“Last Days of Knight” an unnecessary documentary about a coach and players who should be left alone #iubb

Will we ever stop being fascinated by Bob Knight? I hope so.

Last night, I watched “The Last Days of Knight” – an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary about the CNN/SI work that led to his firing at IU – and I felt dirty.

As with any basketball fan who studied at Indiana University in Bloomington during the Knight era, I’ve given a lot of thought to Knight’s style of leadership and its effect – both positive and negative – on those who played for him.

Somewhere along the way, I stopped.

I stopped because it’s not mine to judge.  The experience of playing for Knight belongs to those who lived through it, learned from it, and deal with it.

It’s their story to tell, not mine to interpret.  So I leave it alone.

“The Last Days of Knight” is really the story of a journalist extracting a version of a former player’s truth, and in doing so causing the former player great emotional pain.

It can be argued that reporter/filmmaker Robert Abbott’s work in tearing apart Neil Reed’s emotional scar tissue did as much harm to him as Knight during Reed’s three years in Bloomington.

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Watching Reed experience the moment Knight grabbed him by the neck on videotape in a CNN studio years after the event took place was awful.  It was a moment crafted by Abbott to titillate.  It was news porn, and it exposes the predatory “journalism” that is more about affecting than enlightening and informing.

Some who played for Knight see him as brilliant.  Others found his leadership abusive.  There are National Championship banners hanging in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall won by players led by Knight.  And more importantly there are the players he taught the game who are now adults living with the memories and lessons learned in the effort to perfect their execution and understanding of basketball.

They are the legacy.  Each tells a vivid, compelling, and unique story from their time playing for Knight.  I’ve tried to take the stories and create a composite of Knight that might explain him.  It’s impossible, and at some point I stopped trying because it led me to ask questions of former players I know – questions with answers that are none of my business.

It’s time to leave Bob Knight be – and it’s time to leave his former players alone.  Let them view their time with Knight as a small sliver of who they are – not the only part you care about.

Experiences with Bob Knight do not define those who played for him, nor do those players define Knight.

It’s over.  Move on.

Kent Sterling hosts the fastest growing sportstalk show in Indianapolis on CBS Sports 1430 every weekday from 3p-7p, and writes about Indiana sports at kentsterling.com.

8 thoughts on ““Last Days of Knight” an unnecessary documentary about a coach and players who should be left alone #iubb

  1. Jason

    “Extracting…tearing apart…..crafted by Abbott to titillate.” Written like a true homer. You don’t get to tell others to stick their head in the sand and move on after referencing a few dusty banners at your alma mater I guess it’s all good because there are players who now have memories and lessons learned from a coach on the basketball court? Every student/athlete from Jr high to D1 in every sport has a similar experience- they have memories and learned from a coach.

    Abbott’s piece let those of us outside IU see that the spineless administration previously at IU enabled this abuse – and it shared the memories and lessons learned from BK- that you can lie and deny…until there’s a tape. BK, Brand and the BoT at IU we’re the original House of Cards.

  2. Bob Hollingsworth

    Bob Knight did far more good than bad at IU. His players graduated, he either gave or was responsible for millions in fundraising for the University and others.
    Most of Knights former players have nothing but praise for him.
    Knight was a victim of the times. Even the US Army doesn’t handle recruits now like they did 30 years ago!
    Its very unfair to apply todays standards of discipline and political correctness to events that went in decades ago.

    1. jerry lake

      Thank You! The episode was unfair to Knight and some statements where completely wrong. Surprised ESPN presented this to its viewers.

  3. Andy

    Bob Knight may have started out as a good coach but it went to his head. He had and has some very serious mental problems. Sure he did some good stuff too. It does not matter though. When something is wrong it is wrong. The ends don’t justify the means and I think a lot of his former players who support him suffer from the Stockholm syndrome. Give me a break! When you walk out of a bathroom in front of students with your pants pulled down holding soiled toilet paper and raving, it is time to resign or be fired and seek psychiatric help and medication.

  4. John True

    My biggest take away from the film and something I didn’t see in your article was the enabling behavior from the administration and other people that enabled coach Knight. Also, I had no idea about the death threats to Dr. Brand as well as other faculty, etc that dared speak out. There were several players who were afraid to step forward in fear of retaliation, etc.

  5. Adam H

    Wow, Kent, you really don’t get it, do you? This wasn’t just about Bobby Knight, this was about lying, bullying, egomaniacal leaders, and the tactics they use to maintain control including attacking whistle-blowers, attacking the press, and rabid supporters. I mean for God sake, all those Knight rallies were missing were MAGA hats and chants of “Lock Him Up”. The people trying to uncover the truth (oddly enough, CNN) and the people trying to tell the truth were villainized and had their lives threatened. The parallels are uncanny and couldn’t be more topical.

  6. Denis

    This documentary is absolutely necessary. As vile as Bob Knight the man is, this documentary is needed as an attachment to his legacy. So he was a winning college basketball coach for a little more than a decade. And because he could not adapt, despite all of the power and name recognition he had at IU he couldn’t win in his final decade. So he takes it out on his players and the media. Class act. Delusions of grandeur that are not even merited. And really, its inexcusable because he had real coaches to compare himself to, like Dean Smith, John Wooden, Coach K…looking at them should have made him realize he was a poor imitation and made him better himself as a coach, reflect on what he had to change, instead of lashing out at powerless young men like a bully and a coward.

    The spineless IU administration, disparaging a kid whom they know is telling the truth is utterly disgusting. They also need to be put on blast, no one should get a pass on this story. This is reminiscent of the political “leadership” today, spineless, gutless, self serving sycophants with little regard for the truth.

    It should be a lesson for all those would be dictatorial narcissists and their subjects that the age for that is over. Like Mussolini eventually you will be executed and strung up for everyone’s inspection. Humiliated and exposed for the horrors inflicted, for the violations of human dignity. No human has the right to violate the dignity of another human being , regardless of who they are.

    Unfortunately, there are enough bitter, ignorant cowards out there who need people like Knight to make them feel better about themselves. It’s evident in what’s going on today. Regardless, history will hold this vile man in contempt and deservedly so. He may be a hero to some in Indiana, but again, reference the beginning of this paragraph. Enjoy your banners!


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