Hoosiers now remember their past

Published 11:35 pm Saturday, August 22, 2009

The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to apply any one of the sayings about hindsight, or more than anything the timing’s simply ironic, as to why Indiana University is putting Bob Knight in its Hall of Fame in November.

As the Hoosiers, and other traditional college hoops programs, most recently Louisville and Kentucky have gone down seedier and seedier coaching paths in the search of championship banners, Knight’s controversial resume seems less controversial in comparison.

For the record as well, with Kelvin Sampson, Rick Pitino and John Calipari, for all their talent and all their talented recruits, have not brought the banners along with the violations and legal matters, and even if they had, it probably wouldn’t have counted.

Last week’s news about Memphis was mostly the media going on about something no one cared about. Had it been a Memphis NCAA championship though, had there been one more Memphis free throw in the last minute of regulation against Kansas, then we’d have something. One more point, one more ball tossed through a hoop, in a game in April 2008, then we’d all care about Calipari’s crooked past (going back to the 90s and Massachusetts) and what the University of Kentucky has to say for itself for making Calipari the leading face and voice of its institution.

Since Knight was fired by Indiana, the Hoosiers had some success, but still fell off their usual standard under Mike Davis. Compared to his successor, Sampson, Davis turned out to be a good decision by IU and good leader of young student-athletes.

Sampson, much like Kentucky has now chosen to do by making Calipari the primary spokesman for its university, was hired even with his troubled past out there for all to see. He could win though, but even that part of the bargain never proved true.

Now, heading into the second season under Tom Crean, at least for the moment IU seems to be getting its basketball program back to where its expected to be, both in wins and in character.

For his flaws, Knight never put Army, Indiana or Texas Tech under NCAA violations. Knight led programs that never recruited thinly-disguised mercenaries. Knight cut players for skipping class. Nearly 100 percent of Knight’s players for the 30 years he was at IU graduated on time; compare that to about three-quarters of the NCAA Division I basketball programs today.

Sure Knight’s style of “encouragement” belonged more in the 60s, but nearly across the board his former players all say how Knight coached, and what he expected of them, helped them in more than basketball.

Hitting a player deserves reprimand, or even worse, so perhaps after a couple different, unrepentant episodes, Knight deserved what the IU administration finally gave him in 2000. At the same time, the University’s putting Knight in its Hall of Fame nine years later and IU’s basketball program is maybe, just now, under a coach worth trading Knight’s problems for.