His players loved him, almost to a man. Journalists and college teachers and administrators, not so much.
So to expand on my previous post on Coach Knight, this seems to be the key cleaving point for me: I have more respect for what Knight’s ex-players think, than what a bunch of journalists and administrators think.
Everybody respects his coaching ability, of course. That is really not up for debate.
But journalists and college administrators generally belong to a class of people that see themselves as entitled, and don’t understand the principles that West Point teaches: duty, honor, country (West Point, or the U.S. Military Academy, was Coach Knight’s first coaching job, from 1966-69).
Bob Knight, with all his foibles, is a tough SOB who will not suffer fools gladly. He teaches character, and demands effort and results, and is less interested in what people think of him than in getting results. This is, it seems to me, the definition of a leader. Leaders, sometimes, have to break the mold.
And leaders are always imperfect. The very same qualities that push them and drive them can sometimes cause their downfall.
But I still respect leaders a great deal, just because it is so easy to fall in line and do whatever will result in the least grief for yourself. So I’m willing to cut them a little more slack than I cut others. Knight did sometimes go too far, but that doesn’t invalidate the good things he did, the way he molded young men.
In fact, it is my contention that the very same social pressures that forced Bob Knight out at Indiana are the same pressures that have led our society down the wrong path with parenting, for example. No, I don’t advocate choking your kids, but I do think we’ve lost something of great value by abandoning discipline and toughness in the raising of our kids. And if there was ever a group of people that needed toughness and discipline to avoid trouble, it is teenage boys.
If Bob Knight’s methods were adapted, toned down, run through the wash, and ironed with light starch, what we’d have is the old way that teachers and coaches used to teach and coach. And there was nothing really wrong with that.