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A Very Interesting Scenario

Last night we appeared on Kurt O' Neill's internet radio show. During the
course of the conversation, we discussed the unusual number of probable job
openings in the spring, among them:

  • Indiana
  • Kentucky
  • UCLA
  • Michigan
  • UNLV
  • Florida State

None of these are definitely open now, but Kurt said that he had heard
rumblings about Bob Knight to what to us seems a startling destination:

It's odd for a number of reasons, among them, it's not in the Midwest, and
Knight, other than his time at Army, has lived his entire life in the Midwest,
basketball is a clear 2nd banana to football (and Bobby Bowden), and FSU AD Dave
Hart is a strong figure who doesn't get pushed around much. And last but
not least, FSU is hardly a basketball powerhouse and is in a conference
currently dominated by former protégé Mike Krzyzewski.

All that aside, it's an interesting speculation, and Knight and FSU might
have more in common than might appear obvious on the surface.

FSU, if they decide to get rid of Steve Robinson (and we should be clear that
there is currently no indication they are leaning that way), will be back in a
rebuilding process. They will need to bring in either a Paul Hewitt type
or an established winner. If Dave Hart decides he blew it by going the
up-and-comer route, he might be inclined to shoot for a star. Given the likely
openings this spring, there will be a lot of competition for established
coaches. Knight will bring a huge amount of publicity, something FSU basketball
hasn't gotten a lot of lately. Histrionics aside, he'll also bring an
enormous amount of credibility, as his peers widely consider him a basketball

From Knight's point of view, FSU may be an ideal place to start over. There
are no particular expectations of the program (though there are expectations of
Knight), and while clearly everyone knows what happened at Indiana, and his
reputation is widespread, relatively few people in Florida have first hand
experience with him. It's about as far as he can get from where he was,
and that's compounded by the lack of basketball culture in general in
Florida. It's not Indiana in terms of the passion of the game, but Indiana
isn't Florida population wise, either: there are millions more people in
Florida, and the talent level, if not the skill level, is vastly superior.
At the end of Knight's time at Indiana, his recruiting base was greatly
reduced. A reduced recruiting base in Florida still offers enormous
potential. If, as widely expected, Billy Donovan is heavily pursued by
Kentucky as their next coach, the recruiting in the state is wide open.

This gets to the heart of a problem with Knight, which is persuading players
to endure his system and his personality. While he was called derisively
called the Emperor of Indiana by some, and while there were people across
the Midwest who idolized him (see Dane Fife's dad), our guess is that his
polarizing personality would be less of a problem in Florida in many
respects. First there is a bigger pool to choose from. Second, a lot of
people aren't used to him - i.e., his considerable charm could still carry
weight. And third, we have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of Southern
kids (and parents) would be fairly receptive to a more or less militaristic
approach. Think about kids like AJ Moye, Matt Harpring, Dale Davis, kids
who were brought up in highly disciplined homes. You can believe this -
there are a hell of a lot of kids across Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and
Alabama who could play for Bob Knight and would tell you that his discipline is nothing
compared to their mother's and father's discipline.

As for Knight's behavioral problems, clearly, he misses coaching. Clearly, he
wants back in. And while he won't say so, the man has a very healthy ego and can
you imagine him thinking that someone else is a better coach and more deserving
of the career win record? We can't.

And it's also well understood that he's not a stupid man. He's bound to
realize that this isn't a three strike deal. Wherever he ends up he's on his
last at-bat. Our expectation is that wherever it is, whether FSU or
Michigan or what have you, he'll be on his best behavior, and he'll work his ass
off. Getting run out of Bloomington isn't exactly his idea of how to
finish his career (or anyone else's for that matter). The way to do that
is to finish up by building a second great program and breaking the all-time win
record in Dean's old conference.

And aside from all that, Knight can find some great fishing in Florida.