A long-ago interview with Knight was too touchy for this reporter
Indiana University president Myles Brand decided last week that
he will take the recommendation of a university sports advisory
committee and appoint two university trustees to investigate
accusations that the Hoosiers' basketball coach choked former
player Neil Reed during a 1997 practice. According to Brand,
here's how Bob Knight, contacted while on a hunting trip, reacted
to that news: "I welcome it. I will do whatever is in the
interest of the university." Boy, that sounds like Knight,
doesn't it? There's no reason to suspect that anything will come
out of the investigation; since the broadcast on March 18 of a
CNN/SI report detailing Reed's claim, sentiment around Bob Knight
U has remained squarely behind the coach.
Anyway, I bring up the following not to engender further
controversy but because Knight's laying on of hands remains in
the news: I was once choked by Knight. Well, maybe not exactly
choked--P.J. Carlesimo, for example, has a different take on choke
than, say, Latrell Sprewell--but certainly manhandled.
During the 1982-83 season I was dispatched to Indiana to write a
story on the Hoosiers. About 15 minutes into our interview, when
the subject of starting guard Jim Thomas was raised, Knight
suddenly jumped up and grabbed me with one hand. Whatever his
target area, he got a handful of shirt, neck and chest hair, and
it hurt like hell. "We have got to get Jim Thomas playing
harder!" he said, a small part of my epidermis still in his
grasp. "He doesn't have enough fire in him."
After five to 10 seconds he released me. I stood there with a
frozen grin, determined to show I could suck it up. What a
strange way to behave, I thought later, as I examined the red
mark in a mirror. Was it important for Knight to intimidate a
sportswriter he had just met? Or did the fury of the moment, his
uncontrollable desire for Thomas to amp up his play, just get to
him? To this day I believe it was the former, but it almost
doesn't matter. The net result is the same. This is a man who has
lived on the edge for too long, a man with, in the words of The
Sopranos' Paulie Walnuts, "control issues," a man who at any
moment could Woody Hayes himself into infamy. Whatever you think
of Knight, that would be a shame. --J.M.
LAST ORBIT FOR VENUS?
Venus Williams's rumored retirement may just be more goofing by
tennis's fun family
You knew it couldn't last. Things had been quiet--way too
quiet--over at the Williams Family Circus the last few months: no
crossover bumps, no racial contretemps, no chitchat about buying
Rockefeller Center for $3 billion. This wasn't what we've come to
expect from the rambunctious world of Richard, Venus and Serena.
But now, like the Paul-is-dead rumor that sent Beatles fans into
frenzied mourning, something loony this way comes. Venus is
sewing. Venus is bored with tennis. Venus, all of 19, is done.
That's right. Instead of a looming rematch of last year's
historic final between the Williamses at the Lipton
Championships, the buzz last week at the Ericsson Open (as the
tournament has been renamed) in Key Biscayne, Fla., was all about
Venus's purported retirement. It had been more than four months
since she had last played a match, and, though the official
excuse was recurring tendinitis in both wrists, her weekly
withdrawals and continued silence (through Monday) had spawned a
whirl of speculation that could only delight a teenage diva.
"Venus is taking a long break and it seems isn't interested in
coming back anytime soon," said No. 2 Lindsay Davenport. "One
year, two years, six months--who knows?"
Well, the family knows, of course. "I have the inside
information," Serena said, giggling, after Venus hid in the IMG
luxury box to watch her sister's straight-sets win over
Magdalena Maleeva last Saturday. "Unfortunately, I'm not able to
release that." (Venus watched from the stands on Monday as
Serena was eliminated by Jennifer Capriati.)
It came as no surprise to hear that the sisters' father, Richard,
had no interest in seeing the subject die a nice, fully-denied
death. "I would like to see her retire now," Richard said before
the match. "I would love to see her do that." In fact, Richard
said, he was discussing the subject with Venus, urging her to
leave the sport behind. "Venus is one of the greatest
entrepreneurs in the world, next to me," he said. "She'd do so
much better if she retired right now and went to build her
business the way I've built mine. Venus is so talented designing,
helping me design, clothes that we're putting out for the
organization [he means his family]. Venus is very good when it
comes to understanding the Internet--Web sites, Web development,
Web pages. Venus could end up making a ton of money."
