put the most famous scene ever seen on television. Show this and then develop from it.
Let's watch this -- Bobby Knight -- coach Bobby Knight at a practice. And there's the player. Bobby points. And then this is a little grainy. But this has been seen around the world. What happened, coach?
KNIGHT: Well, first of all, I think when you slow it down like that, it lasts an awful lot longer than any contact did. It's about a second-and-a-half or a two-second contact. I -- I honestly don't know what brought that about, what was said. An interesting comment came to me shortly after that was shown from Joe Paterno.
And Joe called me and he said: "You know," he said, "if that's something that's really upsetting to the people at Indiana, the people at Penn State would be upset 200 times a year with me."
KING: He handles -- he touches players?
KNIGHT: And he told me that. And I've got that from coaches all over the country. I -- there's probably never been a player, Larry, that has played for me that I haven't taken and moved here or moved there or said, no, you've got -- when you turn on a block-out, you've got to -- and I think that coaches pretty much across the board would agree with the fact that there's a lot of demonstration that has to be done. I don't -- in fact, even the people at Indiana said that that certainly wasn't a reason for termination, that there were some things made in the allegations there where I choked the kid, which I think looking at that quickly without looking at it in slow motion shows absolutely I did not.
KING: What did you do?
KNIGHT: I really don't know. I mean...
KING: You don't remember the incident?
KNIGHT: I do not. I could have -- although I do remember this. I told the Indiana people where the tape was once I'd found out where it was. I said go get it and look at it, I said. I can just tell you that I didn't choke anybody.
KING: By the way, were you mad at CNNSI for reporting that and showing that, or wasn't that a good story?
KNIGHT: Yes, but Larry that happened three years before, and that thing took place three years before, never was an issue then. I don't know why it became an issue at that point. I mean, we're -- I'm not sure how many things are worthwhile three years ago that were looked at, at that time.
KING: So you've touched other players. This incident would not be not familiar to you?
KNIGHT: No, that's just -- just like Paterno said, I think in coaching you're going to have to go out and you're going to show kids things. And you're going -- I'm going to take a kid to emphasize a point, and I may take you by the arm and I say, now, Larry, you have got to get that guy off the board. I mean, I think...
KING: And would you do that with Michael Jordan on the Olympics?
KNIGHT: Oh, I did that with Michael Jordan. I'd go past Mike when he was playing on the Olympic team, and I might take Mike by the arm or I might put my hand on the back of Mike's neck and kind of squeeze his neck, and I'd say, "Mike, I want to enjoy the game tonight; I don't want to have to sit here."
KING: Is that, coach, something that's gone now? That just don't work in the year 2000?
KNIGHT: Well... KING: It may have worked under Lombardi and Knight, and maybe under early Paterno, and maybe Woody Hayes, but it just don't work anymore.
KNIGHT: Well, no, I don't think that's true at all.
KING: You think coaches are touching players all over America?
KNIGHT: I don't think there's any question about it. I mean, that's the feedback that I got from coaches all across the country. I think that things have obviously changed somewhat sociologically from 15 or 20 years ago, but I think that coaching is kind of a unique thing. It's like, do you want the doctor that's operating on you to have had a very passive experience in medical school? I think we want him to have had an aggressive experience. I think we want demands to have been placed on that doctor.
And I want a kid to be able to leave basketball wherever I might coach or have coached, and understand that he can give a little bit more of himself than he thought he could, that demands were placed on him.
I tell -- I would tell your son in recruiting him that not everybody can play for me, and I don't want everybody to play for me. But what I want is a kid that can do three things. I want a kid that can play hard, that can go to class, and that can be a good kid, and then we expound on that a little bit.
KING: And when do you -- where is the line drawn on the criticism of the kid? We have seen you hundreds of times yell at kids. A kid comes out of a game and you'll be right in his face.
KING: Now, he may have tried hard. He just made a mistake.
KNIGHT: I think if you were to take an entire game film of me like -- let me just -- I'll come right back to that. You know, another thing I'm supposed to do is just get technical fouls every time I turn around. In the 29 years I was at Indiana, the technical fouls called against my team were last in the league over that 29 years.
KNIGHT: Every other school had more technical fouls called against it than we had during my entire time there.
I think that if I get on a kid, I would -- I've had people sit in the stands and keep track, make score of how many times you got on your players and how many times I got on my players. I think for a variety of reasons I've become more visible than other people have.
