Monday, March 30, 2009

I Don't Agree With Colin Part 2 and Who I am for in the Final Four

"What the fans should realize is that if this is about the student-athlete, about education and following the rules, if that is what matters, then I am saying Bob Knight is the greatest of all-time. And there is no one even close. And there never will be." Sonny Vaccaro long time college basketball wheeler and dealer.

Link to Part 1

If you remember my previous piece, Colin's basic premise is you field a team with hot shot talent regardless of their interest in being a college student. He has no regard for the "little guy" It's not so much cheering for the little guy but cheering for the guy who knows where their priorities are. A lot of people and I mean a lot of people forget there are two words in the sport "college basketball". As weird as it might sound they forget the first word. Please listen to the audio file provided below. It contains Colin Cowherd and USC coach Tim Floyd defending the one year wonders.

One and done is the what you call a player who goes to college because he is obligated to. Not because he wants to hit the books. This obligation stems from the NBA rule that high school players have to exist for a year somewhere before being eligible to enter the NBA. There is a three way chain of exploitation here. The NBA is getting a free developmental league. The player goes through the motions on the campus while concentrating on playing basketball. The team gets an extremely productive player for one year. But what does that tell the students of that school? People who can dribble a ball are special and you are not?

It's like Church form my personal experience. . Easy to tell people who are there because they feel they have to be there not because they want to be there. That is all Knight wants. Basketball players that are only interested in developing on the court skills to go some place that only serves that purpose. If you want to get educated and play basketball then play college basketball.

I went to high school and college and football and basketball players. Believe me, my university did not value our teams. Which in a way is a good thing. Sports should be part of the school. They should not be the school. I went to a small school and apparently it's a lot bigger than Villanova. Jay Wright seems to embody the principles I promote in this piece at least more than John Calapari does. He should be what Final Four should be all about. Players who actually study. That's why I will be rooting for them in the Final Four. Win or Lose for me they already have won.


Related Links:

Reynolds wraps himself into ’Nova history
By Dan Wetzel, Yahoo! Sports
Mar 29, 1:37 am EDT

Buzz up! PrintRelated Video Reynolds' winning drive Reynolds' winning drive

Game highlights

UConn beats MIssouri
More highlights More From Dan WetzelBlasting the past Mar 27, 2009 Kentucky goes hunting Mar 27, 2009
BOSTON – Head down and driving for the season, driving for Detroit, driving through a collapsing double team, to the rim, for the win Scottie Reynolds delivered a shot for the ages and Villanova to the Final Four.

He delivered history: Villanova 78, Pitt 76.

The school that 24 years ago became the greatest upstart, upset-fueled NCAA champion, a lowly No. 8 seed, returns to the Final Four thanks to a final-second floater that’ll be replayed forever.

“Well, I just made a lay-up,” Reynolds laughed after.

That was long after hugs were exchanged and tears were shed and smiles were shared throughout the fan base of the small Catholic school in the Philly suburbs. They’ve got a fine program at Villanova, but this isn’t one of those athletic factories that churns out title contenders every year. They maintain a unique expectation on the Main Line; the athletes have to be actual students.

They’ve never bent on that. Jay Wright, the dapper, personable coach, has never complained about it either; never sought greener pastures or paychecks, never pressured the school to change its principled ways to be better on the court, but worse off of it.

Together they’ve embraced it while never giving up hope that a night like this, a shot like Reynolds’, a chance like next week could happen again. Over 24 seasons they’ve learned to appreciate good without selling out for great and now the patience has been rewarded.


Villanova is back, perhaps in a once-again Big East-dominated Final Four. While they’re a respectable No. 3 seed this time, they’re the underdog nonetheless.

“It’s kind of eerie how this is playing out,” Wright smiled. “I hope to God, history repeats itself.”

Maybe that’s why Reynolds was sobbing into Wright’s designer suit afterward. Or why delirious fans roared out of TD Banknorth Garden into the New England night. Or why Wright spent so much celebration time seeking out figures from the stands, recognizing the anonymous, pointing to the last row and flashing a V sign. He wanted everyone in on this, the entire Nova Nation, which based on an enrollment of just over 6,000, makes it one of the smaller ones in the big-time college ranks.

