Knight to remember

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:20 AM ET

Those who don't know any better might think Bobby Knight would just as soon throw his chair at tonight's Italian Sportsman's dinner than sit in it.

Truth is the 64-year-old Texas Tech coach, one of the most intense and controversial sports figures of the last half-century, has only thrown one seat in his career.

"That's true," said Knight of 20-year-old footage shown so regularly you'd think he tosses timber every timeout.

"It was at home against Purdue. People that know me describe me as a lot more than a chair-thrower and in a lot better ways.

"I'd like to think that I've done a few things a little bit more important for a lot of people than that."

Making his way towards Calgary yesterday with wife Karen to speak at tonight's sold-out fundraiser at the Thorncliffe Community Hall, Knight will expound on a brilliant career in a game he's dominated since Army made him the youngest hoops coach in Div. 1 history at age 24.

Now just 48 games shy of Dean Smith's record for wins, the former West Point Military Academy coach directed Indiana to three national championships, 11 Big Ten titles, the NCAA's last undefeated season (32-0 in 1976) and recently led the Red Raiders to the Sweet 16 in just his third year.

Yet, despite a tremendous judge of character and talent, he can't recall paying any attention to a skinny young teenager out of Victoria named Steve Nash.

"I may have -- that's a while ago," said Knight, a reserve player on the 1960 Ohio State championship team, one of only two men to win a national crown as both player and coach.

"I paid particular attention to him in college because the coach he played for is a friend of mine.

"Over the years, there have been a number of good basketball players to come out of Canada. Nash is obviously very exceptional and one of the most intriguing things is the fact he wasn't heavily recruited coming out of high school.

"What he's made out of his abilities is just a great example to all kids what effort, work and concentration can do.

"Hopefully what he's done and, in particular, with the awards he won this year should be an impetus for basketball all over Canada," Knight added.

An avid outdoorsman who made headlines in 1999 when he accidentally shot a pal while hunting grouse, Knight intends to spend the next three days lounging between Calgary and Lake Louise.

"I've fished in Canada from the Gaspe Peninsula to British Columbia and a hell of a lot of places in between," said Knight, who filmed a TV show catching rainbow on the Bow with Kurt Gowdy a few years ago.

"Calgary is a beautiful city. I've been there three or four times and I've had a lot of great experiences in Canada."

Along with an 832-322 record comes a long list of indiscretions that include shouting and shoving matches with students and various school and NCAA officials during his 29-year tenure at the University of Indiana.

Knight was also vilified for choking one of his players and kicking his son Patrick during a 1983 game in which his kid was playing for him.

"I've been examined forward and backward by people -- I'm not sure there is anything people don't know about me," said the volatile Hall of Famer of the intense media attention throughout a career that includes Olympic gold in 1984.

"I don't worry about it. It depends whether the scrutiny is objective and honest or just somebody taking a shot that has no idea what he's writing about or spent a moment with me on the phone or in person."

Promising to coach as long as he enjoys it, he said he certainly won't be jumping to the pros anytime soon.

"I've had a lot of chances to coach in the NBA but I've always been better suited in my mind to coach college," said Knight, fired by the Hoosiers after berating a student who addressed him as 'Knight.'

"I was always pretty quick to say I'd prefer to stay in college.

"Why? Hey, some people like vanilla ice cream and others like chocolate."

As if anything involving the complexities of coach Knight were that simple.


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