KING: All right. What are those reasons?
KNIGHT: Well, I think I've never had a great feel -- I've never really had a great respect for the press across the board. There are people that in the press corps that I have a great relationship with, because I have a great respect for them, and they're people that have not always agreed with everything that I've done. I wouldn't -- my mom didn't agree with everything that I do.
KING: So you think the press didn't like you because you didn't like -- who started it?
KNIGHT: I don't know. I'm sure anything like that becomes a combination of things.
KING: So a technical foul on you is a bigger story than a technical foul on the coach of Iowa?
KNIGHT: I really think that. I think that's probably been the case over the years. And I'm not blaming anybody. I think that's just the way things have kind of evolved, because the thing that's always intrigued me about the press is, as I said, there are people that I know and really respect that have not always agreed with me, which is fine. And in many cases, I'm sure they were right. But it's always interesting to me that the most vitriolic articles I ever read about the way I coach are always from somebody that I've never met or don't know or have never sat down with.
KING: Can we say that yelling at a kid, publicly yelling at him helps him?
KNIGHT: Well, I think under some circumstances. I think there are some kids that you've got to be very careful about. I think there are some kids that get caught up with the fact that coach is on me, coach is really on me. I can't play because he's on me.
That was one of the great things, we mentioned Jordan a little bit. Jordan could handle anything that came up in a game. I don't care whether it was a coach, another player, a bad call or what. That's part of what made him such a great player.
I think part of being a really good coach is understanding the personalities of all the kids that are playing for you, because they cannot all be treated alike.
KING: So there was a method to what you were doing?
KNIGHT: Well, I hope there has been. I mean, I hope that I've always tried to say, OK, the best way for me to get this kid to play is a, the best way for me to get that kid to play is b.
KING: We'll be right back with Coach Bobby Knight. As we go to break, here was a scene of the other side of Bobby Knight, at his leaving. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, SEPTEMBER 13)
KNIGHT: I had great kids and a great experience at Indiana while I've been here. I hope to have great kids and a great experience where I go from here to coach. And as I leave here, I'd like each of you to just take a minute, a full minute to bow your heads and in whatever way you do wish myself and my family the very best, as I wish you the very best.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We are back with Coach Bobby Knight. Last night, vice -- vice president -- last night, Governor George W. Bush was here. Tomorrow night, Vice President Al Gore and Tipper will be our special guests. Bobby knight is with us.
You follow one possible president, another president around you. It's a good sandwich.
KNIGHT: Well, it's kind of neat for me. You know, I've never met Al Gore. I know Governor Bush pretty well and am a great admirer and respect him tremendously. But we all have something in common. We're kind of all looking for a job right now.
KING: All three of you.
KING: Speaking of that, what are you going to do?
KNIGHT: Well, I really don't know. The only thing that I know is I'm going to eat a little bit with a mutual friend, Tony LaRussa, after we're done this evening.
KING: You're going down to San Diego, the manager of the Cardinals.
KNIGHT: Yes, yes.
KING: But I mean, you've been offered an Indiana Pacer by your former player, Isaiah Thomas, to be an assistant coach. He's taking over that team. Are you thinking about it?
KNIGHT: Yes. I'm just kind of waiting to see what all there is and what I want to do and what...
KING: Might you go to the pros?
KNIGHT: Well, I could. I mean, that's a possibility.
KING: You could be an assistant?
KNIGHT: Oh, yes. I mean... KING: You could be an assistant?
KNIGHT: Yes. I'm a teacher. You know, I'm really not a coach. I'm a teacher. You know, coaches are a lot of things. You know, they're Madison Avenue. They're recruiters, they're -- but a teacher is a teacher, and I've always felt I'm a teacher.
So if you want me to come in and spend two days with your team, you just say, OK, I want you to work with these big guys, and I'll work like heck with them because I'm a teacher.
KING: So you could sit on the Indiana Pacer bench all season, coach, go on the road, and do -- and know that Isaiah is deciding what the play is with a minute left.
KNIGHT: If he were wanting me to do that, I could do that.
KING: Now back to the press thing. And how you -- let's see an example of when you're having a rough time with the press and what might change here? Let's just watch this incident.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KNIGHT: Was he sitting beside me?
QUESTION: That's what I've been told. I may have been incorrect.