Over at the edge of the Garden stands, as he was wandering around looking for people to hug, he found Rollie Massimino. The Wildcat coaches past and present embraced and shouted through the din that they loved each other.

Wright had worked Massimino’s camps when he was a young player at Bucknell. Wright’s wife, Patricia, had been a cheerleader at Nova in the early 1980s. Massimino had made sure both were in Kentucky that magical 1985 weekend the Wildcats shocked the basketball world.

“The thing with Rollie is, everybody was in the family,” Wright said.

So Wright was trying to repay his mentor, trying to lead Massimino out on the court for the celebration, maybe get up a ladder for a clip of the net himself. The man who gave Villanova its greatest moment shook his head.

“I think he was kind of thinking, ‘That’s your time.’ ” Wright said.

Wright doesn’t see it that way; that’s just not him. He’s a unique personality in the coaching ranks, almost impossible to dislike. He’s competitive, for sure, but he’s never measured his worth based on the bounce of a ball. Earlier this year he mentioned that reaching a Final Four wasn’t a goal of his and caught some heat for it.

People misunderstood him though. He knows that had Levance Fields hit a 70-foot Pitt prayer right after Reynolds rolled his shot in, then the emotions would’ve been different. And he’d have been no less of a coach, Villanova no less of a place.

“All I was worried about was if we lost that game, I wanted to make sure Reggie Redding [who made a bad pass for a critical last minute turnover] felt good about himself,” Wright said.

“What you can do for other people is the greatest, and that’s what I feel great about,” Wright said of the satisfaction of making this happen. “They’re so happy. They’re happier than me, way happier than me.”

College basketball is cutthroat business, a corner-cutting game. The Final Four is the justification. The championships and the accolades and the money are the fuel. It’s win-at-all-costs, ruined reputations included.

Wright has maintained perspective; he has projected an image of a true family, with classy people and proud students. When Reynolds’ original college choice, Oklahoma, fell apart due to a coaching change, the player looked around for something real.

It was late in the recruiting period, all the frivolous stuff no longer mattered. He understood what did. He wanted Villanova. He wanted Jay Wright.

“It was that easy,” Wright said of a McDonald’s All-American. “We totally lucked out.”

It doesn’t happen by luck. Just as Reynolds’ floater doesn’t find the bottom of the net for that reason. One begat the other, the family feel of Villanova drawing in Wright when he was the hot mid-major coach and keeping him as the Kentuckys of the world batted their eyes. It was Wright embracing the place to the fullest and a young, free-agent recruit understanding why it was special.

It was everything going full circle, Rollie trying to include Wright, Wright trying to include Rollie, a roster full of young players mesmerized by them both.

Now the entire mini-Nova nation is heading back to the Final Four, heading back to the 1980s, heading back to take another sling shot at the Goliaths of the game.

Dan Wetzel is Yahoo! Sports' national columnist and author of "Resilience: Faith, Focus, Triumph" with the Miami Heat's Alonzo Mourning. The book details Mourning's rise from foster care to NBA stardom before kidney disease changed everything. Send Dan a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.



Doing it his way
By Dan Wetzel, Yahoo! Sports
December 21, 2006

Dan Wetzel
Yahoo! Sports
LUBBOCK, Texas – Leaning back on a couch in the coach's locker room here, Bob

Knight is running through Bucknell tape on his big screen TV, back and forth as

Texas Tech's next opponent runs a well-executed ball screen.

As sleet and freezing rain slam the South Plains here on Christmas week, Knight is

huddled deep inside United Spirit Arena, one thought on how to get career victory

No. 879, and one thought on the media that has been hounding him for nearly all of

the previous 878 – most recently when he clipped player Michael Prince on the chin

last month.

It is that thought that makes him hit pause and fire off a glare.

"That is why I have such a bad (expletive) feeling about all of you (expletive),"

he says.

Knight still wonders how things could get so mixed up with the media, with some of

the public. Actually, he doesn't wonder.

