ruiser Flint’s 10-11 UMass basketball team is staring at a third straight year watching the NCAA Tournament on television.
It doesn’t seem to matter that the Minutemen posted six consecutive W’s before Tuesday’s loss to Dayton left them at 8-2 in the Atlantic 10. In Amherst and around the A-10, one name is hot as Flint’s successor if the Minutemen don’t produce March Madness.
Robert Montgomery Knight. Yes, the short-fused, red-sweatered unemployed dude who didn’t grasp the concept of “zero tolerance” at Indiana. The General’s name, we’re told, has conveniently leaked out of the mouths of a couple of unhappy UMass trustees, intended for Big 10 country.
Knight certainly would be the answer to booster unrest and dwindling Mullins Center attendance since 1998. But the General wants power, power, power, and everyone answers to popular athletic director Bob Marcum at UMass. It’s not a fit. For now.
My ears are ringing, though, just imagining John Chaney and Knight going at it twice a year.
obby Knight stands a better chance of being the next president of Harvard than of becoming the next basketball coach at UMass. And he'd probably do a better job at Harvard, too.
Out of respect for Knight's distinguished record, give him the benefit of the doubt. Assume CNN/SI's fifth-hand rumor is inaccurate, that Knight isn't really interested in coming to Amherst. Because if Knight is entertaining that idea, we must sadly conclude the man has gone crackers for keeps.
If Knight thinks he's the man for the UMass job, it's incontrovertible proof that hiring him would be a disaster for all concerned. Bet the house Knight wouldn't last a full season at UMass. UMass would hate Knight, and boy, would he hate being there. There are so many things wrong with the ``Knight to UMass'' scenario it's hard to know where to begin the list. But start here: UMass already has a coach.
Bruiser Flint is what sportswriters usually call ``embattled,'' a polite word for ``soon to be fired.'' John Calipari's successor has not made the NCAA tournament in three years, and the Minutemen got off to a 2-9 start this season. Worse, the team - the engine for the school's athletic program - isn't selling tickets.
But Flint is by no means a goner. UMass has battled back to a near-.500 record, and a real strong finish could garner an NCAA bid. And thanks to Calipari, winning isn't everything at UMass. The school has seen what can happen when it is. Very influential people in the community think Flint's a fine representative for the school, and will abandon him with reluctance.
Flint's status is a clue as to why Knight would never be able to function at UMass. Our state university, like all our state institutions, is a political animal. UMass features wheels within wheels within wheels, and competing agendas galore.
If one believes in democracy, that's not necessarily a bad thing, but it would be horrible for Knight. For better or worse, Knight is the most impolitic person in America. Compared with him, Eminem is a ``go along to get along'' kind of guy.
Knight would never be able wield the absolute power at UMass he did at Indiana. Basketball's just not as important to us as it is to those Hoosiers. Not only would Knight not outrank the school's president, he wouldn't outrank the president's cronies. Lack of control would frustrate Knight no end. History teaches that a frustrated Bob Knight is a nationally embarrassing catastrophe waiting to happen. At UMass, that catastrophe might take place before he finished unpacking.
Knight was a devil's bargain for Indiana. He delivered wins at the cost of doing what he damn well pleased. But the bargain unraveled. The wins became less frequent. Indiana hadn't made a Final Four since 1992. And Knight's antisocial behavior became worse and more frequent. Apparently, congenital jackassery is a degenerative disease. Knight's not an ogre yet, but he's getting there.
Look, I'm not one of those knee-jerk Knight bashers. For what it's worth, I kind of like him. If the people of a whole state were afraid of a basketball coach, that's their problem, not his.
But if Knight couldn't win with all Indiana cowering behind him, how would he do it at UMass? What sentient teenager of talent would want to play for the caricature Knight's made of himself?
It's out of fondness for a man who was always a good story that I pray Knight has the good sense to stay retired. The sad truth is, he's done. The only thing Knight could accomplish in a comeback would be to do something so truly outrageous he'd obscure his undeniable accomplishments for all time.
UMass would never hire Knight in a million years, and we should honor our State U for that fact.
