We'll give you just a little bit more Bob Knight (opinions continued to pour in late last week) and then close that topic for the time being. Already too much has been made of it. And we have football recruiting, St. Joseph's basketball and other assorted topics to cover.
As always, my responses are in italics. And also as always, my thanks to everyone who takes the time to write in. I appreciate every letter.
Now on to The People's Voice ...
BOB KNIGHT (Feb. 3: "What was David Smith thinking?")
I have to commend your sanity in reporting on the Knight 'incident' at Texas Tech. In a world where it seems literally everyone wants to leap on Knight and stomp him into the ground for the slightest excuse, you're a voice of reason.
The man is truly an enigmatic genius. I've followed him since he played 6th man on a couple of very good Ohio State teams. Incidentally, for a coach who emphasizes defense to the degree he does, it's certainly ironic that his LACK OF IT was the sole reason he didn't start at OSU. He had an excellent jump shot, but wasn't quick enough for Fred Taylor's D.
But I digress. Fast-forward about 44 years to Lubbock, Texas, and we find him, for the second time in his career, baited by a college administrator. Luckily, there were enough witnesses, including TT's AD, to the latest "event" to sort out the facts. And the facts appear to be a chancellor who wanted to mark his territory, just like a tomcat in an alley. The fact that he actually PURSUED Knight to establish a point, that he felt Knight still "had issues," is proof of this fact.
"Who in their right mind provokes Bob Knight?" I might answer your rhetorical question by asking whether Smith knows Myles Brand. If he does, or even if he knows the whole story about the IU firing, I would suggest he nearly outsmarted Knight into forcing him to self-destruct.
The president of TT obviously had a clearer view of the facts, and gave Knight the benefit of the doubt, reducing the "suspension" to a "reprimand." In the end, clearer heads prevailed. But it is disturbing that as intelligent as Knight is, he allows himself to get into situations where his emotions dictate, instead of his great intellect. Thanks again for your excellent perception and writing.
San Diego, Calif.
I don't know Smith and he may be an idiot, nerd, or jackass, I don't know. I do know he is the boss. Knight certainly demands loyalty from his players. He works for the man. It is not the boss's job to tiptoe around employees. It is the employee's job to take a cue from the boss.
Any "normal" employee would have bit his tongue and asked to see him later and discussed the matter in private. Then again we are talking "normal" employees. Bobby Knight has NEVER allowed a player to be bigger than the team. Unfortunately, he doesn't feel that principle applies to him.
Why are we condoning this behavior? Temperamental players are dealt with; we can't deal with a temperamental coach? Let's see how long it takes for this time bomb to go off again.
Whether people agree or disagree with your take on Bob Knight/David Smith they should all commend you on not doing what just about every single other media member did: roll out past examples of Knight's misbehavior to comment on this incident. Why can't the media look at things individually rather than just knee jerk a column or comments that Knight should be fired? I'm sure it makes for an easy day at the office, but Knight is too complex a personality to fit into a box. And I say this as a neutral on Knight.
Great job of discussing all of the issues you covered. You have given a good synopsis when a good portion of the media might be tempted to kick Bob again when he is down.
Dr. Jim Greer
NOTRE DAME RECRUITING (Feb. 4: "D-Day under the Golden Dome")
Good article regarding ND, etc. However, I think your "analysis" of the correlation of recruiting classes and performance was a bit thin. You looked at three teams and measured their respective seasons relative to one recruiting class (four years ago). This would have made for a better article had you dug deeper. On a side note, neat insight concerning Coach Willingham and janitors.
Fair enough. Maybe I should do a more analytical piece in the future. I'll say this: While I accept Willingham's point that class rankings get overblown, generally if you are a top-rated recruit you are pretty talented. Notre Dame not getting a single top 100 recruit says something.
I just read your story on Notre Dame's recruiting class and I think it's important to lay some blame on the school's administration and its lofty admissions requirements. Sure the head coach is important, however, ND wants it both ways: a top 10 football program and a 90-plus percent graduation rate.
In today's college football environment that's tough ... An admission standard so high that a Tony Rice or Chris Zorich type of student-athlete cannot enroll will keep the top 10 ranking out of ND's grasp for the foreseeable future.
