On Saturday, Bob Knight will almost certainly tie Dean Smith's record for
career wins, playing Bucknell, a team which was magnificent over the last two
seasons, including an impressively tough game at Cameron, but they're not
setting the world on fire this year. Assuming Texas Tech wins - a bit of
an assumption, since it always seems like coaches after milestones lose a couple
of games near the end - he'll have the chance to break the record against UNLV.
For Knight, what could be sweeter?
There's a lot to criticize about Bob Knight - he bullies, he berates, he's
frequently offensive - but no one has ever called him a liar or a
cheater. UNLV is long past the Tarkanian era, but he defines UNLV as
surely as Smith defines UNC and Knight defines Texas Tech, and still, Indiana.
Knight says he doesn't care about the record, but he does care about winning
and doing things the right way, and there's a poetic justice to the notion of
breaking it against Vegas.
There's also the question of which guy is/was the better coach? To a large
extent, it's a question that no one can answer. No one ever doubted
Smith's technical mastery of the game, even as people hooted as supposed
missteps which cost the Heels in some big games.
In the Knight corner, there's no question the man is a basketball
genius. He revolutionized the game by the time he was 35, unshackling big
men from the paint. Like a lot of geniuses, though, he has trouble fitting
in with broader society, and his ways of dealing with his players have bothered
people for decades.
That's why we'd probably give Smith the edge. Technical knowledge is
arcane trivia unless you can apply it to the people you're trying to lead.
Smith was a masterful psychologist, a lesson we learned over and over. If
Knight could have tempered his, well, temper, he could have won 950 games by
now. Don't think so? Well, consider the season off and count 20
wins. Then figure he cost his team 3-5 games a year. He could easily
have another 100 games under his belt.