KNIGHT: Then why doesn't he come to speak to me, too, if it's such a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) offense? Some of you people ought to go find another way of living.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Now one might say that that isn't smart since they own the ink well.
KNIGHT: Well, I'm sure that's right. You're just repeating what my wife has told me a number of times.
KING: So what happens to you?
KING: You have a bad temper.
KNIGHT: I think we all have a temper at times. I mean...
KING: But you have a temper?
KNIGHT: Well, there's no question about that. But I think I've always had a hard time just -- if when we get done tonight, if I felt you'd done a lousy job, I'd probably tell you that I thought you did a lousy job, just as I would tell you that I thought you did a really good job. Whatever we were doing, if we were umpiring a game together or -- and I think probably I've said things that I know I would have been a lot better off saying, but I'm not so sure that in the same circumstances again I might not say the same thing.
KING: Have you had kids with bad tempers?
KNIGHT: Oh, I like kids with a temper. I mean..
KING: You like kids with a temper?
KNIGHT: Absolutely. I mean I want a kid...
KING: A kid gets a technical foul, you don't mind that?
KNIGHT: Well, we don't get -- I don't think -- I've only had in 35 years as a head coach, I think I've only had three technical fouls coming from players.
KING: But you want a kid that gets mad, slams the ball...
KNIGHT: I want a kid when he misses a lay-up, I want him to be upset about missing a lay-up. When a kid gives up a back-cut basket, I want it to upset him. I don't want him to just be out there playing. I want him to be playing to win.
KING: So, what -- we all think of this -- what would you change about you?
KNIGHT: Well, I think that -- that's a very tough thing to answer, I think, because I think my approach to things over the years has enabled us to win a lot, wherever I've coached, and then I'm kind of afraid to change. I think I would like to -- I mentioned this a long time ago. I think I would really like to be able to pay less attention to the rabbits and focus more on the elephants, you know...
KNIGHT: Well, I think that we can all get caught up...
KING: Little things...
KNIGHT: Yes, we can all get caught up with rabbits and we can spend too much time on them. And I think the guy that I admire the most is the guy that looks at this and he says, to quote the president that hired me, John Ryan: "There's a tempest in the ocean, and there's a tempest in the teapot. This is a tempest in the teapot. Let's get on with things." I think sometimes I get caught up with the tempest in the teapot...
KING: Every -- I mean, Sinatra told me he thought his one thing that -- he was impatient. He was not good at things that didn't go right, and he would like to have changed that. It's hard to change. So, that's what I meant. Is there something about you, a trait you wish you didn't have?
KNIGHT: Well, I think -- I think it might be right along those same lines. I think maybe...
KING: Make too big a thing out of little things? KNIGHT: Yes, I think so. I think -- and I have a tendency to let things bother me a little bit. I think -- I think I probably have been too hard on kids at times. You know, Jack -- the coach at Kansas State -- Jack and I had -- we had a lot of conversations. And we both thought we were a little bit anachronistic, and we both thought -- and he had played for Coach Iba. And when we'd go home at night -- and he first said this to me. He said: "You know, I've just chewed out these two kids. And I go home tonight..." And before he could fill out his thought, I said, "And you're really upset with yourself more than you are with the two kids, aren't you?" And we both agreed to that.
KING: We'll be back with Coach Knight. We're going to take some phone calls as well. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MYLES BRAND, PRESIDENT, INDIANA UNIVERSITY: Unquestionably, this is the most difficult decision I've ever had to make. Bob Knight is a legendary coach at a school with a legendary basketball reputation. He's been a national coaching example not only in wins and losses, in Big 10 and national championships, but also fielding teams for three decades that comprised outstanding, fine young men.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: The question that has yet to be answered: What is zero tolerance?
KING: You said you understood it when you signed it.
KNIGHT: No, no, I didn't sign anything. And I didn't really say that I understood zero tolerance. That was something that was put out to me in just that phrase. And there were things that -- that I was supposed to do. Among them: Be civil to people. I -- I think you could go across our campus and you would find very few people that ever accused me of incivility.
I think that zero tolerance -- I -- does that mean one technical foul? Two?
KING: Well, obviously, it didn't mean that.
KNIGHT: Well, but why? I mean, zero means zero. I mean, I don't know what else...
KING: But how did you interpret it?
KNIGHT: Well, that's -- that's kind of how I...
KING: So you said: I would not get a technical foul this year.
