A Short Eulogy for a Master Basketball Coach

DeanSmithby Jerry Richardson2/9/15
2/7/2015, Coach Dean Smith died at age 83.  •  As a young know-nothing, very-wet-behind-the-ears basketball coach, there were two college basketball coaches that I studied like you study math for an exam.  Of course that included the legendary John Wooden (1910 – 2010) who was nicknamed the “Wizard of Westwood” who coached UCLA to 10 national championships in a 12-year period.  An Unprecedented career and his coaching record will probably never be equaled, at least in my lifetime.

I studied and tried my best with my meager understanding of basketball to emulate one of Coach Wooden’s very effective defensive systems.  His system that I really admired would occur when his team would apply, after a UCLA score, a full-court zone-press, often with traps (that’s when you surround the ball-possessor with two or maybe three people); but then in addition…and here’s the difficult part…when the ball crossed half-count into the front-court, Coach Wooden’s players would revert, rather smoothly and very effectively, to a half-court man-to-man defense—UCLA players had to quickly look around, spot their man, and quickly match-up with him.  If you don’t think this is difficult to do or to coach a team to do it is because you have never tried it.

I believed, and still do, that Coach Wooden was more of a master of basketball defenses than he was of basketball offenses.  Shucks, on offense Coach Wooden always seemed to have a Lew Alcindor type—Alcindor later changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar—who could put the ball in the basket if you’d just gave it to him; and Coach Wooden made sure that his players did just that.

The college coach, whose offensive tactics and strategies that I studied the most and hardest, was Dean Smith (1931 – 2015).  Coach Smith built the North Carolina Tar Heels’ basketball program into a formidable, national basketball power.

Smith coached the men’s basketball team at the Chapel Hill-based University of North Carolina for 36 years, winning national titles in 1982 and 1993, and 11 times reaching the Final Four of the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament. Among the game strategies he helped popularize was the four-corners offense, which enabled his teams to run out the clock when holding leads. The offense helped prompt the NCAA to adopt a shot clock in 1985.
Coach Dean Smith dies at 83

Coach Smith’s offensive tactic and strategy—it was both—that most fascinated me was his well-known and much discussed and cussed four-corners offense.  The coaches whose teams played against it hated it because they knew they were in serious trouble if and when North Carolina went to the four-corners.

I loved it!

And the reason I did is because I am not a tall guy (5’9”) and I have an admitted resentment for the advantage of tall players in the game of basketball.  The four-corners offense did a lot to mitigate the natural advantage of height in basketball.

As I have already said, the four-corners offense was both a tactic and a strategy; that is partly what made it an often fearsomely effective weapon on the basketball court.

The tactic was simplicity in itself.

First, all of the North Carolina players on the court during the four-corners had to be, as much as possible, excellent ball-handlers and better than average free-throw shooters; it didn’t matter whether they were short or tall, their ball-handling skills and foul-shooting skills were the key.

Four of the players would each go to a corner of the front-court (the scoring end for the offensive team) and the fifth player would roam around in the vicinity of the top-of-the-key waiting to spring-quickly to receive any pass suddenly thrown to him.

The aim of the tactic was, in essence, to play a game of keep-away by players dribbling and passing until one of two things happened: Either a North Carolina player was fouled and he shot free shots; or a defensive player was jockeyed out of position and a pass was made to the open North Carolina player who went to the hoop for a lay-up or a very close jumper.  There wasn’t much variation possible with this tactic; but it demanded Spartan-like discipline and superb ball-handling skills of the players executing the tactic.

The strategy was also simple.

North Carolina would only go to the four-corner offense when they got a lead of, usually, at least 4 or 5 points.  Also it was important for Coach Smith to judge the relative strength of the team he was playing relative to the strength of his own team.  It boils-down to this: If the opposing team was very strong playing a classical offense and North Carolina was having some trouble defending against that classical offense, then a 4 or 5 point lead, if it could be attained, would often trigger the four-corner offense.

Fast-break teams, using what I call run-and-shoot offenses, absolutely detested this style of slow-down play because it completely broke the rhythm of their accustomed pattern of offense.  Fans, sometimes on either side, who desired to see fast-paced, high-scoring action, were often not very pleased with this offensive maneuver. In fact, fan disapproval had a lot to do with the demise of all slow-down tactics in basketball.  What can I say; games are ultimately played for the fans, are they not?

But those few of us who appreciated smart strategy and disciplined tactical execution, and who wanted to see a taller and often clumsy-on-defense opponent have to play a demanding defensive game loved the four-corner.

The four-corner was more difficult to defend than you might imagine.

The spread-out nature of the offense and the willingness of the offensive team to hold the ball, and the rules that permitted it, necessitated a man-to-man defense against it.  If the team on the floor couldn’t play good man-to-man defense they were in trouble and the coach of that team would often have to substitute-out better offensive players for better defensive players—an obvious disruption to the teams’ offensive plans.

In addition the four-corner offense usually resulted in more fouls than normal against the defensive team—this offense could be absolutely devastating against a team that was poorly prepared to cope with it.

Of course, the four-corner offense and any other form of deliberate slow-down offense was killed—like it was Dracula or something—by the NCAA shot-clock rule adopted in 1985.  I didn’t like it then and I still don’t. If you want to see nothing but high speed, wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am action in a game, just go watch a roller derby.

A lot of skilled basketball talent was effectively invalidated by that rule change.  And the biggest recipients of the invalidation were short (non-tall) guys who have a difficult time executing a classical basketball offense against considerably greater defensive height.

So, with the ever-increasing efforts to privilege fast-action and height in our modern sports:

All hail to the tall guys; all hail to the run-and-shoot offenses; all hail to the modern copycat versions of Phi Slamma Jamma: Up and down the court we go, if we can’t dunk it, woe, woe, woe.  Defense, de-fense, de-fen-se?  What the heck is that?  Oh, right, it’s that unavoidable, nobody-really-knows-why-its-necessary, unwanted-time between the awe-inspiring, glorious, crowd-pleasing, erotic slam-dunks.

If Dr. James Naismith were alive and witnessed a game of basketball today, he would no-doubt not recognize it as the game he invented, because of course it isn’t.

Among the players Smith taught were future Hall of Famers Michael Jordan, James Worthy and Billy Cunningham. His coaching disciples included Roy Williams, North Carolina’s current coach, who himself has led the Tar Heels to two national championships; and Larry Brown, the only coach to win NCAA and National Basketball Association titles.
Coach Dean Smith dies at 83

Many people, including unknowns such as myself, will fondly remember Coach Dean Smith and his genius for creating and employing the unconventional basketball offense known as the four-corners offense.  But certainly a more important remembrance, and one of the best compliments paid to Coach Smith was made by Roy Williams, the current men’s basketball coach at North Carolina who said:

I’ve always felt that he’s the best there is on the court, but he’s even better off the court in what he gives to those people who come in contact with him.

That is Coach Smith’s true legacy: What he gave to people off the court.

© 2015, Jerry Richardson • (7825 views)

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27 Responses to A Short Eulogy for a Master Basketball Coach

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Of course, the four-corner offense and any other form of deliberate slow-down offense was killed—like it was Dracula or something—by the NCAA shot-clock rule adopted in 1985.  I didn’t like it then and I still don’t. If you want to see nothing but high speed, wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am action in a game, just go watch a roller derby.

    I could appreciate the skill of the four-corners offense. But it was boring to watch…nearly as boring as a typical NBA game which finds a way to stretch out the last 2 minutes into about 10 with fouls and time-outs.

    The essential of basketball is putting the ball through the hoop. And more of a means to that end is passing the ball. But passing the ball is by no means the point of the game — nor is intentional fouling.

    I appreciate your distaste for rules changes that were meant to ramp up the offense. Steroids — and the rules changes designed to induce more home runs — cheapened baseball. If you can’t appreciate a well-pitched 3 to 2 game, then maybe it’s time to lay off the caffeine and sugar…and remove your finger from your nose and learn how to walk upright.

    But in regards to NCAA basketball, I just found the four-corner offense to be excessive. Yes, it was in the rules of the game at the time, but it’s seemed a skillful gimmick more than anything else.

    Still, there’s something to be said for having a game that is a little different from the pros. College football is (or was) fun to watch because of the things such as the wishbone offense, etc. (which may have gone the way of the Dodo…I think most colleges now feature more of a pro-style offense).

    Being a champion of “diversity” I wouldn’t be against getting rid of the shot clock in the NCAA. But maybe there’s a happy medium. They have a 35 second shot clock instead of the NBA’s 24 as it is now. Maybe they could lengthen that out a bit.

    But at the end of the day we should remember that these are games which serve a variety of purposes. And one of the main purposes is spectator-appeal. And I can understand how the four-corners offense held little appeal for many people.

  2. Jerry Richardson says:


    Good comments! Thanks.

    I could appreciate the skill of the four-corners offense. But it was boring to watch…
    —Brad Nelson

    You have certainly pinpointed the common perception among basketball fans of the four-corners offense:

    In fact, fan disapproval had a lot to do with the demise of all slow-down tactics in basketball. What can I say; games are ultimately played for the fans, are they not?
    — Jerry R.

    The essential of basketball is putting the ball through the hoop.
    —Brad Nelson

    Your statement pinpoints a dichotomy of essence-versus-purpose viewpoint between a coach and fans. Putting the ball through the hoop has certainly become the essence of the game for most fans. Just like scoring touchdowns has more-or-less become the essence of a football game for most fans.

    For a coach, such as Dean Smith at the time he was running the four-corner offense, the essence of basketball was scoring points (putting the ball through the hoop), but as with any other competitive game the purpose was winning the game within the boundaries of the rules; when I coached that was also my view of essence/purpose in a game of basketball or football.

  3. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Just like scoring touchdowns has more-or-less become the essence of a football game for most fans.

    Scoring points is the end goal of the game of football which can be done via touchdowns, extra points, field goals and safeties. The means of doing so has certainly changed over the years. (Passing the ball at one time was actually illegal.) The general rules of the game in the last 20 years or so have gone to favor the offenses and the passing game — for better or for worse, depending on how you look at it.

    Occasionally there are teams such as the New York Giants who have been able to throw a monkey wrench into the works. In the age of the non-stop aerial arsenal, they were able to run the ball on the Buffalo Bills (a truly great team, in my opinion) in the Super Bowl despite the NFL’s general wishes.

    It was sort of an ugly win for the Giants, but it was just that kind of ugliness that the Seahawks in the last Super Bowl did not even attempt. They were 3-and-out on three of th last drives in the 3rd and 4th quarters. And we all know what happened at the end of the game because of their aversion to running and their obsession with passing.

    Basketball is a game that is pretty much dead to me now, primarily because of black thuggery and poor sportsmanship that has entered the game. Where have you gone, Doctor J? Well, give Michael Jordan his due for being a real class act. But he is the exception in a game that has gone over the cliff in terms of respectability. And with that punk from the Seahawks who pantomimed crapping the football in the end zone, the NFL isn’t far behind. And, again, this kind of poor sportsmanship and thuggery are why I don’t watch much football anymore. To me it’s not entertaining to sit and be insulted.

    I have no beef with Dean Smith winning games within the boundaries of the rules. But rules are changed from time to time to try to shore up loopholes or to induce a style of play that is more entertaining for the fans — the ones who actually pay the bills.

    Basically you can stick a fork in the NFL. They are almost done. As Rush has noted, the Left is trying to do away with it. They’re chipping away at the basics of the game with political correctness and such. It will be interesting to see that play out. Having a sport dominated by men is becoming illegal. So they’ll championing the homosexuals and do all they can to wear it down until people may just not bother with it anymore.

    Tennis was ruined for me by one of the biggest white hooligans and spoil-sports in all of sports, John McEnroe. This guy is a jerk of the first caliber. The officials made a grave error when they caved to this guy…much like college officials caved to the cry-babies and anarchists on campus in the 60’s.

    But as far as I’m concerned, the four corner offense came off more as a skillful gimmick. It was within the rules of the game but most people don’t go to a game to see the flow of the game stalled or to watch endless free throws.

  4. Jerry Richardson says:


    Basketball is a game that is pretty much dead to me now, primarily because of black thuggery and poor sportsmanship that has entered the game. Where have you gone, Doctor J? Well, give Michael Jordan his due for being a real class act. But he is the exception in a game that has gone over the cliff in terms of respectability. And with that punk from the Seahawks who pantomimed crapping the football in the end zone, the NFL isn’t far behind. And, again, this kind of poor sportsmanship and thuggery are why I don’t watch much football anymore. To me it’s not entertaining to sit and be insulted. —Brad Nelson

    I think it is rather sad, but this describes pretty-much my current attitude toward most sports (especially basketball and football) at both the college and pro level.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      The only sport I watch is major-league baseball, though I have some awareness (naturally) of the others. Elizabeth watches baseball as well, to some extent (it’s popular in Japan, after all; she would probably be even happier if someone started to carry sumo wrestling), and occasionally basketball when there’s a game involving her alma mater, Wake Forest.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Jerry, there’s a certain emotional/juvenile mindset that likes all that crap, who get off on McEnroe acting like a child, who enjoy vicariouslly acts of in-your-face hooliganism.

      I’m sure the NFL was at least a little ambivalent about curtailing end zone celebrations. I think the gang element is what they were trying to put the kibosh on (the throat-slitting gestures and such). But they can’t come out and say that, right? That would be targeting mostly blacks, and you can’t have that. One must pretend that everything is equal, thus TSA strip searches Swedish grandmothers.

      No, you can’t actually name the problem. So they must call it “excessive celebration in the end zone.” But then I can see their problem. Who would have ever thought that a grown man (allegedly) would pantomime the act of excrementing a football? Remember the good old days when the worst thing you had to worry about was roughing the kicker? The NFL needs a whole new set of penalties:

      + 15 yards for scatological performance in the end zone (it’s only a 10 yard penalty if you don’t drop the ball like a turd and just squat — 5 if it’s a #1 and not a #2).

      Had the player pantomimed giving another man anal sex, well, then you’d have seen the excrement truly hit the fan. But merely acting like a 13-year-old? No problem. 15 yards will cover that.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Would the problem with pantomiming anal sex be not actually doing it? I can imagine the homofascists objecting to that.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Good point. I guess it would depend on whether the pantomimer was mocking it or enjoying it. A tough call, and one I’d rather not have to make.

  5. Jerry Richardson says:

    I sincerely hope that my admiration and discussion, as a former coach, of Coach Dean Smith’s basketball knowledge and innovation does not deter anyone reading my article from the full appreciation of the spiritual and leadership dimensions of his life.

    Dean Smith was a man’s man in the truest sense of the word—if it can still be appreciated in today’s beat-up-men world—and in his busy and responsible trek through life it can truly be said that Dean Smith gave back more than he received.

    Here’s why that’s important:

    “In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'”
    —Acts 20:35 NASB

    Please read the following to fill-in some of the many good things I could have said about the man.

    Dean Smith was a man that all men should strive to be, not as a coach, but as a leader and role model for their families and in their careers. He died recently, at 83 years old.

    The UNC basketball program is, and always will be, a testament to Coach Smith’s lifetime caring for anyone who touched the program. As former Tar Heel Phil Ford once said, “I got a coach for four years but a friend for life.”
    Being in his presence made young people from every walk of life in America feel like they mattered, and every adult want to work harder. He never wanted attention, but never shied away from doing what he believed was right for his family and faith. Years after graduating from UNC, he was known for giving financial planning and assistance to his kids, marriage counseling when asked, and was quick to write letters and make calls to help anyone get a job.

    Coach Smith’s book on leadership lessons doesn’t read like a standard book. He notes one of the top 10 ways to be a real leader—whether on the court or in the home—is to be “caring” with those around you. He notes that this can be especially tough for men. But Coach Smith believed, “The best leaders … care about the people they lead, and the people who are being led know when the caring is genuine and when it’s faked or not there at all. I was a demanding coach, but my players knew that I cared for them and that my caring didn’t stop when they graduated and went off to their careers.”

    Dean Smith a coach for life and family

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Bobby Knight of IU had a foul temper (and is undoubtedly the sort of coach that Brad would disdain for that reason), but I’ve read that he was very good at making sure his players got more than just a college basketball career. They were expected to have a real academic career (i.e., not simply majoring in PE) and do well enough at it.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        I suppose one man’s foul temper is another man’s competitive spirit. But I do admit that it seemed that Bobby Knight crossed that line a time or too.

        But even such fire is different from the man-child that was inflicted upon us by John McEnroe and those who followed him in various sports. For the “Progressive” (and libertarian), the breaking down of any existing standard is a sign of freedom, moxie, and daring independence. Bjorn Borg, on the other hand, was a study in sportsmanship and class. He told a story once of losing his temper while playing. His father took his racket away from him for some time. Bjorn learned his lesson and never looked back. But someone obviously never gave the man-child, McEnroe, the slap-down when he needed it.

        I can’t imagine what it’s like to try to form 10 or more young men into a cohesive team on the basketball court. I would expect that it would take a man of some fire to do so. That coach surely has to project his will onto the others. He has to get them to play like a team even when every player knows there are at least one or two selfish jerks on the team. Those players surely have to have some confidence that if they play unselfishly, the will be rewarded, and that the selfish jerk next to them will be suitably punished if he plays like a selfish jerk. And I would suppose, just suppose, that it will take a man of some stern temperament to be able to enforce his will upon others and gain enough trust to get others to play as a team. Surely there was a good reason Bobby Knight reached the top and stayed there for a long time.

        I’m certainly not one who thinks a coach should be Mr. Rogers, although surely it takes all styles. Ditka was a fiery, even obnoxious, coach but he got the job done, while Tom Landry was all business. And he got the job done as few others ever have.

        Glen Sather of the famous Edmonton Oilers teams was apparently renowned for being of an immense competitive spirit. You don’t reach the top by being milquetoast. But neither must one be a jerk. I kind of felt bad for the Ohio State coach, Woody Haves, who, in the heat of the end of a close bowl game, punched Clemson player Charlie Bauman. He deserved better than to be remembered for that.

        And why I mention it is because they say that athletics doesn’t instill character, it reveals it. Or something like that. But I think it’s far great than that. When you put yourself willingly in the arena, you might fall on your sword a time or two. To enter the field of combat is to risk being tarnished by events…sometimes in one’s control, sometimes not, and sometimes a fuzzy combination of the two. Coaching, as I’m sure Jerry could tell you, is an honorable profession. And it should be obviously to all that the gauge is not popularity, for the source of the word, “fan,” is “fanatic.” Probably the glow of the TV tube means very little in the scheme of things.

        I imagine that athletics for a lot of young men (and this goes for the military as well) is their entry into the world of being a man. Surely, sports itself and making it big in the pros is on everyone’s mind. But I would imagine that for more than a few athletes, their coach is the father they never had. I’m sure that some coaches feel that responsibility acutley, and it can have only become a larger factor with the breakup of the family, especially among blacks.

        But now I’m stepping into Jerry’s territory and I’m sure he could tell you all this more authentically and first-hand. But hale to the coaches who touch young men’s lives and help mold them into decent human beings. I guess that one guy from the Seahawks who pantomimed crapping a football in the end zone just fell through the cracks somehow.

  6. Jerry Richardson says:

    I can’t and don’t condone a coach for throwing a chair onto the basketball court, but I can sympathize with what it’s like to lose your temper as a coach in a basketball game. I’ve done it. I plead guilty. Although I never lost my temper, as often, or in any way that even approximates the degree of fury of many of Bobby Knight’s numerous documented tantrums.

    I won’t attempt to provide a list of Knight’s most famous escapades, including physical assaults; besides they are easily available on the Internet. He is also one of the most successful and winning basketball coaches of all time; you also find all that on the Internet.

    His most publicized temper tantrum (the chair throwing event) occurred while he was men’s basketball coach of the Indiana Hoosiers; and they were playing Purdue University. The game was played on February 23, 1985 at Bloomington Indiana; and the chair throwing occurred just 5 minutes into the game. If you are into anniversary nonsense, the 23rd of this month will be the 30th anniversary of the Bobby Knight chair-toss.

    You can watch the infamous chair-throwing event on YouTube; but as a caution it is not for the faint of heart relative to in-your-face confrontation; and if you are a long-standing Bobby Knight hater or ultra-harsh critic, then this YouTube video will certainly confirm or increase your unfavorable opinion; and even if you are a Bobby Knight admirer you will probably shake your head in disbelief as to how he could allow himself to get so out of control. You can view it here on YouTube:

    Bobby Knight throws the chair

    • Timothy Lane says:

      One might note that Purdue (my alma mater) and IU are traditional rivals, which no doubt increased the tension.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      It must drive coaches mad when all of their hard work at trying to achieve excellence is instantly, and sometimes capriciously, countermanded my hack officials. Yes, even the good ones make bad calls. And, yes, it’s a tough and under-appreciated job. But there are a lot of hacks out there. And don’t think there aren’t more than a few asshole refs looking to provoke coaches and players. They’re only all too human.

      My favorite explosion is George Brett and the pine tar incident. I didn’t do a Google search for it because I think that video had been pretty much scrubbed from the web last time I looked, although with persistance you may find it. But Brett just goes bonkers. Knight is a pussycat compared to Brett in that incident.

      And Knight has nothing on our own former Mariners manager, Lou Piniella. He’s known for grabbing first base and giving it a good heave. His explosions were classic. And, really, I didn’t see Knight do anything even approaching McEnroe, Piniella (who really is a sweet guy otherwise), or Brett.

      I don’t know the details of Knight’s blowup and I’m not going to apologize for him. But, good grief, our culture has become so obnoxiously (some say “psychopathically”) “nice” that it’s refreshing to see someone express real emotion — emotion that is not scripted.

      God was on Bobby’s side anyway (or was ambivalent) because the guy who shot the technical fouls only made half of them.

  7. Jerry Richardson says:

    Bobby Knight had an intense work-ethic, an easily-triggered temper, and both of these traits were focused (too often improperly) with a persistent military-style of discipline which flavored all of his coaching endeavors—other than the obvious area of controlling his own temper.

    In 1971, Indiana University hired Knight as head coach. Because of his time spent coaching at Army and his disciplinarian nature, Knight earned the nickname “The General”.

    In some ways his intensity-of-drive toward winning and his unapologetic manner of dealing with confrontations remind me of General George Patton.

    Now I’m sure that some readers of this comment will want to take me to task for comparing Knight to Patton. But, I’m not really comparing the two men; due to the fact that the times, the careers, and the working situations of the two men are mostly incomparable. Patton was a war-time general leading troops in combat in the 1940s. Knight was a civilian guiding players in basketball games during the 1980s. Things that Patton might be excused for Knight would be fired for. I’m only saying that there are personality similarities between the two men—pivoting around a strong drive-to-win and an implacable desire to preserve group (team or military unit) discipline.

    The illustration I offer of this is the Patton incident of slapping a soldier for being a coward (according to Patton); and the Knight incident of grabbing the arm of Indiana freshman Kent Harvey and lecturing him about not showing respect. Both of these incidents have as their essence, I believe, a desire to preserve discipline. Bobby Knight was fired as a result of this incident (plus accumulated others).

    General Eisenhower made Patton apologize for the soldier-slapping incident. Here’s the Patton (film) version of Patton’s public apology:

    At ease. [long pause] I thought I would stand up here and let you people see if I am as big of a son-of-a-bitch as some of you think I am. [troops laugh]
    I assure you I had no intention of being either harsh or cruel in my treatment of the soldier in question. My sole purpose was to try and to restore him some appreciation of his obligation as a man, and as a soldier. If one can shame a coward I felt, one might help him regain his self-respect. This was on my mind. Now I freely admit that my method was wrong, but I hope you can understand my motive, and will accept this explanation, and this apology.
    • Address to Seventh Army, complying with Dwight D. Eisenhower to make public apologies for the incident of slapping a soldier in Sicily.

    The Patton slapping apology

    Here’s a description of the Bobby Knight incident that resulted in his dismissal as basketball coach of the Indiana Hoosiers:

    …Indiana University president Myles Brand announced that he had adopted a “zero tolerance” policy with regard to Knight’s behavior. Later in the year, in September 2000, Indiana freshman Kent Harvey reportedly said, “Hey, Knight, what’s up?” to Knight. According to Harvey, Knight then grabbed him by the arm and lectured him for not showing him respect, insisting that Harvey address him as either “Mr. Knight” or “Coach Knight” instead of simply “Knight.” Brand stated that this incident was only one of numerous complaints that occurred after the zero-tolerance policy had been put into place.

    Brand asked Knight to resign on September 10, and when Knight refused, Brand relieved him of his coaching duties effective immediately. Knight’s dismissal was met with outrage from students. That night, thousands of Indiana students marched from Indiana University’s Assembly Hall to Brand’s home, burning Brand in effigy.

    Harvey was supported by some and vilified by many who claim he had intentionally set up Knight. Kent Harvey’s stepfather, Mark Shaw, was a former Bloomington-area radio talk show host and Knight critic. On September 13, Knight said goodbye to a crowd of some 6,000 supporters in Dunn Meadow at Indiana University. He asked that they not hold a grudge against Harvey and that they continue to support the basketball team. Knight’s firing made national headlines, including the cover of Sports Illustrated and around the clock coverage on ESPN.

    Bobby Knight’s Dismissal

    One of my favorite qoutes, unapologetic and crude, from Bobby Knight reminds me somewhat of General Patton’ subtly non-apologetic apology. Here’s Bobby Knight’s quote:

    “When my time on Earth is gone, and my activities here are passed, I want they bury me upside down, and my critics can kiss my ass.”
    —Bob Knight, March 1994

    Bobby Knight’s Dismissal

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      “Hey, Knight, what’s up?” to Knight. According to Harvey, Knight then grabbed him by the arm and lectured him for not showing him respect, insisting that Harvey address him as either “Mr. Knight” or “Coach Knight” instead of simply “Knight.”

      Undoubtedly the issue of Knight’s firing was an accumulation of issues, as you said. But in this one event we can likely once again see the universities surrendering to the barbarians. It happened most famously at Berkeley, and the university systems throughout the country have degraded severely since then.

      A young man ought to address his coach as “sir, “coach,” “Mr. Knight,” or “Coach Knight.” This age of familiarity has sapped the ability of adults to act like adults and thus to have the authority to impart unto young skulls-full-of-mush that which they need to learn and which they do not already know.

      Unfortunately, everyone now needs to be everyone’s buddy. Adult authority is undermined — given away by the adults who are infatuated now with being “liked” rather than respected — desirous of “feeling good” for themselves in the short-term rather than earning the long-term satisfaction of a job well done, even if it does mean kicking, rhetorically, a few asses from time to time.

      That doesn’t mean that Knight didn’t have a temper. And the above factor does not give anyone a right to psychologically or physically abuse kids (as defined by normal, non-pansies). But kids do need to have respect for adults instilled into them, and that first requires adults being prepared to act like adults. You’ll get grief for that often, but it is required of us.

  8. Jerry Richardson says:

    Yeah, despite all his temper and outburst, I still like and I can’t help it; admire Coach Bobby Knight. Here’s an example of the reason from my past experience.

    I can sympathize with what it’s like to lose your temper as a coach in a basketball game. I’ve done it. I plead guilty:

    I have never forgotten my chagrin—after I cooled down—for inviting a jerk (actually he probably wasn’t) to come down out of the stands because he kept screaming at me and my girls’ basketball team: “Chicken…chicken…chicken…”—yes, my first basketball coaching assignment was girls’ basketball; and those were the days when there were 3 players from each team on each end of the court.

    And the guy didn’t just scream once, he was continuing on-and-on; and to make matters worse and more intense, we were playing in what I called a cracker-box gym (small and crowded) and the guy was seated on about the 3rd or 4th row up and was actually only about 10-15 feet away from where I was on the court-side bench.

    His taunts were loud and very distinct; and my mistake is that I started listening to him, should have just not listened; and before I knew it, I was seeing nothing but the color red. While I was on my feet challenging the guy, my assistant coach was trying his best to get me to sit down and shut-up. But my response to him was: “No, I am tired of this jerks big mouth”!

    And what was the reason for the taunt of “chicken…chicken…chicken…”? What were we doing that was annoying?

    Yep, you might have guessed it, we were using and winning with a stall-offense (shades of Dean Smith) except of course it couldn’t be four-corners because we only had 3 offensive players to work with.

    Why were we doing the stall?

    We were playing for the second time that year, a team that had absolutely pulverized us a few weeks earlier, I mean to the tune of about a 30 point beating on our home court. I don’t know how many of you reading this have ever experienced that sort of vulnerability. It’s not pretty and it isn’t uplifting.

    Fortunately for me the guy didn’t come down—or meet me outside the gym after the game as I had suggested to him—later, after I had cooled-down I realized what a stupid thing I had done—and I resolved after that night not to lose my cool again in such a fashion; and I didn’t, even though I occasionally had to bark at the refs (knowing I’d get a technical foul) just to insist to them that they make comparable calls on each end of the court—in other words, don’t whistle a slight-contact from my defensive players as a foul, and then allow the opponents defensive players to literally knock my players down without any foul being called: It’s known as inconsistent refereeing; and as a basketball coach you simply cannot sit quietly and let it happen.

    When I watch Bobby Knight pitch a hissy-fit because the referees didn’t call a jump ball when they clearly, in my mind and obviously in his, should have, I have a difficult time feeling anything but sympathy for him even though intellectually I know full-well he over-reacted.

    Such is life, often, in the intensity of any competitive arena.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      And the guy didn’t just scream once, he was continuing on-and-on;

      I attend a lot of my nephews’ baseball games. Parents are the biggest hardship of any kind of organized sports, as are some of the spectators (who often are parents as well).

      The American ethic is as such: Root for your kids in a positive way. Don’t boo the other team. Conduct yourself with class and restraint. Remember that the umpires are only human and are usually volunteers. No one’s kid gets enough playing time, so lighten up. Show appreciation for the great plays the other team makes.

      All of the above is non-controversial, at least among humans or those who profess to be civilized. But you see how ugly, low-brow, and tribal many humans can be when you go to a PeeWee baseball game. But, generally speaking, most parents and spectators are pretty good. But every once in a while there is an incident where someone has to be told to keep quiet or to leave the premises.

      At a Pee Wee football last year there were some people on our side who were obnoxious, vulgar, and just a bit racist in some of their comments. Good god. The way people attach the importance of their own lives to what some kids are doing out on the field. It’s truly pathetic. By all means, root for you teams and enjoy it when they win and commiserate with each other when the lose (and we lost a tough one last year in the championship game).

      But remember it’s just a game. I don’t know what to do with people who take it so seriously. I was at a Mariners game several years ago (many years ago…back in the Kingdome era). I was on the first base line, four or five rows up, just above the bullpen. My friend had a great set of season tickets. (The bullpens in the Kingdome — never built with baseball in mind — were basically along the sidelines…on the edge of the field. I don’t believe there were any barriers between the bullpen and the field…maybe chicken wire and chalk lines, at most).

      Anyway, there’s this one guy, obviously liquored up a bit, who was screaming at the opposing team’s pitchers warming up in the bullpen during the game. His shouts were so severe, his facial expression so twisted, he seemed deranged. He had come from his seat behind us and was standing up at the edge of the railing taunting the other team, literally just a few feet from them. I don’t know how they ignored this guy but I guess they get used to that.

      When I say people are crazy, I mean that people are crazy. It’s not difficult to explain the violent and sadistic history of mankind because mankind is violent and sadistic. The reasonable and peaceful people may in some way be the majority, but it’s a somewhat ineffective majority without the law, however it is meted out (thus libertarians are off their rocker completely in regards to their pining for anarchy). It seems a society, or really any organization, is — or can be — driven by its most outlandish individuals. That was true of Nazi Germany and it’s true of Islam — both of which have doctrines that facilitate and drive this outlandish fringe (and thus both are inherently evil, or at least regressive).

      Jerry, it may not be the place for a coach to lose his cool. And yet unless the beasts among us are confronted, they win. Even though you probably suffered from “losing your cool,” the road to hell is paved with people who ignore dysfunction in our society. Frankly, f*** what other people think. Sometimes a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.

      I wish I had kung fu skills, because the right thing to do in both instances was to confront these jerks and be ready to kick their asses if need be.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Many years ago, watching election results, I noticed that the tension I felt was very similar to the tension I felt watching one of my teams (the Houston Astros and New York Yankees; Elizabeth roots for the Cleveland Indians) in the post-season. Of course, the baseball teams don’t disappoint you (at least when they win) as badly as the political team does.

  9. Timothy Lane says:

    There’s a nice obituary for Dean Smith at NRO by Lee Habeeb, complete the Michael Jordan’s decades-old testimonial to him. For those who are interested, the link is:


  10. Jerry Richardson says:

    February 21, 2015

    Watch: UNC Honors Late Coach Dean Smith with Four Corners Offense

    The University of North Carolina men’s basketball team honored legendary coach Dean Smith, who passed away earlier this month by starting their game today against Georgia Tech, by running the offense that he popularized in the early 1960s. Not only did they run the play, but the Tar Heels scored, with Marcus Paige finding Brice Johnson on a backdoor cut.

    The offense has a player standing at each corner of the half court, forcing defenses to spread out as widely as possible, leading to open lanes for drives and passes, with opportunities for backdoor cuts like the one Johnson scored on.

    Watch: UNC Honors Late Coach Dean Smith with Four Corners Offense

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      A nice tribute. It would have been nice to receive permission from the NCAA to turn off the shot clock for a quarter.

      • Jerry Richardson says:

        Cute idea. Somehow I don’t think the NCAA would have gone for that.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          They probably would not have gone for it. Which reminds me, Aaron Goldstein has a good article about the silly new rules that Major League Baseball has adopted in order to speed up the game. Aaron notes that if they truly wanted to speed up the game, they could reduce the commercials which account for 45 minutes to an hour of the game time on TV.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            I don’t think he was the first to think of that, but it would cost the broadcasters MONEY, which is the whole purpose of the game from their standpoint )and that of baseball management). So instead they go after all sorts of trivialities. This sort of thing has happened before (50 or so years ago, they decided to enforce a mandatory one-second wait before going into the windup for a pitch, which didn’t last long).

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