Bob Knight was never what's wrong with college basketball. The true illness of the game is that sooner or later, some distinguished institution of higher learning is going to offer Knight the job he needs to destroy himself.
ruiser Flint hasn't used terms such as ''setup'' and ''conspiracy,'' but I wouldn't blame him if he did. If I were the University of Massachusetts men's basketball coach, I'd wear a HE HATE ME jersey from the XFL, just so fans would know there was someone - or some people - out to get me.
It's clear that there are trustees who don't want Flint to have his job anymore. What isn't known is how powerful those trustees are and how many supporters they have. Since last spring, they have been chattering, complaining, and dime-dropping.
They don't like what Flint has done with the program since 1996. They think UMass should be an NCAA Tournament team season after season. They want the success of UConn, even though UConn has five times as much corporate sponsorship money. Since the departure of former coach John Calipari, they have Refused to Lose their identity crisis, forgetting that the school has produced exactly two great players - Julius Erving and Marcus Camby - in its history.
When a program such as UMass makes it to the Final Four, the smart thing for trustees and athletic directors to do is smile and tell themselves how lucky they've been. They also could remind themselves how lucky they were that Camby was noticed by recruiters late in his high school career, and that if UConn had romanced him more, the kid from Hartford would have wound up in Storrs, Conn.
UMass is not the kind of program that consistently will draw Top 10 recruiting classes. For some reason, there is an Amherst faction that believes the coach is responsible for that, when the truth is that basketball cycles are responsible for it. All you have to do is look at Wake Forest in the post-Tim Duncan Era to see how cyclical college basketball is.
If you're Flint, you can hear only so many Disgruntled Trustees Rumors before it makes you a little paranoid. After a while, even the school's innocent acts begin to look suspicious. It becomes harder to see the difference between premeditation and coincidence.
On Thursday, a Philadelphia journalist wrote a story about UMass's interest in Bob Knight. I don't doubt that UMass would love to hitch on to the Hall of Fame coach with the great record and salty vocabulary. Knight would arrive in Amherst and the echoes in the sometimes-empty Mullins Center would immediately disappear. So, yes, they would be interested in him. But Knight, with the Big Ten still coursing through his veins, might not be interested in UMass.
For Flint, hearing that Knight is a candidate to take his job is not the strangest part of the story. Even more weird is that the author of the Philadelphia article is the brother-in-law of Bill Strickland, UMass's associate athletic director. Flint wisely chose not to accuse Strickland of planting the story. How could he? There is no proof. The coach simply acknowledged the obvious: It's an unusual twist and a hell of a coincidence.
Anyone who has watched the Minutemen this season understands that irony and coincidence have trailed them all season. They see athletic director Bob Marcum at home games, sitting near the UMass bench, talking on his cellphone. In all fairness, Marcum could be calling a local restaurant to have a takeout order ready after the game. He could be checking his messages or listening to the Movie Phone guy with the great voice. But with so many whispers about the coach, it's easy for the mind to wander when the AD is on the phone as the game is taking place.
This is what happens when you know someone is attacking your job, but you aren't sure who it is. Everyone is a potential villain. You don't dismiss conspiracy theories as easily as you used to. You want clarification on every ambiguous statement.
None of this should be happening to Flint right now. His team began the season with nine losses in its first 11 games. It has rebounded to win 8 of 10. It is one of two teams (Nebraska is the other) with a losing record but an RPI ranking in the top 75.
Going into yesterday's games, UMass was 74th, one slot ahead of Marquette and one behind Dayton. That is perfect company, because that's who UMass is. The program has more in common with Marquette and Dayton than it does with Kansas, North Carolina, and even UConn. I'm not sure that's the majority athletic view at UMass. When it comes to scheduling, the team acts as if it is a neighborhood hothead, ready to rumble with any challenger.
''You want some of me? I'll smoke you. And you too. You too. What? You want some, too? ... '' Like the hothead, UMass was so cocky that it eventually found itself on its back. In Flint's coaching career, the team has played 50 more games on the road than it has at home. That isn't smart. Everyone made fun of Boston College's schedule earlier this year, but look at the Eagles now (their RPI ranking, by the way, was sixth-best in the country).
''When John was here, we talked about playing any team, any time, any place,'' Flint said. ''But at the time, we had Any Team, Any Time, Any Place players.''
