Thursday, February 10, 2011

Bob Knight and the morning pitchmen; Duke-UNC, don’t forget Roy Williams is a heck of a coach

It always amazes me how often Bob Knight pops into my life in different ways. To this day, I get asked about him all the time: What do I think of him on TV? (knows the game better than anyone; doesn’t prepare even a little bit; looks ridiculous in that sweater but not as ridiculous as his partners who ESPN makes wear the same ridiculous sweaters because no one there has the guts to say, ‘you want our money, you dress like everyone else,’ to Knight).

When was the last time you talked? (November, very briefly). Has he forgiven you? (Don’t know and don’t care). What do I think of his son as a coach (Bad question, I’m too biased on the subject of Pat Knight but I do agree with Texas Coach Rick Barnes who says if you aren’t a basketball icon Texas Tech is the toughest place to recruit to in The Big 12 by a lot).

Wednesday morning I was in the car early driving to New York for the funeral of my Uncle Sy, a truly wonderful and funny man who was skiing with his oldest son Howard a month ago at the age of 87 before he got sick. As my cousin Ira said, “To live for almost 88 years and be sick one month of your life; to be married and in love for more than 62 years and to see you children grow up; to see your grandchildren and a great grandchild, we’d all sign for that right now.”

I try to use my time in the car to get things done that take time I don’t want to use when I’m home. So, at about 7:50, as the morning pitchmen were going to what I knew would essentially be a 15 minutes break—I had tried switching to my friends, ‘The Junkies,’ but they were doing one of their periodic riffs on kinky sex, so I switched back (yes, I know I need satellite, next car)—I decided to make the annual Valentine’s Day flower call. The pitchmen were saying that Knight would join them at 8:05. I like listening to Knight because he’ll always say something smart and will almost always say something I know not to be true. I figured 15 minutes would be plenty of time to order the flowers.

I wasn’t even close. It took 27 minutes. Not only did I have to listen to all the add-ons I could buy (‘no-thanks, no-thanks, no-thanks’); I had to wait while the guy went through the computer to find the so-called special I had heard my pal Andy Pollin selling the day before. At first he offered me something that included the flowers AND chocolates for another 10 bucks. No. My wife doesn’t even like chocolates. Then he had to check with a supervisor to find the offer I was referencing. Finally he found it.

Then came the painful part: Giving my credit card number FOUR times; he couldn’t spell John (honest, he thought it started with a G) so he had NO chance with Feinstein. When I finally hung up completely exhausted after being told what a wonderful choice I had made I looked at the clock: 8:17. Damn, I had missed Knight.

Except I hadn’t. You see with Bob, 8:05 often means, ‘when I get around to it.” So, when I turned the radio back on pitchman 1 was introducing Knight. Knight was on for 11 minutes during which time he was called ‘legendary,’ at least 37 times. I wonder if that’s in his ESPN contract: “Must be referred to as legendary every third sentence; do not call him anything but Coach and do NOT begin an interview by saying, ‘hey Knight, what’s up?’

The pitchmen actually asked Knight a couple of NBA questions before moving on to college basketball. This is where it got funny. One of the pitchmen asked Knight how he would feel if Ohio State became the first team since his 1976 Indiana team to go undefeated. Knight’s instant answer was, “I really don’t pay any attention to that.”

Oh My God, please stop.

I don’t remember right now which team was the last to lose in 1986—I’m sure it is in ‘Season on the Brink,’ but my office is in chaos right now because my wife has decided to re-organize it since she honestly believes Judge Crater is in here somewhere—but I DO remember Knight’s reaction when it happened. “That’s 10 years boys,” he said to his assistant coaches. “Ten years since the last undefeated team in college basketball. Here’s to ----- and he held up a glass of ice tea to toast the team that had ended the last unbeaten skein.

Oh yeah, he doesn’t pay attention to that.

Knight proceeded to go on at length about how he really liked Thad Matta and the way he goes about things. I don’t doubt any of that. But I can tell you this: If Wisconsin gets the Buckeyes on Sunday, Knight will be toasting Bo Ryan on Sunday night.

I managed to get home Wednesday night in time to see the Duke-North Carolina game. It was one of the few times that I was happy a game didn’t start until after 9 o’clock.

Here’s what I came away from that game thinking: Ole Roy can coach.

