Newly released DVDs reminder of Knight's brilliance as a teacher
Forrest is considered a brilliant military tactician who was under-appreciated in his time, and his epigram is relevant to Knight's lesson, despite being a slight misquote. (A 1918
Forrest later renounced the Klan's violent bent, and denied ever having been a member, but he'll forever be linked with the organization in pop culture: In the movie
That includes Bob Knight, who has thrown a chair, berated media members, made insensitive comments about sexual assault, feuded with university presidents and resigned from his last team, Texas Tech, in midseason. One has to wonder if it was intentional, or merely coincidental, that the only general quoted in The General's instructional-DVD set is one whose legacy as a battlefield genius was obscured by controversies.
Knight is far from the furstest coach to cash in on the DVD market: Up until an Iowa-based company called Championship Productions issued this summer set --
Given that it's the only authorized footage of Knight teaching hoops in the long-shorts era, and it's exhaustive (four DVDs of on-court schooling, plus two supplemental DVDs of game and practice footage, for a total of 658 minutes), there are coaches who will pay the hefty price. There's considerable value in the intellectual property behind 902 wins, three national championships, the last undefeated season in college basketball, and an Olympic gold medal run.
I got a hold of a review copy of the Knight trilogy last week and spent about seven hours going through it, beginning with the Motion Offense guide. Knight is considered the father of the modern motion, and this is the best DVD of the three. It's no longer the en vogue offense at the college level (that would be either Kentucky's Dribble Drive Motion, North Carolina's break/secondary break, or Kansas and Florida's ball-screen-heavy sets), but remains beautiful to behold when executed flawlessly.
Knight has always come across as an unbending character, but it's intriguing that what drew him to the motion -- the building blocks of which were Cincinnati coach
Knight hammers home the concept of spacing -- essentially, keeping players 15-18 feet apart on the floor, and cutting to maintain those gaps as well as create scoring opportunities. His offense only works if it's reacting to what the defense is giving, and he stresses the importance of pausing with the ball in order to "read" the floor. He uses the wisdom of
He's better off when telling his own stories, like one about Krzyzewski, who played guard for him at Army from 1966-69, and was a prime example of a limited scorer who was still an asset due to his command of the principles of the motion offense. Knight says that in a matchup with South Carolina, "I told [Krzyzewski] that one thing he wasn't doing in that game was shooting." At a key point late in the game, Krzyzewski drew the defense -- and nearly the ire of Knight -- by pulling up for a jumper, only to pass the ball at the last possible moment before releasing the shot. "I sent him the picture of that years later and it said, 'Mike, this shot saved your ass,'" Knight says. "And I think he's kept that forever."
The man-to-man defense DVD, aside from quoting Forrest, includes another anecdote from West Point: Knight is a fan of playing behind (rather than fronting) the post, and he explains how 6-foot-3
The best material in Knight's man-to-man volume is the detail -- it's divided into three macro topics (conversion D, ball-side D, help-side D) but within each, he spends time fine-tuning everything down to the defensive stance. In ball-side, for example, Knight insists on his players taking a "square" position: head centered on their man's numbers, back of the neck facing the basket, hands just outside their man's knees, with the goal of not allowing the man to drive into the middle of the floor. "A lot of people stand with the inside foot forward," he says. "I don't like either foot forward, because I think it's too easy to drive the extended foot from anywhere on the floor."
The third volume, of drills, gives a window into the structure of a Knight practice. Given that the only real Knight practice footage I'd seen prior to this was the
This was the only time I was disappointed that the DVDs weren't high-def. The frame was too zoomed-out to see the kid's facial expression, which, I'm assuming, would have been priceless.
There is justification, Knight says, for being a hardass, when it's in the name of making sure the game is being played the right way. "Kids have got to understand that we're damn serious about what we're teaching and we expect it to be followed," he explains. "You're the general of this army out there and they've got to understand that. And you can do it in the way you go about things. Patting everybody on the ass all the time isn't a way to get it done. It's being careful to teach, and teach everybody that's out there, when a mistake has been made, point out the mistake, let's try to correct it. If the mistake happens again, then we're a little more emphatic about it."
Knight was more emphatic, in his coaching days, than most of his peers. The bulk of his banter in these DVDs, though, reveals a man genuinely enjoying educating his cast. In the early part of his offense DVD, which is shot using the Norwalk (Iowa) High School boys' team as stand-ins, Knight turns to a player guarding him too tightly during a demonstration and says, "You gonna put your hands on me and foul an old man already?" He quizzes one of the Norwalk forwards by asking him, "You want to be a really good scorer, or just want to be a real tough son of a bitch?" (Correct answer: Tough S.O.B.) He stops one conversion defense drill with the William Penn team, overjoyed that one of its guards had slid off of his man to cut off a drive to the basket, and says, "If you were a girl, I might kiss you over the move you made right here."
In the latter part of Knight's career, his coaching acumen was harder to observe (or perceive) than was his annoyance with peripheral matters: blind referees, pestering reporters, administrators who dared challenge his authority, homeowners upset that his shotgun pellets were landing in their pool. His all-around arrogance obscured his basketball intelligence, which is a shame, because he had the game's sharpest mind. Knight made these DVDs for the same reason every other coach does -- auxiliary income -- but their lasting value will be as an artifact: a late reminder that for Knight, there was joy in teaching.