Kalani Simpson

Knight back to being right

I always root for Bobby Knight, because, let's face it, it's kind of fun to get on the bandwagon of a truly crazy person.

Also, because I hope that all that anger, all that insanity, all that bullying is at least, in some small way, going toward something good.

I hope he's a good coach. Otherwise he'd be insane for no reason.

He's both, of course. You take the total package with Knight, the good with the bad. You hope that one outweighs the other, or at least pulls even often enough that he has more wins than incidents.

But now, suddenly, Sane Knight.

Now he's mellowed.

Now he's a new man.

Now we get all the good stuff without the Adam Sandler movie mania. (According to ESPN.com, LSU coach Dale Brown was once so infuriated by Knight's sideline antics that Brown challenged his counterpart to a naked wrestling match.)

We get the discipline without the darkness, the strength without the bullying, the genius without the arrogance.

Uh huh.

What about the time he freaked out at his boss in an "upscale" grocery store?

Well, in retrospect, that's almost charming now, for this new Knight. What an amusing anecdote. No one was choked, no chairs were thrown. No Puerto Rican policemen were punched out. No opposing fans were stuffed in a rubbish can.

So he yelled at the school's chancellor in a public place ... just harmless fun between colleagues!

Besides, we're all in Mark McGwire mode now about Knight, not talking about the past.

A few years ago he was a villain.

Now, as he whispered in his star player's ear to pass on for the rest of us, he's "a latter-day Santa Claus." Knight was kidding, of course, which is part of the reason we're buying it.

He's mellowed. He's laid back.

We know this because that's what his son is telling everybody, during this latest March run that ended last night with a loss to West Virginia.

His son?

Well, Knight still doesn't like to talk to people.

So do you think Knight has changed? Why would he?

Coaches are famous for telling us how they haven't changed. (Because if they have, it would be a sign that at some point they were -- don't worry, I'm not going to use the "W" word -- let's just say, not as right.)

His Texas Tech players were asked, at these press conferences and after practices during this NCAA Tournament run, if he was a new Knight. They laughed.

They laughed!

We believe it because we want to believe in coaches' legends. We all do. Even sportswriters. Especially sportswriters.

A lot of people for a very long time chose to weigh Knight's positives more heavily than his negatives -- even in the face of outrageous incident after embarrassing controversy.

I, too, always root for Bob Knight.

It wasn't until he started busting our brackets that Knight became a true national bad guy. He had his assorted protesters, yes, but there was no hue and cry against him until he started getting bumped out early in March.

Then, Indiana had to make a stand.

Then, everyone piled on.

Then, he was a villain, a bully drunk with power, driven by anger.

I tend to think something is just as wrong if you're winning, but the world doesn't work that way.

As soon as he started losing there was zero tolerance for his boorish ways.

So now he's changed. Does he look like he's changed? Of course he does.

His team was still playing in the fourth weekend in March.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Kalani Simpson can be reached at ksimpson@starbulletin.com

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