Yes, this sounded like the usual Richard gambit, stirring the pot
for attention. Yet for at least a year the sisters and their
mother, Oracene, indeed had been chattering in public about Venus
retiring by age 22. (Venus, last April: "I have a short attention
span, like my dad. I think Serena will play longer.") And ever
since Venus had watched, hooded and blank-faced, at the 1999 U.S.
Open as her younger sister became the first Williams to win a
Grand Slam singles title, many tennis observers had noticed that
she'd seemed to transfer her passion into clothing design and the
occasional college class. She may have won six titles and $2.3
million last year, but no one around Venus denied the dampening
affect of Serena's rise.
No one, that is, except Serena, who knows her sister better than
anyone. Asked on Saturday night if she'd be surprised if Venus
never played again, Serena said, "Very surprised," and then
grinned and decided she couldn't resist a Williams family gambit
of her own. "I'm going to announce my retirement at Wimbledon,"
she said, then determined even that wasn't good enough. "This is
my last event," she announced. "It's been swell." --S.L. Price
RODMAN AND CASINOS
They Must Like His Money
Las Vegas cocktail waitress Connie Wilcox, who accused Dennis
Rodman of hoisting her up by the sides of her breasts, has
reached an out-of-court settlement with the ex-Piston, ex-Spur,
ex-Bull, ex-Laker, ex-Maverick. This incident, which Wilcox says
happened when she was serving drinks to Rodman and his entourage
in April 1998, is one of at least seven lawsuits Rodman has faced
or is facing for his behavior in Las Vegas casinos in the last
And they ban card counters?
This Atlas Didn't Shrug
Last Friday evening in Philadelphia, ESPN2 boxing trainer cum
analyst Teddy Atlas gave new meaning to the term combination.
Atlas, a dese- and dose-type guy who gained renown working Mike
Tyson's corner, had one of his boxers, unbeaten Kosovar light
heavyweight Elvir Muriqi, entered in a six-round bout against
journeyman Danny Sheehan at the Blue Horizon. So ESPN2 asked him
to work the fight as analyst and trainer. "I was a little
hesitant," said Atlas before the fight, "but it's a great
opportunity for my fighter." Not to mention for Atlas.
Great television too. Atlas served two masters and served them
entertainingly. During each round he sat in Muriqi's corner
wearing a headset and conversing with blow-by-blow man Bob Papa.
Then, at the sound of the bell, he doffed the headset and,
wearing a clip-on mike, entered the ring to counsel Muriqi.
Atlas was candid. During Round 2 he said of Sheehan, a putative
sacrificial lamb, "He's a little raw, I'm not going to lie to
you." After Muriqi lost a point in the third round for a low
blow, Atlas yelled, "Put the punches together and stop the crap."
As the bout progressed and Muriqi was warned for two more low
blows, the crowd turned hostile--"You fight like a Serb!" someone
yelled--and Atlas turned anxious. "My kid's showing his
immaturity," he told Papa during Round 4. One round later, in
between exhorting Muriqi to throw more combos, he said, "Let me
tell you something, Bob, if he can't beat this guy, this'll be a
tough business for him to make a living."
Muriqi lost. Trailing on two of three judges' cards, he was
disqualified after a fourth low blow with 12 seconds remaining in
the bout. Although Muriqi's night was over, Atlas's wasn't. The
final scene was surreal, even for a sport that has seen it all.
As Muriqi and his other handlers wept openly in a corner of his
training room, Atlas stood 10 feet in front of them, on camera,
providing postfight analysis. "Right now [Muriqi's] devastated,"
Atlas told Papa and the viewing audience. "Now he's got to go
back to the gym, enhance his training or get into another
Give Atlas credit. Handling two jobs in one evening, he didn't
pull a punch. --John Walters
BIZARRE SCUBA SITE
For the scuba enthusiast to whom lush coral and exotic fish have
become a yawn, the Family Scuba Center offers an underwater
adventure in a place where few have gone before: an abandoned
Atlas F missile silo. One of the last intact concrete tubes
installed by the Kennedy Administration to withstand a nuclear
war, the 160-foot-deep, 60-foot-wide silo near Abilene, Texas,
features the skeletal remains of lighting systems, launch crew
dressing areas and blast doors, all immersed in millions of
gallons of groundwater.