KNIGHT: Well, I thought that was probably was something that I had to avoid. Inappropriate physical contact was another phrase that was thrown out at me. Well, I've had a tendency to -- just two nights before I gave the kid the little lesson in manners, my wife and I went to the movie.
And when we are walking in the show, a kid is there with his girlfriend -- young 20-year-old kids -- and the boy said, "Hey, coach, good luck," you know. "This will be a great season. Good luck."
And when I went past him, I kind of smacked him on the shoulder as I went by, and I said, "Thanks." I said, "You just really root for us this year." Went on. They happened to go to the same theater. There were 12 different theaters in this particular complex. And when we walking out, I took this kid by kind of the back of the neck, and I said, "You know," I said, "this looks like a really nice girl that's with you and you make sure you treat her that way, OK?"
"Yes, sir. Yes."
And now, the definition of inappropriate physical contact is how it's perceived by the person contacted.
KING: That kid could have reported you?
KNIGHT: Exactly, I'm sure. And so that's been my way of...
KING: So why did you accept what is basically impossible?
KNIGHT: You know, I don't know. I made -- my biggest mistake, I think, was -- you showed the thing with the kid on the practice. I was told that that was going to be looked at and checked. And I said, "Fine, go ahead," because, as I told you before, I know that I didn't choke anybody.
And I know that nobody pulled me off of anybody. And I know that I hadn't thrown the president out of practice. So -- and I was told that would be the extent of it. Then it went way beyond that. It went to things that happened three, 12, 25 years ago, that I was never asked to explain to anybody.
KING: So what did you do wrong?
KNIGHT: And -- well, what I think -- where I think I made a mistake, Larry, once that went beyond what they told me was -- that's when I should have just said, "Hey, I don't need this."
KING: I'm out of here.
KNIGHT: I'm -- that's it. And I've always said this. Bob Hammel, who is a sports editor -- retired -- in the Bloomington paper -- and one of my very dearest and closest friends -- I told him when I first came to Indiana, I said, "You know, you're a little bit like a gunfighter that is brought into Dodge City."
I was a great fan. I used to give Coach Taylor Western novels. And I was a great Western fan. And Louis L'Amour was my ideal author.
KING: Good guy. I knew him well.
KNIGHT: And I -- I told -- I told Bob, I said: "You know, I'm kind of like a gunfighter. I come in, clean up the town, and sometime along the way, the cure may be worse than the disease." And when I was first interviewed by four people, they asked me, do you want us to ask you questions, do you want to ask us, go back -- and I said, "No." I said, "You give me 15 minutes and I'll give you the basketball program I'll bring to Indiana and that's it." I said this -- I'll run the basketball program and this will be it. If you don't like it, then you've used 15 minutes. If you do like it, we'll stay -- I'll stay as long as you want.
And from that point on, I've always said, hey, if you don't want me as a coach just tell me. I mean, that's all that had to be done here without all of this fabrication and all of this stuff that's taken place.
KING: So you should have quit or they should have dropped you if that's the way it was?
KNIGHT: All they had to do was say, we don't want you as a coach any longer, and whether that's right or wrong -- I don't mind getting fired. I mean, that's their prerogative. I mean, these people that...
KING: You've never been fired, though, have you?
KNIGHT: No, but, you know, we all should experience...
KING: Time for everybody.
KNIGHT: ... a lot of things, I guess.
KING: We'll be right back with Coach Bobby Knight. We'll include your phone calls. Lots more area to cover. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MYLES BRAND, PRESIDENT, INDIANA UNIVERSITY: Unfortunately, there have been many instances in the last 17 weeks in which Coach Knight has behaved and acted in a way that is both defiant and hostile. These actions illustrate a very troubling pattern of inappropriate behavior that makes it clear that Coach Knight has no desire, contrary to what he personally promised me, to live within the zero tolerance guidelines we set out on May 15. We have given Indiana University basketball coach Bob Knight one last chance and he's failed to take full advantage of that opportunity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KNIGHT: When my time on Earth is gone and my activities here are past, I want they bury me upside down and my critics can kiss my *ss. (END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Unique, Bobby. Did you just think of that on the spot or did you plan it going in?
KNIGHT: No, no. I -- that's -- you asked me about a moment ago if I could change things, I think -- maybe not necessarily that, because I kind of like that, but I think maybe I should change my spontaneous responses to things sometimes. I think I might be better off.
