Here are a few things you won’t find among the many items Bob Knight is putting on the auction block over the next two months in New York:
The tampon he left in one of his players lockers as a motivational message. The megaphone he kicked before chewing out Indiana’s cheerleaders for disrupting a free-throw attempt by another of his players. The vase he allegedly hurled uncomfortably close to a secretary. The garbage can into which he deposited a drunken LSU fan. The folding chair he launched across the Assembly Hall court five minutes into a game to clear up any confusion over what he thought of the officiating.
Just about everything else Knight amassed over more than four decades in the coaching business — save for some things close pal and late baseball Hall of Famer Ted Williams gave him — will be offered for sale between now and Dec. 5. For those who can’t wait, or don’t want to pay premium auction-house prices, there’s always eBay, where a quick search for “Bob Knight” turned up 616 items Monday night. The opening bids ranged from a high of $1,500 (or best offer) for a basketball autographed by Knight and his former pupil, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, down to 88 cents for a trading card (or 99 cents for the “Buy-it-Now” option).
Speaking over the phone during a layover at the Denver airport earlier Monday, Knight told The Associated Press that he and John Havlicek, the Boston Celtics great who was Knight’s teammate at Ohio State, hatched the idea of funding their grandchildren’s educations by cleaning out the closets and drawers in their homes. For Knight that included, among other things, his three NCAA championship rings, an Olympic gold medal and even one of his sport coats
“Everybody lives in the past,” Knight said. “Not me. … I’ve got stuff I didn’t even know I had. I don’t put anything up in the house. If you came into the house you would think I was a mailman. And I don’t even wear rings.”
It’s hard to imagine Knight needs money, since he segued into lucrative TV work for ESPN as both a studio analyst and color commentator for games shortly after walking away from his last coaching job, at Texas Tech, in the middle of the 2008 season. But we’ll know for certain, and soon, whether he’s done living in the past. In what appears to be a provocative move, the network has apparently juggled its college basketball lineup for the upcoming season so that Knight will call Southeastern Conference games, including Kentucky’s games on the road.
A bit of background is in order. Knight’s distaste for the Wildcats’ program and their oft-criticized coach, John Calipari, is hardly a secret. In addition to roasting Calipari and his one-and-done approach to recruiting in speeches for months, Knight refused to even mention “Kentucky” by name. Though that ended late in March as the Wildcats sliced and diced their way through the NCAA brackets en route to the national championship, it will be interesting to see whether Knight holds a grudge.
We won’t know whether hard-core Kentucky fans do, since ESPN has decided that Knight won’t work Kentucky games at Rupp Arena. The network apparently doesn’t mind providing some kindling — imagine a postgame meeting between the two, or a production meeting beforehand — but it doesn’t want to risk the bonfire Knight might ignite simply by showing up courtside in Lexington. Exactly why he agreed to the new assignment remains anyone’s guess. The only thing Knight said about the arrangement, according to a statement released by ESPN, is that “I’m looking forward to watching and describing these games.”
Even though he turns 72 on Oct. 25, Knight has remained almost as grumpy and controversial off the court as he once was on it. Nearly four years ago, after a career’s worth of railing against gambling, he agreed to ride shotgun for announcer Billy Packer on a string of cheesy NCAA tournament specials taped at a sports book on the Las Vegas Strip. Packer explained the choice of locale by explaining at the time, “Bob and I, and a lot of people, want to really experience what this is really like because we do think, next to being center court, this is the place to be.”
Right. Because nothing says “March Madness” like scantily clad cocktail waitresses, a heaping buffet, a wall of wide-screen TVs and people wandering aimlessly in the background or standing in line at the windows. Never mind that when Knight was coaching at Indiana and always putting the best interests of the game ahead of his own, he complained about betting lines published in the Bloomington paper this way: “Why don’t the newspapers run whores’ phone numbers? Is betting on basketball, football or baseball less illegal than prostitution?”
Outside of Las Vegas, the answer is still no. But it serves as a reminder that when the price is right, just about anything can be bought.
Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org and follow him at Twitter.com/JimLitke.
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