He is fairly convinced that, like a lot of things in college athletics, like a lot

of things in the world today, common sense, perspective and the ability to

separate the important big things from the superfluous little ones is lost.

While he is not inclined to discuss that a victory Saturday over Bucknell can tie

him with Dean Smith as the winningest coach in Division I history, human nature

suggests that deep down the record brings additional validation to his methods, to

his success.

Bob Knight, no matter what they say, will be on top, without peer, without


Knight, 66, hasnt changed a bit and isn't planning on it. He still is the

unapologetically demanding coach. He still is a profound stickler for NCAA rules –

no matter how disdainful he can find them. He still is the industry leader in

demanding academic success and ultimate graduation of his players. And without

question his competitive desire to win has not waned one bit.

He was that way at Army in 1965, where he started his head coaching career at age

24. And he will be that way when he eventually retires on top of his profession.

He has no regrets, no remorse – no matter what the media says.

"I've done it my way and I think we've been pretty successful the way I've done

it," he said.

One of Knight's prized possessions is a letter from Walter Byers, the pioneering

former NCAA executive director who from 1951 to 1988 built the Association into

the billion-dollar powerhouse it is today. Byers was a no-nonsense guy who ruled

the NCAA with an iron will and an uncompromising vision. It is little surprise he

and Knight were friends.

The letter arrived when Knight came here to Tech, when there was still so much

fallout from his dismissal at Indiana, still so much negativity. One line in

particular is Knights favorite:

"Every game has its rules," wrote Byers, "and over time you've played the game on

the important points as cleanly and openly as anyone I've known."

"I don't think," said Knight, "there is anything I have received I appreciated

more than that."

To Knight it isn't so much the ultimate vindication as much as it is the proof

that someone smart, someone with principle and someone who clearly knows what goes

on in college athletics was paying attention and recognized the big stuff.

In terms of the purpose of college sports, Knight's view (which most would agree

with) falls into three main categories.

1. Assure an education (both academically and in life skills) for


2. Follow the NCAA rules.

3. Win.

After that, it's all small stuff. After that, what really matters? If you happened

to be the coach who has a near 100 percent graduation rate, who has hundreds of

former players who swear your teaching drove them to success – and if you happened

to do all this while following NCAA rules as well as anyone and you won more games

than anyone, would you want to hear about flipped chins, thrown chairs and press

conference meltdowns?

But the media coverage of Knight is about the sensational, about the

controversial, in part because Knight keeps providing new material. There is

little question he is held to a double-standard, but much of that is his own


While almost every news account mentions his successes, it inevitably ends with

but … And Knight can't quite figure out why there is the need for the but …

Like Byers, he has been in college athletics a long, long time and he knows as

well as anyone that the coaches who don't cheat and who do care are significantly

fewer than the public believes. The NCAA's system of selective enforcement

inadvertently convinces the public the cheaters are few and far between – that

there are white hats and black hats out there.

Reality is just the opposite. Just about everyone wears grey.

"I would say the majority of major college basketball programs break the rules,"

said Sonny Vaccaro, the long-time shoe company czar who by operating summer

basketball camps, tournaments and all-star games since the 1960s has been privy to

about every under-the-table dealing that ever went down.

"Because of my role and because I've been, I guess, a sounding board for these

things, I know these things. I've heard it all. I've been there for these things.

And with Bob Knight I've never heard a single thing, not first hand, second hand,

third hand. Nothing. Not ever."

What Vaccaro knows is that rampant rule breaking takes place not just among the

usual suspects, but also within programs run by the game's Mount Rushmore figures,

the ones with the most pristine reputations, the guys fans just don't want to

believe could be corrupt. He is forever laughing at the disparity between

reputation and reality with some of these guys, the ones who employ sugar daddy

boosters or whose recruits' parents magically move near campus or offer big money

"graduation" gifts for players. But that stuff, he says, has powered some of the

dynasties in this sport.

"You'd be disgusted with the number of coaches in the Hall of Fame who got there

by cheating," he said. "The American public wouldn't believe it."