KING: Probably you shouldn't have taken that deal, right? You should have quit?
KNIGHT: No. I think that -- as I look back, the time for me to quit was when they extended this thing way beyond what they told me they were going to.
KING: And what about all the things we just heard President Brand say, you didn't go to alumni meetings...
KNIGHT: Well, there's...
KING: ... treated a secretary poorly, all this without the kid complaining about...
KNIGHT: Well, I've worked for about 43 people, and I've gotten along really well with 38 of them, and until these three, until the president, his assistant and the athletic director, it was like 38 out of 40.
KING: The athletic director was your best friend.
KNIGHT: No, no, he wasn't. The athletic director and I were merely...
KING: The stories were you were tight as hell for years.
KNIGHT: No, no, no, no, no, no, never.
KING: Not true?
KNIGHT: I never once played golf with the guy, never once ate a meal with the guy, just acquaintances. And I think that I was very supportive of him coming in as the athletic director.
KING: Didn't he say you threw him out of the locker room and broke his heart, or something like that? He came into a locker room after a game...
KNIGHT: No, he came into a hallway outside of a locker room where he and I had, had a lot of things go back and forth between us over the previous few months.
KING: You are not friends? This is not a case of...
KNIGHT: No. We -- I think we started out as pretty good acquaintances and then ended up really on opposite sides of it.
KING: Well, what did Brand say that was false?
KNIGHT: Well, what has been said, Larry, that just is totally untrue -- it's been said that I did not attend previously scheduled alumni functions. These were not previously scheduled -- nothing. That's absolutely a lie. When I first was asked about these, I said my contract calls for four appearances that I make on behalf of the university and here are the four, and they just did not include these particular outings. And my attorney advised me not to go to any, because of this -- what is -- he asked me what zero tolerance was. Two days before I was fired I asked the executive vice president to explain zero tolerance to me and his answer was, I can't do it. So I tried to put my -- I taught a class for 28 years that I was never paid for because I really love teaching the class. I had a good time with the kids.
KING: What was the subject?
KNIGHT: Just -- it was methods in coaching, and I really didn't talk about basketball. I talked about teaching, and how to get a job and things that I thought were important to be successful in whatever you went into. But I'm thinking, OK, zero tolerance, if a kid gets a C and thinks he should have gotten an A and complains about it, is that zero tolerance? If I go speak at something and I answer a question in such a way that it irritates the person who asks the question, is that zero tolerance? So I tried to put myself in a position where I was exposed as little as possible.
KING: You should have quit.
KNIGHT: I know I should have quit. I should have quit right then when we went past the CNN practice tape.
KING: You're not mad at CNN though, are you? Or are you?
KNIGHT: Well, I don't know. I don't think CNN handled it very well at the time. I think that they went into this with a lot of allegations to begin with, and I think the tape and subsequent interviews with people proved all of those allegations to be false.
KING: Do -- you mentioned temper before and how temper is a good thing -- like Bill Hardtack (ph), the great jockey, said he rode in anger, it's good to have anger. Can it be overdone, though?
KNIGHT: I don't think there's any question about it.
KING: When you threw the chair across the court?
KNIGHT: Well, that wasn't so much a thing of temper as just a display of something to show that this has been really bad. Temper to me is that I've just stayed on you too long. You know, that's an area that I'd like to change, you've missed a block out.
KNIGHT: And my wife has a great saying: The horse is dead, get off. Sometimes I'm still riding the dead horse.
KING: She sounds pretty wise.
KNIGHT: She is. She's a lot smarter than I am.
KING: So you stay on a kid too long?
KNIGHT: Yes, too long, that's -- I think that's a fallacy of mine. And then, you know, once in awhile I'll forget to go pat you on the back or slap you on the butt to say, hey, you know, I'm still with you, I'm -- you know, and I think probably most every kid that I've had play for me at some point has been justified in thinking, God, I wish he had gotten off me.
KING: How much money have you raised for the university? You've raised a lot of money.
KNIGHT: A lot of money. A lot of money. Our previous president, Tom Erlich (ph), once at a meeting said that I'd raised over $5 million for the library, that was at that time. I've started two chairs, one in history, one in law. I think I've done a really good job recruiting for other sports.
KING: Oh, you did? You'd help recruit football players?