That’s the funny thing about Roy Williams. Because he always seems to be doing something wacky—wearing a Kansas pin to the national title game after losing to Kansas in the semifinals; the constant third-person references; the dad-gum-its and frickins; the public self-doubting; the tossing of a fan from PRESBYTERIAN; the lecturing of Carolina fans—‘who have been fans for nine million years,’ after they were upset by a 20 point loss at Georgia Tech—people sometimes lose sight of the fact that the guy can really coach.

I’m not just talking about all the wins and the seven Final Fours and the two national titles, he’s just good. He wasn’t good last season—trying to get a team built to play 50 miles an hour to play at 100 miles an hour, but he’s been damn good this winter. He’s lost enough players in the last year to start a pretty decent team. His team looked awful at times the first six weeks of this season. And yet, guess what?—the Tar Heels can play with just about anybody right now.

Duke isn’t going to be a dominant team this season, not without Kyrie Irving. But the Blue Devils are still a tough out for anyone (22-2) especially in Cameron Indoor Stadium. It is to their credit that they climbed out of a 16-point hole last night, carried by Nolan Smith and Seth Curry. Smith has been better since Irving got hurt because he plays better—certainly statistically—when he has the ball in his hands because he’s very good at creating for himself. Kyle Singler, on the other hand, has shot poorly on a consistent basis since Irving went out. He needs someone to set him up and Smith doesn’t do that. Jon Scheyer wasn’t a pure point guard either but he did know how to get the ball to Singler and Smith.

Duke and Carolina—again—are the class of the ACC. It will be interesting to see how many bids the ACC gets on March 12th. The call here is five: the big two plus Florida State, Maryland and either Clemson or Virginia Tech. But it could, at least in theory, be as few as three.

I don’t think Duke is a Final Four team without Irving. Then again, I didn’t think it was a Final Four team last year. Betting against Mike Krzyzewski is always dangerous. The same is true for Ole Roy dadgumit.

One other thing: If Duke still had Irving it might be 24-0. And Bob Knight would be paying attention.

I sure hope the flowers get delivered on time.


Paul said...


I'm not saying Bob Knight is a the Devil or even a demon, but the way you describe him makes me think of a line from the movie "The Excorcist" when the elder priest gives advice to the younger priest:

Father Merrin (to Damien): "Especially important is the warning to avoid conversations with the demon. We may ask what is relevant but anything beyond that is dangerous. He is a liar. The demon is a liar. He will lie to confuse us. But he will also mix lies with the truth to attack us. The attack is psychological, Damien, and powerful. So don't listen to him. Remember that - do not listen."

All I can say John is: Don't listen to hi., DO NOT LISTEN!

Jeff said...

Judge Crater???? Nice 80 year old reference. Classic.

charles pierce said...

John --
Don't know if you remember, but I did a Main Event on the '76 Indiana team back in 1991, when UNLV came into the tournament undefeated. I had the strangest interview of my life with Knight. He sat me down in the cave with Bob Hammel and stonewalled every question I asked him. Then Hammel asked him one, and he was off, anecdote after anecdote, brilliant conversation, just not with me, even with my tape recorder running.
I should still be mowing Hammel's lawn for what he did.

Strange man, Bob Knight, but he really values that '76 team, no matter what he says today.

Mr. X said...

John, a few things.

Buy the flowers from the website. You can still type in Andy Polley's name (or Nigel just about anyone else working at 980).

There are satellite radio adapter kits so you don't have to wait for the next car.

Did your dad know Crater, the Belasco or Billy Haas's Chop House?

rdcobb said...

"Oh yeah, he doesn’t pay attention to that."

You may be right, but a celebratory toast from a quarter-century ago doesn't necessarily mean he cares about it now.

Anonymous said...

You didn't go into detail about it, but as the announcers (I had Raycom feed, not Dickie V) were raving about the game Nolan Smith had, I kept thinking that as good as he was in the second half, he was that bad in the first. He's a VERY good player, but falls into the rhythm of holding the ball too long, dribbling too much, and not doing anything to help his teammates. Everyone sits and watches him as they know the ball is rarely coming back to them. He played lights out in the second half, along with Curry, but that method/style of play is going to kill them in tourney time if he doesn't go for 34.

kyle.joubert.78 said...

John, you can also start subscribing to podcasts and listen to those in your car via ipod. Much better than channel-surfing local radio.