It's only $35 for a weekend of diving, about the cost of a
cocktail on a Caribbean dive boat. Mark Hannifin and his wife,
Linda, came up with the idea for the dive in 1994 in an effort to
make good on their six-figure investment in the silo, which they
had bought, Hannifin says, "on a whim" after seeing a classified
ad in Abilene's Thrifty Nickel. "Here was this crystal clear pool
at our disposal," says Hannifin. "We thought, why not dive it?"
Toxic radiation levels, perhaps? "The water has been tested,"
Hannifin says. Still, before plunging into the silo's depths,
participants must sign a waiver acknowledging "the specific
additional hazards and dangers attendant to diving...in an
abandoned, salvaged missile silo."
Not Teed-Off at South Carolina
Among the teams and leagues that have decided recently to follow
the NAACP-led tourism boycott of South Carolina are the New York
Knicks, who have trained for the playoffs at the College of
Charleston since 1992, and the Eastern Intercollegiate Athletic
Conference, which moved its conference basketball tournament
earlier last month from Orangeburg, S.C., to Charlotte. Among
others who have taken less decisive stands against the state's
flying of the Confederate battle flag: the Harlem Globetrotters,
who played in six South Carolina cities last month but donated
$50,000 to the state's NAACP office, and the Penn State baseball
team, which played three games in the state last month wearing
red armbands of protest. Both the 'Trotters and the Nittany Lions
have vowed not to return to the state until the flag comes down.
But basketball and baseball take a backseat to golf in South
Carolina, which offers some of the most idyllic settings in the
country. The PGA will get over its Augusta hangover at the aptly
named Heritage of Golf in Hilton Head April 13-16. The event
will take place three days after David Duval and Ernie Els
square off in a made-for-ESPN match play event at Cherokee
Plantation in Yemassee, S.C. The LPGA is sponsoring the City of
Hope Myrtle Beach Classic in June. Asked if moving the
tournament to honor the boycott was ever discussed, an LPGA
spokesperson asked, "What boycott?"
While there are costs associated with moving an event on short
notice, professional golfers should be aware of some of the
smaller-budget fish who have chosen to jump ponds to honor the
boycott: the Baltimore Post Office Rod and Reel Club, the
Pensacola (Fla.) Progressive Bowling Senate and, not to be
overlooked, the Sunday Brunch Golfers of Marietta, Ga.
HALL OF FAME
If the worth of scouts can be measured by their real estate in
Cooperstown, some baseball legends have every right to be
offended. The scouts' exhibit--tucked away in a corner of the
Baseball Hall of Fame under the outdated label of IVORY
HUNTERS--consists of a few old stopwatches, radar guns and
indecipherable note cards. Meanwhile writers and broadcasters,
who rely on scouts for the inside scoop, not only share a more
elaborate alcove but notable scribes and announcers also receive
special honors during Hall of Fame weekend.
"Everyone but batboys and bus drivers gets more recognition than
we do," says Phil (the Ancient Mariner) Pote, a septuagenarian
Seattle scout, who describes himself and his colleagues as "the
backbone of baseball." Pote's pressure has spurred the Hall to
draw up plans for a bigger, more fan-friendly scouts' exhibit
with an interactive component allowing visitors to search for
bird dogs by name and by the players they signed. A construction
date for the display hasn't been set, though, much to the chagrin
of Pote, who points out that history's most storied scouts--those
leather-skinned sweet talkers who supped with the families of
future superstars in the era before the amateur draft disabled
scouts from brokering deals with prospects--are getting up in
years. "If these baseball power people don't get off their butts
on this issue," says Pote, "these old-time scouts will go down
like unknown soldiers."
One of them is Dick Wiencek, 74, who had to convince dubious A's
management that his Claremont, Calif., neighbor, a nearsighted,
redheaded pitcher turned first baseman named McGwire, was a sound
first choice in the 1984 draft. "It's not in my nature to toot my
own horn," says Wiencek, "but ask anyone--teams are only as good
as their scouts."
COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATION BY RANDY DAHLK
COLOR PHOTO: CHRISTOPH RUCKSTUHL/AP
COLOR ILLUSTRATION: MARK ZINGARELLI
TWO B/W PHOTOS: AP (2)
COLOR PHOTO: LARRY KOLVOORD/AP
COLOR PHOTO: THERESA DILLON/SCREEN GEMS
Sergei Fedorov's attempted floral cross-check of his
rival-in-love didn't work when Anna Kournikova remained engaged
to the Panthers' Pavel Bure despite Fedorov's gift of 240 roses.