KNIGHT: Anybody that asked me. Sure, football players, swimmers, whatever, tennis players, golfers, it didn't make any difference. Anybody that asked me I would help. I think I've been really good with people and I hope the people in the athletic department think I've been good for them.
KING: Back with more of Coach Bobby Knight. We'll take some of your phone calls. Don't go away.
KING: Let's take a couple calls for Bobby Knight. Goshen, New York, hello.
CALLER: I have a question for Coach Knight.
CALLER: Coach Knight, if you weren't accepted in the near future as a coaching or teaching position, what profession would you see yourself at or do you see yourself always involved in basketball? KNIGHT: No, I think I'd probably like to be a full-time fisherman, with when cold weather set in a kind of a bird hunter, and then on really hot days go play golf.
KING: In other words, you don't want to work if you're not coaching.
KNIGHT: No, I don't think so.
KING: Do you miss coaching?
KNIGHT: I think I would always miss it. I mean, I miss it when the season's over. You know, I take a couple of days and then I'm starting to think about what we should do and how we should change our offense. I think that I probably, starting when I was in high school, probably some part of every day I've coached in my mind a little bit.
KING: So you're going to go back?
KNIGHT: Well, I hope so. I hope my record in academics -- I see where...
KING: Would you rather coach college kids than...
KNIGHT: I want to coach in college. I...
KING: But you might take the Pacer job for one year?
KNIGHT: Well, I don't know whether I'd make a commitment for an entire year, but I told -- I love Isaiah and I told him, you tell me how I can help you and I'll do whatever I can to help you.
KING: Oh, you did tell him that?
KING: You let him -- he got out of school early, one of the few to leave school early, and went to the pros, and you recommended he do that.
KNIGHT: I think that when a kid goes to college the ultimate objective is security, lifetime security. He had played two years for us. We had won the national championship. And now -- and this was a lot of money then, and it is to all of us still today, but it doesn't sound like a lot with pro contracts. He was offered $400,000 a year. And my take on that was, well, if we had a history major here that after two years was offered the job as curator of the Smithsonian Institute, he ought to go take it.
He doesn't need two more years of school.
KING: So you told -- but you did tell him you would help...
KNIGHT: Yes, sure. KING: Chicago, hello.
CALLER: Hi. We are three students who have recently graduated from Indiana and respect you and are fans of IU basketball. I actually have two questions. One, how did you feel about the student reaction you received, and two, how is your family dealing with the situation?
KNIGHT: Well, I really appreciate the students, because I'm sure that you had heard me speak, all three of you, at one time or another while you were in school. And I always felt the students were as much a part of the team as I wanted the team to be a part of the student body. And my family and I are getting along fine. We'll...
KING: How's your son?
KNIGHT: Well, this has been very tough on Pat. Nobody at the university has even spoken to Pat.
KING: What's he going to do?
KNIGHT: I have no idea. He's out in limbo.
KING: He was an assistant coach.
KNIGHT: Oh, yes, and he did a great job. He was very helpful in our recruiting, the unification of these players into a team.
KING: Coach, what actually happened with that kid? What did he say? Did he say "Bobby" to you?
KNIGHT: No, no.
KING: What did he say?
KNIGHT: We were walking through a door. There were three kids coming out.
KING: This was the straw that broke the camel's...
KNIGHT: No, no, it wasn't. This was a foregone conclusion, Larry.
KING: They were out to get you.
KING: OK. What happened?
KNIGHT: Well, you know, just tell me you don't want me here, we avoid an awful lot of stuff.
KING: What happened?
KNIGHT: But we're walking through a door, and I think these kids were really surprised that they saw me. They recognized me. They saw me. They kind of looked a little startled. And as we walked through the door, the last kid in the door said, "Hi, Knight!" And I just put my arm on his elbow and I said: "Son, let me tell you something. I don't call people by their last name nor should you. I'm either Coach Knight or Mr. Knight, and just remember that when you're dealing with elders." And I walked on.
That's -- Larry, I'd do that again tomorrow. If that's a crime, then I'm going to commit it again tomorrow and the next day and right on down the line.
KING: That's the whole thing?
KNIGHT: That's it, period.
KING: When he charged you with something, were you shocked?
KNIGHT: Well, I don't know that I was ever charged with anything.
KING: Well, he...
KNIGHT: He had a stepfather that has been an incredible critic of mine that lied and lied and lied about this thing.
KING: Did a talk radio show, right?
KNIGHT: I don't know what...
