The Indianapolis Star was nice enough to Bob Knight to describe his performance at Carmel, Indiana's Center For the Performing Arts as a "speech," but that's about as misleading as performance reviews come. This was an event. Bob Knight is on tour, charging (as far as we can tell) in upwards of $40 a show to have you dabbing at your eyes with his latest telling of the Landon Turner story, in front of a rapt audience that no doubt wishes things were way, way different.
Knight wishes college basketball was different, and we don't blame him. The product, since young athletes determined they could succeed in other collectives while being paid for their work, has suffered in recent years. Knight, and no doubt his audience, is a bit ticked that NBA-level basketball players won't stick around the NCAA for a few years to ramp up their college credits, and he's decided to call players that play NCAA ball for one year before moving onto the NBA "a disgrace." That's right, he likes it better when these guys only stick around long enough to make money for their colleges, CBS and various auto insurance companies, and not themselves and their families. As quoted by the Star:
"I think it's a disgrace," Knight said of players who attend college for one year to fulfill the NBA's requirement to be drafted. "If I was an NBA general manager, I would never want to take a kid 18, 19 years old, a year out of college. I'd wait until someone else worked two or three years with him to adjust him to the NBA and I'd trade a draft pick."
Luckily for the fans of several NBA teams, Bob Knight isn't an NBA general manager.
Bob Knight wouldn't have drafted Derrick Rose in 2009. The 2011 NBA MVP just wouldn't have been ready yet, and Knight (running the Chicago Bulls at this point) would have traded the first overall pick elsewhere.
Bob Knight wouldn't have drafted Kevin Love, in 2009. Though the forward was needlessly kept on a short leash minutes-wise (despite playing expert ball when given an extended run), the one-and-done UCLA big man just wouldn't have made sense to Bob Knight's Minnesota Timberwolves at the time. To Bob Knight, at least.
Bob Knight certainly wouldn't have selected Kyrie Irving last year, with the first overall pick. After all, Knight's Cleveland Cavaliers don't need the hassle of someone who clearly needs time to "adjust" to the NBA. Better to trade that pick and put off rebuilding another year. You don't need to select one of the fastest point guards of the last 30 years, someone who is already ready to hit 41 percent of his 3-pointers, and 87 percent of his shots from the free-throw line at age 19.
This is why Bob Knight is an anachronism. But not because he isn't a callous, cynical sellout like John Calipari. Bob Knight is a callous, cynical sellout like Bob Knight.
Knight peddles his own brand of bollocks that is just as stinky and severe as Calipari's. While the Kentucky coach mines his nonsense recruiting the best of the best and pointing to that guaranteed three-year NBA deal he once got for backup center Daniel Orton; Knight makes just as much acting the above it all blowhard on ESPN, while schlepping around the Midwest peddling tales of how it use to be for those that already ate dinner a few hours before the 7:30 show time. It's just as much a show, and it's just as much a disgrace.
A betrayal of basketball smarts, something Knight is too keen to do. This is not the same man who worked that motion offense to perfection and worked with the like-minded Isiah Thomas in his two years at Indiana back in the early 1980s. No, Bob Knight is someone who is so full of his own mystique and legend that he is more than willing to pass on actually coaching and teaching actual basketball teams, instead preferring to talk about himself for hours at a time at $40 a head. No laser light show or 10-piece band, here. Just Knight and a microphone. Forty bucks, grandpa. He'll remind you of when things were pure.
Things were never "pure," though. NCAA hoops have always been a dirty business, and the NBA was always its skeevy brother in arms. And neither side likes the one and done rule, because it costs the NCAA bankable stars (and, at times, watchable basketball) for TV viewers to tune into, and it forces NBA teams to develop teenagers at the cost of a guaranteed contract.
The only thing the rule is good for is the players. You know, the ones that actually draw eyes to the TV, or rear ends to the seats.
"A disgrace," Knight called it. Not a rule to be modified, or a ham-fisted stopgap between permanent solutions. A disgrace. Derrick Rose, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving working their All-Star level talents for teams willing to pay for their production in their teens and early 20s is "a disgrace."
Why? Because … well, just because. That's why. It was better when they worked for free. Or, I'm sorry, "a scholarship."
Knight probably doesn't believe this twaddle, mind you. He's a clear capitalist, as this tour proves. There's a reason it was set for directly after the NCAA tournament, a spectacle that seemed to wear on even him. Knight cashed in at the height of it all, at forty bucks a head. That's his choice, to take advantage of the system, and to create a market willing to pay for his services. Even if it just finds him skulking around a stage with a microphone, talking up 1981.
Heaven forbid Anthony Davis do the same in June. To hear Knight tell it, he'd be "a disgrace" if he did.
- Bob Knight