BOB KNIGHT joined the media this month, a shift that is tantamount to Rush Limbaugh's working for the Clinton campaign. This is the same Bob Knight, after all, who once scoffed at journalists by saying, "All of us learn to write in the second grade. Most of us go on to greater things."
Some even go on to television. Why did ESPN think Knight, who resigned from Texas Tech on Feb. 4, ending a 47-year coaching career, could make the transition? Executive vice president Norby Williamson told SI that after seeing Knight in inter views and the 2006 reality series Knight School, he believed "that body of work demonstrated he is compelling television."
Knight, at 67, is in fact that, even if— perhaps because—he is rough around the edges. While his colleagues (usually Dick Vitale, Digger Phelps and Rece Davis) sport suits and have impeccable TV manners, Knight wears ESPN sweaters and occasionally looks as if he'd rather be dove-hunting. But his analysis of the NCAA tournament, which he'll cover through the Final Four, has been first-rate (even if his title pick, Pittsburgh, got eliminated). Knight is outstanding when breaking down strategies and strengths, which he did expertly after Butler's win over South Alabama. "For a team that relies on threes, they play pretty smart defense," Knight said of the Bulldogs. "And I think they pass the ball better than anybody in the country. That's why they get so many open threes."
Knight has talked little about himself, but Phelps and Vitale still seem starstruck. Vitale's harangue on Selection Sunday—he implored Indiana to rehire Knight, who coached there from 1971 to 2000—left even Knight speechless. He mocked Vitale rather than take the bait: "I think if we cut off [Vitale's] mike, he'd have a spare."
Is Knight having fun? The General declined SI's interview request, but ESPN's Williamson is comfortable with having a serial media basher on board. "If our goal is to provide the most information and the most entertainment, I don't think we are doing our job unless we get a person of Bob Knight's stature to work for us," he says.
So far, the sweater fits. Welcome to the dark side, Coach.
The Pop Culture Grid
How do sports stars fit in?
_________ will win the NCAA tournament
You know you're in trouble when ...
I'm totally addicted to ...
Favorite board game
MATT KEMP Dodgers RF
John Lennon (top), the only one I know
My mama says, "Matthew Ryan!"
Mike and Ike's candy
BRANDON BASS Mavericks F
I don't have one
Mama got the switch after you
GEOFF JENKINS Phillies RF
You don't get the runner in from third
My one-year-old daughter, Logan
WILLIE GREEN Sixers G
Paul McCartney (above)
The league office calls asking for you
JOHN ATASHIAN/ESPN (KNIGHT)
GOOD KNIGHT He's rumpled, but the General's analysis has been spot on.
AMANDA ODESKI/THE DULUTH NEWS TRIBUNE/AP (MONOPOLY)
EXPRESS/GETTY IMAGES (MCCARTNEY)
UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA (UNC LOGO)
MICHAEL LEBRECHT/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (GREEN)
TOMASSO DE ROSA/US PRESSWIRE (JENKINS)
NATHANIEL S. BUTLER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (BASS)
CHRIS WILLIAMS/ICON SMI (KEMP)