Ft. Worth, Texas
Screw Notre Dame.
Got to love how even after a 5-7 season, the Irish inspire hate.
The last part of the following statement simply cannot go unaddressed: "Notre Dame still is Notre Dame. It still commands unparalleled media attention. It still plays a national schedule. It still combines academics and athletics better than anyone."
Have you heard of a West Coast school named Stanford? It is light years ahead of ND academically and wins as many national titles as anyone (in sports of both genders). They are down in football at the moment but the Cardinal are a national power in everything including baseball and basketball. In fact, others in the Pac-10 conference (namely USC & UCLA) are at least the academic equal of ND and win many more national titles. USC won three this fall alone and UCLA is at or near the top in total titles won.
Los Angeles, Calif.
This is like debating your favorite flavor of ice cream: It's all good. However, I should have been more clear that I was talking about football exclusively, not the entire athletic department. Stanford is exceptional in many sports. But in football it can't compete with Notre Dame and its 11 national titles.
Hear, hear, Mr. Wetzel. You nailed it. Another nuance of effective recruiting today involves forecasting talent and progression. If University X were to sign all top 30 players on an annual basis, it would never have seniors still playing. ND et al. are better off recruiting mid-major talents who will develop over time, and still be there, moreover want to be there four years down the road. (See LSU in your own example.)
Over the long term, as we become immersed in this era of court rulings in support of underage eligibility, and underclassmen leaving early based on projected draft position, those who can maintain a team developed in unison will win championships.
Notre Dame was founded on faith. Unfortunately, that is about all Notre Dame football fans can count on for this era. Is Brady Quinn the answer? Can we compete for the national title? As a Notre Dame fan, all we can do is sit and wait for another championship, which at this time seems like Ty has a better chance of walking on water.
SAINT JOSEPH'S (Feb. 9: A place at the table")
I have been a fan of Saint Joe's for a while and I liked your column on them. By building a team with (supposedly) second-class recruiting choices, they have developed an unselfish, well-educated and strong team. A lot of people believe that St. Joe's has beaten sub-par teams, but they have beaten Xavier, Villanova and Temple (a win is a win).
The only thing is, they don't have a very good frontcourt, but I think their backcourt subs for that.
I think this is a very good team. I can't believe the suggestion that even if the Hawks go undefeated they don't deserve a No. 1 seed. Please. The Atlantic 10 is not America East. If St. Joe's does that, give it the top spot.
Refreshing to see the national media pick up on St. Joe's and the easy-to-like team that has moved into the top five. These really are great kids playing together at a great school. It is one reason so many of us here have become closet Hawk fans. I still pull for Temple first, but I admit this couldn't happen to a better group.
Nice article about St. Joe's. They deserve it. Having lived all my life in NY, I am familiar with the great program there.
Having said that, I am hard-pressed to think of one thing you said about St. Joe's that couldn't also be said about Gonzaga, including the bit about being a Jesuit school. These are two quality schools, with first class coaches and teams. Wouldn't it be great if they met in the NCAA final? There'd be no loser and the whole country would be a winner.
Liberty Lake, Wash.
Throw Duke and Stanford in there and the NCAA might have to cut down on Final Four festivities so all the players could get to study hall.
I just wanted to commend you on your column about St. Joe's. I am a 1999 graduate of the university, and you do not exaggerate when you describe the atmosphere there. The best part about the university is that it is a small, close-knit community.
I went to a game last year where I had ordered tickets ahead of time for a home game at the Fieldhouse. I had put four tickets on reserve as my parents were meeting my wife and I at the game. They didn't require me to pay for them ahead of time as they trusted I would show up.
When I got there, my parents were already in their seats and the box office knew my name when I showed up to pick up the tickets. They told me not to worry about paying for them now as the game was about to tip off, but just to come back at the half and pay. Where else do you get that type of treatment?
It is really nice to see a school be recognized for doing things the right way.
Thanks so much for this article on SJU's Hawks, their coach, and the active involvement/love affair with the university family itself. I appreciated your focus on the true values: a Jesuit institution, academically based; a small, but fanatical student body; a college program that emphasizes what college basketball is all about!