KING: He used to do a talk show.
KNIGHT: Yes, I think he did. And he...
KING: But when it surfaced were you shocked?
KNIGHT: Yes. I mean, didn't know about it until 11 o'clock the next morning that it was even an issue. And by that time, one of Brand's assistants had called CNN, called ESPN. Nobody called me about it. I didn't know about it until one of my former players, Steve Downing, came in and said something to me about it.
KING: Are you disappointed in President Brand? Is that a fair word?
KNIGHT: Oh, I mean, I'm disappointed that I stayed at Indiana for five years under a president like Brand.
KING: We'll be back with more of Coach Bob Knight. Don't go away.
KING: Chicago again for Coach Bobby Knight. Hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry. Hi, coach.
KING: Hi. KNIGHT: How are you?
CALLER: Great. Hey, I'm a forced IU fan because I married into a family of IU fanatics, and we're sure going to miss that our kids aren't going (UNINTELLIGIBLE) play for you coach. But we're really used to seeing you in red, and I sure hope that blue sweater doesn't mean that's Kentucky blue, buddy.
KNIGHT: Well, I'm not sure. I think my wife picked the sweater for me.
KING: Do you have a question?
CALLER: That was it. Just that I hope it wasn't Kentucky blue.
KING: All right. It's not Kentucky. OK.
KNIGHT: Thank you.
KING: Do you want to coach again absolutely?
KNIGHT: Well, I'd love to coach again.
KING: College coach?
KNIGHT: I mean, that's what I am. I'd like to coach in college. I hope that somewhere there's a program that wants to be like -- and I want to be able to feel about it -- like I did the first 24 years I was at Indiana.
KING: Does it have to be a big school?
KNIGHT: Not necessarily. I want to go someplace where there's like -- one of these things that has bothered me perhaps more than anything else is this president talking about academics. Larry, I'll tell you this: I mean, I may be a lot of things in some people's eyes, but there's never been anybody in college athletics that's ever put a greater emphasis on academic participation and academic completion than I have. And our graduation record is second to none in the country.
KING: So you want to coach college again?
KNIGHT: And I want to be in a situation where that's important, and I want to be in a situation where I have a chance to get kids to work together, to put a basketball team together that can represent a university in the way it should be represented.
KING: But if Isaiah says comes to camp and work with me, at least until the season starts, help me a little, you would?
KNIGHT: I'll be there in a heartbeat.
KING: Camp opens soon, keep you busy. KNIGHT: Yes, in the middle of October.
KING: Do you think you'd like working with pros?
KNIGHT: Oh, yes. I mean, I like working with anybody that wants to learn. I like working with -- I would have a difficult time working with somebody that thinks that he knows it all, because I came up here with Pete Newell today and...
KING: One of the greats.
KNIGHT: Well, spent an hour and a half asking him about basketball, so I'm still trying to learn.
KING: Meeting him in the green room was a treat.
What happened -- we only have brief before the next break and then we're out of time. What happened with the secretary? Did you curse out a secretary?
KNIGHT: No, I didn't. I had two girls that had really been constantly hassled by this particular secretary, who was the athletic director's secretary. They were going to write a grievance to the university about her. I said let me take care of this.
I went downstairs. I said to her -- her name was Jeanette. I said, "Jeanette, two things I want to tell you" -- and I said it in a voice just like I'm talking. I said: "These girls of mine don't work for you. They work for me. If you have a problem with them, you come see me and I'll take care of it. They're tired of and I'm tired of you acting like a bitch around them." That was it, about 15 seconds. There were two football coaches in an adjoining room that heard the whole thing. And with that, I left. Sometime -- that's two-and-a- half years ago -- or before this thing came up. I immediately called the vice president, told him exactly what had happened -- never heard another word about it until we are into this witch hunt in May.
She got on television and said -- and this is an absolute lie -- that I called her an "f-ing bitch."
KING: You never said -- you never used that word in front of her?
KING: Our guest is coach Bobby Knight.
We are going to take a break, come back with our remaining moments. Tomorrow night, Al Gore and Tipper Gore together for the full hour.
We'll be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Fort Wayne, Indiana, hello. CALLER: Hi, coach Knight. First of all, I'm your biggest fan.
KNIGHT: Next to -- next to my wife.
CALLER: OK, I'll go there.
KNIGHT: All right.