But since returning on March 3 from a Scotty Bowman-suggested
leave of absence, the Russian Reject had eight goals and seven
assists in 12 games through Sunday. As Byron put it: Thus the
heart will break, yet brokenly live on.
Zip code for Hernando, Fla., (now 34442) requested by a crusading
Boston baseball fan.
Lifetime batting average of Red Sox legend and Hernando
resident Ted Williams.
Miles the Jackson (Miss.) Bandits traveled by bus on a 21-game
East Coast Hockey League road trip.
Career free throw mark (397 of 431) of LaPorte (Ind.) High's
Steve Drabyn Jr., a national record.
Ticket price to MetroStars-Fusion game for any Lothars, in honor
of the MetroStars' Lothar Matthaus.
A Joe DiMaggio autographed baseball, housed in a small display
case, in the goody baskets given to award presenters on Oscar
The world record in the rarely-run 300 meters, by Michael
Johnson, who ran a 30.85, shaving a half second off the old mark,
though he hasn't started serious training.
Chris Cotter, 28, the Caucasian boyfriend of star British triple
jumper Ashia Hansen, who's black, by three or four
knife-wielding white men. Police called the assault in
Birmingham, England, which left Cotter with cuts on his back
and forehead, racially motivated.
Sky-climbing Raptors star Vince Carter, by his Carolina homeboy
Michael Jordan, who in comparing two Airs apparent picked the
Lakers' Kobe Bryant as the better player.
Half of author Tom Clancy's 24% ownership of the Orioles (a
team valued at $323 million), to his ex-wife, Wanda, in a divorce
Crotch, or thereabouts, 1,658 times, by WWF wrestlers whose
theatrics were analyzed in a 50-program sample taken by an
Indiana University study.
Hooray for Hollywood
The recent fluctuations of the stock market have nothing on the
life of former Cowboys linebacker Thomas (Hollywood) Henderson,
who was back in the news in Texas last week.
Gets first bike at 8
Shortly thereafter begins stealing bikes around hometown of
Becomes Dallas's 1975 first-round draft choice
Beaten by coach Tom Landry in 1 1/2-mile run at first training
Caps outstanding rookie year with appearance in Super Bowl X, the
first of three he will play in with the Cowboys
In Super Bowl XIII, forces fumble in second quarter that's
returned for touchdown
Snorts cocaine in third quarter; Cowboys lose to Steelers 35-31
As a Miami Dolphin in 1981, breaks neck in final preseason game,
ending his career
Nov. 2, 1983: freebases cocaine and has sex with two girls;
gets arrested after police discover they are underage
Hollywood begins working as an alcohol and drug counselor
Served as addiction-recovery counselor for golfer John Daly as a
part of Daly's 1993 probation agreement with Colorado authorities
Daly now drinking alcohol regularly
Announces plans to run for seat on Austin City Council
Ruled ineligible to hold office due to prior conviction
Wins $28 million in Texas state lottery
WORD FOR WORD
In the soon-to-be-released film Black and White, the Knicks'
Allan Houston portrays--woodenly, we might add--a college hoops
star, while Mike Tyson is quite a find as, well, Mike Tyson. B
and W includes unscripted scenes, and we wonder how much of this
exchange between Tyson and the rapper-producer Power, who plays
hip hop impresario Rich Bower, was improvised.
Tyson: You have a problem with somebody, you have to solve the
problem, take care of the problem. You're angry, angry about
people, and you feel they've betrayed you. If you're not willing
to be nice to somebody constantly, then you should kill them,
because if you're not nice to them, you empower them. Once you
empower them, they're going to kill you or hurt you.
Power: So you're telling me I got to murder him.
Tyson: Hold on, my friend. I said nothing of the sort. I'm too
fastidious with my words.... What I said is, you have a problem,
deal with the repercussions of it. Are you willing to deal with
the responsibility of going to penitentiary? I've been there, you
don't want to go to prison. Random strip search, random kick you
in the ass, have a dog look up your ass. Some pervert guard
playing with your a------, your balls. Is that what you want?
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
King County, Wash., still needs to collect $206 million in
taxes for the Seattle Kingdome, which was imploded on Sunday.
Knight suddenly jumped up and grabbed me with one hand. He got a
handful of shirt, neck and chest hair, and it hurt like hell.
They Said It
Devil Rays DH, on his recently opened Canseco Financial Group, a
mortgage and investments firm: "I love this. It's like gambling."