They have very capable Division 1 players now, but no stars. They will have to win the Atlantic 10 tournament to make the NCAAs. A nice conference tourney run won't do it.
Flint was asked if he thought he would be fired when he was 2-9.
''I've made the postseason three out of four years,'' he said. ''If you're going to fire me after a 2-9 start, what that says to me is that you didn't want me in here in the first place.''
He was wanted when Calipari left. What he didn't know was that some people also envisioned him as a guy who would transcend coaching, a guy who would be a name, a personality.
It's sad. These days at UMass, simply coaching, putting a team in postseason position, and steering kids toward graduation is not good enough.
he cat is out of the bag. Bobby Knight has been exposed as a candidate for the University of Massachusetts men's basketball job, which is technically not open but remains a source of constant conjecture.
So says a story out of Philadelphia last week, which was picked up yesterday by Boston Globe columnist Michael Holley, who alluded to it in his defense of Bruiser Flint. It should be mentioned, with minimum bragging, that the Union-News reported about the same rumor in December.
Is it true? Nobody can tell you for sure except Knight and UMass athletic director Bob Marcum, who won't. But I can tell you a story.
In late December, I received a call from a good friend, someone close to UMass basketball but not in the administration. He told me two friends of his, who he considered reliable, had spotted Knight and Marcum together on the UMass campus about a month earlier.
That made this a third-hand story for me. I dislike stories that can't be verified, including all the talk about Rick Pitino, who somehow ceased to be a UMass candidate the minute he became available.
This one was intriguing, though, because for one thing, Knight is not easily mistaken for someone else. It didn't make sense that the General and the AD would meet in broad daylight, but that doesn't mean it didn't happen, either.
Asked yesterday whether he'd met with Knight, Marcum roared with laughter.
"That is so absolutely false, it's unbelievable," Marcum said. "Anyone who says he saw me in the same place, together with Bobby Knight — anywhere in this universe — is absolutely and totally wrong."
Maybe so, but I am not one to dismiss the Knight rumor too hastily. His hiring would be expensive, but he would also fill every seat in the Mullins Center. And for those who don't think Knight's feudal style would work on a campus that's home to all sorts of liberal and countercultural crusades, let me remind you only two people have to believe it would work: Bob Marcum and Bob Knight.
Marcum would have to receive administrative approval, but his influence may be rising now that Chancellor David K. Scott, who is often not his ideological partner, is leaving.
In the Philadelphia Daily News, the Knight story was written by Kevin Mulligan, the brother-in-law of UMass associate athletic director Bill Strickland. Strickland has been asked if he was the leak, or even if he'd planted the story.
"I told (Mulligan) the same thing I tell everybody," Strickland said yesterday. "I told him we were a half-game out of first place in the Atlantic 10."
Strickland also said Marcum has been very consistent in not addressing coaching issues until after the season, which is actually the fairest way to handle it.
"Every writer wants to be the guy who gets the story when Bob (Marcum) spills the beans," Strickland said. "But that's not going to happen."
I don't believe Strickland planted the story in Philadelphia, because there's no advantage to doing so. Knight most certainly would not want his future to become media gossip unless it helped raised his market value, which I suspect Knight thinks is just fine on its own.
This rumor is also very unfair to Flint, if only because it comes with UMass playing so well.
But nobody is kidding themselves that Flint is safe. I believe there is some substance to the Knight rumor, though I still hope Flint returns, because that would mean UMass had a sensational finish, which is what we're all supposed to want.
Maybe we should just let this season play out, in full, before trying to figure out or guess where all these coaches stand.
ob Knight told reporters after he was fired by Indiana University last year that he wants to coach basketball again "in the worst way."
"I haven't retired. I'm an unemployed teacher right now, and I'm looking for a place to teach," Knight told ESPN.
There are some in the University of Massachusetts community who would give their souls to the devil and toss in a pair of Converse high-top sneakers to land Knight here on the Amherst campus.
Seems like a marriage made in heaven, or at least the old Curry Hicks Cage, doesn't it? Not from our seats, it doesn't.
Based on reports, it's safe to say that a couple of UMass trustees apparently are interested in talking with Knight but there doesn't seem to be sufficient interest beyond that. Regardless, Knight would be a terrible choice for all the obvious reasons.
