By Del Duduit
When I was younger, I loved to watch college basketball almost as much as the National Basketball Association.
Back then in the NBA, players let their talents do the talking.
I was an admirer of Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics.
The Legend was my first big interview when I was a sportswriter. The column I wrote was recognized and won an award from the Associated Press.
Before Larry and Magic Johnson entered the NBA, the league was struggling to attract fans. It was on life support. But the two stars brought the country together with Magic’s “Showtime” Los Angeles Lakers and Larry’s incredible Celtics. That was back when basketball was fun to watch.
In college, I admired a coach more than players. To me, Bob Knight, the fiery leader of the Indiana University Men’s Basketball team, was the ultimate coach.
He demanded respect and coached his players to be well-rounded young men first – and basketball players next. He was a winner and garnered many achievements — three National Championships as a coach at IU and one as a player at The Ohio State University.
He took his teams to five Final Four appearances and won 11 Big Ten titles.
One of my all-time favorite reality TV shows was “Knight-School.” At the time, he coached Texas Tech. One scholarship roster spot was open to 12 potential players who tried out over the course of the show. Each week, another player was cut until there was one left. It was eye-opening and entertaining.
Although he was one of the most successful coaches who perfected the “motion” offense, he was also known for his temper.
I partnered with Michelle-Medlock Adams, my colleague, friend, and IU fanatic, to write Heart of a Hoosier: A Year of Inspirations From IU Men’s Basketball, which will tip off in July.
One chapter I wrote examined the infamous chair-throwing incident in 1985 that got Bob Knight ejected early in the first quarter against Purdue.
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Here is a portion of the chapter I wrote called “Hold on to your chair.”
Bob Knight’s Hoosiers were struggling and had recently lost six of eight games.
The Boilermakers got off to a fast start, and Indiana could not catch a break.
Within the first five minutes of the game, six fouls were called on Indiana.
Coach Knight had seen enough.
The losses combined with the frustration of the game all came to a boil.
He argued his point with the referees and was whistled for a technical foul. Knight came up out of his chair much to the approval of the supportive fans who stood behind the floor general.
Knight was fiery and unhappy with the way the game was being called. After his technical foul, he let the referees know how he felt.
He stormed back and forth, and his frustration mounted. A lone metal chair was within reach and presented itself as an outlet for his anger.
As a Purdue player was about to shoot the technical foul, this chair whizzed by the foul line and slid across the hardwood.
Knight had tossed the chair from the bench, and it came to a rest on the other side of the court into a row of photographers.
He was ejected and suspended for one game and walked into the locker room with the crowd fully behind him.
At the end of the day, Indiana lost the game, but that was a sidebar.
Still today, the moment is remembered each year.
Although I never played for Coach Knight, I admired his coaching. In my opinion, he’s the best college coach I observed in my years as a sportswriter. He knew what it took to be a winner and demanded the same from his athletes.
For Knight, it wasn’t about winning as much as it was about performance and attitude. In today’s culture, he would not make it one week.
Some did not approve of what he did on that February day, and I fall into that category.
But I won’t let that incident tarnish his Hall of Fame record. It was who he was.
You may not have had the pressure of coaching a Division I basketball program like Indiana. But you do run into situations every day that generate frustration. There are ways to cope with the pressure of life.
The last thing you want to do is something that might embarrass you or your family. Hitting a wall or throwing an item across a floor might seem appealing and might help you blow off steam. It’s easy to let your anger out, but that doesn’t make it the best option. I’ve succumbed to those temptations — and I learned that there are better ways to deal with an annoyance.
- Walk away for a few moments and gather your thoughts. Knight did not exercise this option. Instead, he acted on impulse.
- Write down and journal your thoughts and emotions. Pour it out on paper if possible.
- You can take a walk or have a discussion with a person you admire and trust. Once you identify your triggers, you will be better equipped to handle situations with a level head.
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Always approach moments with a smile and a solution. You don’t want to receive a technical while your family watches when they depend on you for guidance. There are better ways to handle a situation than to throw something. This will only bring regret.
He that is slow to anger [is] better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city. (Proverbs 16: 32)
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Del Duduit is an award-winning writer and author who lives in Lucasville, Ohio with his wife, Angie. They attend Rubyville Community Church. Follow his blog at delduduit.com/blog and his Twitter @delduduit. He is represented by Cyle Young of C.Y.L.E. Agency.