Knight has a fan at UMass
By Ron Chimelis, The Springfield Union-News, 12/21/2000

He left Indiana University after two years, and says if he had it do over, he'd transfer again. He says he wouldn't want his own son to play basketball for Bob Knight, because his son couldn't take it.

And when Knight was fired and Mark Haymore called with his support, the coach's wife thanked him, but said the coach was accepting no calls.

Yet Haymore is absolutely devoted to Knight, whose name is popping up at the University of Massachusetts these days. The latest rumor is that the General would be a candidate if Bruiser Flint can't turn it around.

It's hard to say yes or no, because UMass athletic director Bob Marcum is out of town, and Marcum doesn't engage in speculative journalism, anyway. And Knight has said only he'd like to coach again somewhere.

But a living extension of Knight's world is already at UMass in Haymore, 44, who has been finishing work on his degree while also coaching the Amherst-Pelham Regional boys' junior varsity basketball team. From 1977-79, he played for UMass after leaving the Hoosiers, where he was a reserve for the 1976 national champions.

"I'll always give Coach Knight credit for making me a man, for making me responsible," Haymore said this week. "For two years, I had the pleasure of being under his wing."

Pleasure?

"I really appreciate the mind games he played on us," Haymore continued as he recalled Knight's withering criticisms. "At the time, I wondered, what does this guy want? But I've since learned that when there is dissension on the team, the king had more control." And this, Haymore said, is a good thing, providing discipline more necessary than fashionable.

"I had a kid at 15, I was a curfew breaker, I was the one making the long-distance phone calls on the road," Haymore recalled. "I was an excuse-maker when I went to Indiana, a hoax."

Haymore had come from Cleveland in a freshman class that included Larry Bird, another player who eventually left. "I went there because my father was hard-nosed and self-driven, everything coach Knight was not," he said.

Huh?

"What I mean is that coach Knight is very educated," said the 6-foot-8 Haymore, who still nearly left after one year, but wanted to give it a fair shot. Two years was enough.

His father and high school coach blamed Knight. He doesn't.

"When I told coach Knight I was transferring, he told me I was the biggest recruiting mistake he'd ever made and that he had no plans for me, anyway," said Haymore, who became a UMass star.

Even so, Knight represents an order of things Haymore feels should exist in society, even if it no longer does.

"I began realizing his value when my own kids started getting older," Haymore said. "And when I played overseas, I was able to be on my own. I give him credit."

So here is this player who left Indiana early, whose role was to get pushed around by Kent Benson in practice, but says he was punished if he pushed back. Yet he loves a coach he says played mind games with his players and basically bullied them into line.

And here's the question. If Flint can't turn it around, and a change is made, could Knight with his style be successful at UMass?

Long pause.

"No," Haymore said. "Not with the personnel he has there."

But Knight could get his own guys, right? There must be 12 or 13 in America willing to subject themselves to his discipline, to prove they could take it. Because succeeding under Knight is all about proving you can take it.

"No, his time has passed," Haymore said with a touch of sad resignation. "And it's passed because the kid he needs to coach doesn't exist anymore."


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