It's hard to imagine that Springfield's own James Naismith, who also knew a few things about the game, would have approved of Knight. Indiana University fired the legendary coach in September last year, ending three tumultuous decades at a school where he was one of college basketball's best coaches and also its most volatile. He has a brilliant basketball mind, but he loses his temper as easily as some people misplace their car keys.
All this talk has been a disservice to Coach James "Bruiser" Flint, who has the team in the thick of the Atlantic 10 battle after a dismal start. Flint also knows a few things about basketball, and he's done nothing to deserve this. UMass fans should show their support for Flint tomorrow night when the Minutemen host Xavier in a key Atlantic 10 game. Reports of his departure, as that great low-post player Mark Twain would say, are greatly exaggerated.
Knight supporters should save their souls and their Converse high-tops. That's too high a price to pay.
ohn Wooden. Ron Gerlufson. Richard Hatch. Dick Vitale. Jerry Springer. Dean Smith. Jerry DeGregorio. Bobby Knight. Matt Vautour. The Tooth Fairy.
The above list of people have roughly the same chance of being the head men's basketball coach at the University of Massachusetts next year.
But in the world of unsubstantiated Internet rumors, the recently fired Indiana coach's name keeps coming up as a replacement for the not-guaranteed-to-be-fired Bruiser Flint, and the foolish conjecture has slithered into some reputable sources.
Bobby Knight will never coach at UMass.
Never, never, never.
You only need a little logic to make that obvious conclusion. It doesn't make a lick of sense.
- If Flint is let go, current players or incoming recruits could decide to head elsewhere. If Knight were hired, the odds that they would switch schools, having never bargained on playing for a temperamental autocrat, increase exponentially. That would put the program in an even deeper hole.
- Knight has never hidden his distaste for recruiting. At Indiana a lot of midwestern players signed with the Hoosiers because they'd grownup dreaming of playing for him. That won't happen on the East Coast, and if UMass can't recruit the stretch from Boston to Washington, it can't survive.
- Also, Knight hasn't been particularly successful of late. His recent NCAA Tournament record isn't much better than Flint's, and he's had far more resources and tradition to work with.
- Knight may have been a program builder a few decades back, but nothing about him suggests he's capable of it now, especially with his noted lack of patience. While the Minutemen don't appear to need huge overhaul, they would need one to have the style of team Knight favors.
- Most of all, too many powerful people at UMass would never stand for it. Knight's previous boorish behavior and comments on rape ("Lay back and enjoy it") will be plastered everywhere during the search process.
In the end, no matter how successful the search committee might think Knight could be, it's unlikely they'd be willing to mortgage UMass' integrity to hire him. In the end they'd have to look elsewhere to avoid the public relations hit.
But the process likely will never get that far.
There is a faction out there that disagrees with the way UMass Athletic Director Bob Marcum runs his department, but Marcum isn't foolish enough to think that Knight is the guy to turnhis program around.
Marcum is shrewder than that. He knows he'd never be able to push Knight through the administration. If he did, he'd make enemies along the way. That could cost him crucial support for his hopes to bring In A football to Amherst.
If Knight is in the picture at all, it could be as a strategic bargaining move for Marcum.
Many of the trustees would be against considering Knight. If his name gets volleyed around enough to scare them, if Marcum comes back with Marshall coach Greg White or Hofstra coach Jay Wright (legitimate potential candidates) the trustees would be much more receptive.
Lost in the recent wave of rumors is that there may not be a coaching change at all. While many people assumed Flint was out when the team started 2 - 9, the Minutemen's 8 - 2 record since new Year's has breathed new life into the chance for saving his job.
Marcum himself has been quoted as saying that the basketball season is split into three seasons, non-conference, conference and postseason, and that each one gives a coach and a team a chance to redeem itself. UMass appears to be doing that.
The Minutemen are legitimate contenders to win the Atlantic 10 regular season and/or the league's tournament. Doing either would make Flint hard to fire.
It doesn't hurt him, either, that the university is inthe midst of trimming its budget. Buying out Flint would force UMass to pay two coaches at the same time next year. Professors working in decaying classroom buildings would have a hard time swallowing that.
But whether or not Flint gets the ax, Knight won't be on the UMass sideline. Not a chance.