Which is why Vaccaro, who has never been close with Knight and whose summer

basketball world has been the brunt of many a Knight diatribe, says you can't just

dismiss the big stuff because doing it is so, so rare.

"What the fans should realize is that if this is about the student-athlete, about

education and following the rules, if that is what matters, then I am saying Bob

Knight is the greatest of all-time. And there is no one even close. And there

never will be."

Yet as ESPN previews the upcoming Tech games that will propel Knight to the

record, the videos that flash across that big screen TV are him getting into it

with officials, players and reporters. Following the rules doesn't make for a

great highlight. Nor do graduation ceremonies.

"You get tired (of the press)," said Knight. "You get tired of all that. Because I

yelled at somebody that supersedes everything else?"

Knight says "I am not my brother's keeper." He says, "I'm not a policeman." He

says that while he decided early on to place more value on academics and

compliance, it doesn't bother him that so many others in college athletics didn't.

Even if it has affected him many times in recruiting.

Knight has been able to recruit and coach some very good players during his

career, particularly during his run at Indiana. But the truly great players often

eluded him. In his entire career he coached just one NBA All-Star (Isiah Thomas

from 1979-81). By comparison, Dean Smith coached 12 who appeared in a collective

61 All-Star games.

For the most part he targeted the guys he thought he could get and went from

there. He didn't bother with the ones that wanted more than tuition, room and

board; the ones that didn't want any part of actually attending class.

At IU he was literally surrounded by scoundrels – Illinois, Louisville (twice),

Kentucky (three times), Cincinnati (three times), Ohio State, Michigan and Purdue

– a perfect circle around Bloomington – who all were hammered with major

infractions during his time with the Hoosiers. During his five seasons so far in

the Big 12, three of the regular season champions (Kansas and Oklahoma) are

already on NCAA probation for major rule violations.

"How many people cheat today?" Knight said. "I don't know. I've had one concern as

long as I've been coaching and that is how we do things, period. If they put me in

charge of it, and that was my job, then I'd bust up a lot of things.

"It's everybody's choice. My choice is there are rules there so we'll try to

follow the rules. And that is the way I was taught and that's the way my parents

taught me – that there is a right way and a wrong way.

"The kid that goes (to a school that cheats), that's the chance he takes, that (he

goes where) it is just about playing four years of basketball or whatever.

"If I broke rules to win games I wouldn't get anything out of them. You know, what

games we've won, we've won totally within the rules."

Yet for years he watched as cheaters succeeded, watched them receive glowing

praise in the press. For years he received phone calls and letters from players,

who after playing for coaches with better reputations, were asking him for help,

advice, and guidance.

"Over the years I have had a lot of kids at other schools call me to help them get

jobs," Knight said. "So when kids from other schools, kids we played against or I

have met somewhere along the way, are calling me to help them, I think that is an

indication that their schools don't much give a damn about the kids. And there are

a lot of those.

"To me, that's academic fraud."

He sighed and went back to the Bucknell tape for a minute, watching an inbound

play closely for some flaw his 9-3 team can exploit. He sat up for a second to get

a closer look and then leaned back in the chair.

"I don't have a bad feeling about the guys who want to cheat," he said. "I have a

bad feeling for people in your profession who don't recognize what's important and

what isn't – and fail to recognize what has been good and what hasn't. That is why

I have such a total lack of regard for most people in your profession.

"He threw a chair. What difference does it make if you threw a chair? How

(expletive) many guys have thrown things? Bats out on the field, balls, picked up

bases, water coolers, thrown coats? How many guys have kicked something over?

"I'm tired of that. That's what Im tired of."

Dating all the way back to his playing days at Ohio State, where he was John

Havlicek's teammate on the 1960 NCAA championship team, Knight has questioned the

decision making of the NCAA. He's watched the game get bigger, grander, more

professionalized and more competitive. Often for the good, he notes, but sometimes

for the bad.

