Coach hosts reality show
Marc D. Allan
Here's what doesn't happen on Knight School, the new Bob Knight reality series premiering at 10 p.m. Sunday on ESPN: No one gets choked. There's no whip, gun or anything outlandish brought to basketball practice. Yes, there's yelling, and a little profanity, but it's all in bounds. As Pat Knight, the coach's son and one of his three assistants, reminds us, his father's role is "being a parent, not a player's buddy."
So here we go again. Twenty years after John Feinstein's superb, revealing book A Season on the Brink, we're getting another chance to step inside Knight's practices. This time it's for a reality show where the Texas Tech coach will try to find one student-athlete with the talent and tenacity to earn a walk-on position with his team.
Knight starts with a few dozen candidates from his university's campus and slices that number to 16 within the first half hour. By the end of episode one, he's down to 12. He tells the kids he's looking for "people that play hard, people that play smart. We're looking for people who make their teammates better."
Because it's centered around the no-nonsense coach, Knight School is less notable for manufactured tension - players are quickly and respectfully cut, not voted off by teammates or "fired" - than for its up-close look at Knight's teaching techniques. He brings in basketball legend Marques Haynes to talk about ball handling, and explains his philosophies regarding dribbling the ball (do it as little as possible). He discusses how and why players should space themselves 15-18 feet apart on the court. He talks about playing without the ball. He even gives them Rudyard Kipling's poem "If" to learn.
Knight doesn't seem to have changed since his Indiana University days. He's as demanding and intimidating as ever, and he still has a wickedly wry sense of humor. Watch him with his assistant coaches when they're deciding who to cut, or keep a close eye out when he's instructing the players how not to get hit in the balls, and you'll understand.
While Knight's techniques drew criticism in Indiana, especially in his later years here, no one's questioning him in Texas. Even one of the kids who's unhappy about getting cut says, "You can't really argue with Bob Knight when it comes to basketball."
Well, you can, but that's an argument you're going to lose.