CALLER: What was your greatest year or moment in your career so far?
KNIGHT: Well, you know, they're really undefined and unnoticed moments. The greatest moments in coaching, to me, are those when former players come back to practice, when former players are in the locker room prior to the game, or at the half time, or after a game: when former players have come back to let us know that they're still a part of playing basketball on this particular team, although it may be 10 years since the last game they played.
KING: You keep in touch with a lot of them. You also got a kid who was in a wheelchair drafted, right?
KNIGHT: Landon Turner is one of the great stories. But that's a Red Auerbach story, Larry. I -- I mentioned to Red at a tryout situation in Chicago for college kids after Landon had suffered a paralysis in an automobile accident. I said: "Red, it would be unbelievable, if, when your draft spots were taken, you could draft Landon Turner."
KING: Who could never play, of course.
KNIGHT: Could never play. I never said another thing to Red, Larry. And three weeks later, when the NBA draft was coming to a conclusion and they asked if there were any more spots to be named, Red stood and said, "The Celtics would like to draft Landon Turner."
And that says all anybody, I think, ever needs to know about Red Auerbach.
KING: Do you think, Bobby, as someone suggested, you need help in any area? I mean, they say management control or temper control, or...
KING: Do you think -- an area where we all could use help. Nobody is perfect. Do you think you need any?
KNIGHT: Well, you know, I -- I solicit help all the time. I mean, I go to people and ask people about an offense, a defense, about psychology, about dealing with people, about speaking, about how much to get involved with things, about -- so I think I'm a very inquisitive guy, who is constantly trying to do things in some way better.
KING: You're learning? KNIGHT: Oh, I think I've learned -- as I said on the way up with Pete -- I learn with you. I mean, you are -- one of the great things that a player has to do is listen. And you're one of the great listeners that I've ever had the opportunity to watch.
KING: If you don't coach again -- and I imagine you will -- it would be pretty rough, wouldn't it? Fishing can only go so far.
KNIGHT: Yes, well, that's why...
KING: Going write a book?
KNIGHT: Yes, we're -- Bob Hammel and I are in the process of putting a book together right now, and then -- but I hope there's something else down the road. I hope there's another book that would be on a much happier topic, which would be my entire life in basketball, and...
KING: Going to stay living in Indiana?
KNIGHT: No, I don't think so. I think that...
KING: Where are you going to live?
KNIGHT: I really don't know. I mean, I have got a lot of friends all over the country and a lot of people to see and things to do. And my wife and I will just sit down and see what it is that we want to do.
KING: We have two minutes left. Why do you like coaching? Most coaches are a little nuts to begin with, right? I mean, you're facing winning and losing all the time.
KNIGHT: Well, the thing that I -- there are two things I like about it. Personally, I like the challenge of putting my offense and my defense against your offense and your defense. And I love that, every time we go about it.
KING: Chess with a ball.
KNIGHT: And the second thing I like about it is that I think that a kid that plays for me is better off for having had that experience. And I think that I can put that kid out there and I don't -- any university would be just as well off without basketball as it would be with it. And certainly, Indiana would be no exception. But I think I have something to give to kids that can help them.
KING: How did you handle losing?
KNIGHT: Probably very disproportionately compared to winning. Winning is what I thought we had to do. Losing, I've never...
KNIGHT: Well, yes, in a way unacceptable, hard to get away from. I would stay with the loss -- again, the horse is dead, get off. And I've always said that you've got to get from one to two. You've got to get from great success on to something else. But you also have to take something from losing. It's just always harder for me -- much harder to get away from losing than it ever is to get on from winning.
KING: Thanks so much for giving us this hour. Say hello to Tony LaRussa and the Cardinals. They're going to the playoffs.
KNIGHT: I -- and they're going to do a really good job. And he's as great a manager as ever been in the game.
KING: Good guy.
KNIGHT: I appreciate being with you very much tonight.
KING: Thank you, coach.
Coach Bobby Knight, former coach at Indiana -- could be with the Pacers for awhile, and coming back to college somewhere.
Tomorrow night: Vice President Al Gore and his wife Tipper, with your phone calls, as well -- another edition of LARRY KING LIVE.
On CNN "NEWSSTAND," John McCain is going to be with you.
This is Larry King for John -- for Bobby Knight and all the rest of us here in Los Angeles. Thanks for joining us and good night.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com
|Back to the top||
© 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.|
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.