The latest trend he can't comprehend is the NCAA's willingness to be used by the

NBA as a one-year way station for top pro prospects. NBA Commissioner David Stern

instituted a 19-year-old age limit to stop the preps-to-pros trend. It forced the

best high school players into college, such as Ohio State's superb center Greg


But for whatever excitement that brings the fans, such a decision stands in stark

contrast to what the NCAA is supposed to be about. Many of the top prospects

openly claim they are only going to attend school for one year, no one even

pretends that graduating is a goal anymore.

"These rent-a-players, that's the worst thing I've seen happen in college

basketball," Knight said. "These guys who can come in for one year and play,

that's not college basketball. College basketball is a game for kids that are

going to college to graduate not going to college for one year and then move on."

In fact, the one and done student-athlete doesn't have to be much of a student at

all under current rules. For a freshman to retain his eligibility into the second

semester he needs to earn a meager D in just two classes and flunk the other two.

A player could do virtually no academic work in the fall semester and then not

attend a single class the spring semester before dropping out the day after the

season is over to turn pro.

"So I can come in and (learn nothing) the first semester and then play the second

semester without ever going to a class and then quit," said Knight. "Is that what

college basketball is all about?"

Knight believes the NCAA is being duped by the NBA because it is so desperate for

the talent infusion that they'll compromise all logic.

"(David) Stern doesn't give a damn about college basketball. The NBA saves a hell

of a lot of money with these kids coming in early like they do."

Knight's suggestion is to make players who want to attend college sign an

agreement that will keep them on campus at a minimum of two years. Or else take a

scholarship away from schools that recruit these kinds of players. Anything else

is ridiculous and hypocritical.

"It is ludicrous (to allow a) kid who is only going to be there one year have a

real effect on the outcome of an entire season of college basketball. And these

people talk about academics and graduation rates."

Knight's record of compliance is pristine, yet he hates the NCAA rule book for its

arcane and confusing items. He has volunteered to tear it up and turn it into a

10- to 20-page document. He considers the NCAA's new academic requirements that

force schools to graduate athletes at a higher rate than the student body or face

sanctions to be illogical. He doesn't believe morality can be legislated.

"The rules are not going to keep people from violating them."

Mostly he can't believe how little common sense is being applied.

"I don't think there is anybody in the NCAA hierarchy who has ever coached and

very few who have ever played. And it is the same with presidents. How many of

them have ever coached? How many of them have ever played? It is amazing.

"The person that through the years the NCAA has gotten furthest away from is the

kid," he said. "(They never consider) what's best for the kid."

The three-second clip of Bob Knight flipping Michael Prince on the chin is a

snapshot of a full-time, lifetime interaction between coach and player, teacher

and student, mentor and protégé. That's how Knight sees it. That's what he


It was just one moment, one interaction. All the other days, the games, the

practices, the meetings, the bus trips, the late-night phone calls when the player

is long since graduated are missed.

Most people see the footage and see it the other way: Knight once again out of

control. But if you can't imagine why he keeps doing these things, why he keeps

making it difficult for people that want to support him, want to hold him up as

what is good in college sports, then you don't understand Knight. For Knight, the

end justifies the means because the end result is so good.

"If I didn't do things like that my kids wouldn't be as successful as they have

been," he says.

Knight pauses the Bucknell tape again, turns and makes sure he is getting this

message across clearly. This, he believes, is the entire point, the entire missed

point when it comes to his career. Never mind the acts that don't seem proper.

They are proper because they produce the proper results.

"If I didn't yell, if I didn't demand, if I wasn't tough, if I didn't have the

stringent rules, my kids wouldn't be as successful," he said. "You don't graduate

players today in college without getting on their ass. You don't make kids better

people without getting them out of their comfort zone.

"Why do I have as many kids graduate as anyone? Why are our kids so successful? If

I did things the way you'd like me to do them, that are politically acceptable to

everybody, then we wouldn't beat anybody, we wouldn't accomplish anything.

"See, that is the thing guys don't grasp."

His mind goes right back onto the game tape, about the next opponent, about the

next victory. After four decades, he is about done even trying to explain all this

stuff. He knows, at this point, he probably isn't changing any minds. And his is

certainly not going to change, an all-time wins record of not.

As always, he wonders why the world just doesn't always think like he does.

No comments: