ESPN displays shining Knight

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 14, 2002

I've had a few days to think about whether ESPN's "A Season on the Brink" was worth watching.

In short, I'd watch it again. But it helps if you read the book.

Authored by former Washington Post reporter John Feinstein, the book is essentially a fly-on-the-wall report of what happened during the 1985-86 Indiana basketball season.

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It's a tantalizing, behind-the-scenes look at what happens during closed basketball practices and what's said in the lockerroom.

Is the movie close to the book? Not really. I'd say ESPN's take is 55 percent book, 45 percent Hollywoo … er … Bristol.


Bobby Knight is an excellent teacher of the game of basketball. The movie touched on this, but could have done a much better job. Why was he a great teacher? What lessons and values did he truly instill in his players, or at least the ones he cared about?

Granted, there was that 45-second shot of him consoling beleagured center Daryl Thomas. But it pales in comparison to the constant profanity-laced tirades spewed forth in the movie from Knight's mouth.

I'm not arguing that part of the movie. Knight probably wouldn't work well as a Sunday School teacher. The movie's language was saltier than drinking out of the ocean, at least for regular cable television (HBO and Skinamax don't count).

It did, however, follow the book. At least that was accurate. But I doubt I would want my mother to watch it alongside me.

But one final note that I would have liked the movie to touch on more -- and maybe even the book to as well.

Three years ago, I was a reporter in the Chicago suburbs, on the Indiana side. One of my assignments was to talk with the head of an area shelter for troubled teenage boys.

In the director's office were different sports-related memoribilia, but none more prominent than from Bobby Knight.

I asked this man how he got so much of this stuff.

"To a lot of folks, Bobby Knight is misunderstood," he said. "Look in this drawer."

As he opened it, a stack of personally autographed pictures of Knight were placed back-to-back in a crisp, manila folder.

"And he's given us other memorabilia, too, so we can auction it all off during our fundraisers. He does so much for these kids that no one ever realizes. And he never promotes it."

That's when my respect for Bobby Knight grew even stronger.

Are his coaching methods unusual and even extreme? Maybe. Would I want my son or someone close to play for him? Only if I believe he could mentally handle it.

I'm from Illinois, so you're not listening to a homer preach. But it's always interesting hearing stories about folks, especially the ones you necessarily don't expect to hear.

And for Bobby Knight, I'm sure there's similar tales out there.

Call Dan Fields at 434-2230 or e-mail him at