‘General’ sure to shock in TV studio

By Jeremy Werner

March may be the craziest month in sports, but ESPN’s hiring of Bobby Knight is just pure madness.

The sports network hired Knight on Thursday as a men’s college basketball studio analyst 24 days after he stepped down from the head coaching position at Texas Tech, leaving the post to son Pat. “The General” signed on to work extensively for ESPN from March 12 through the end of the NCAA Tournament, which concludes on April 7.

Knight has an extensive knowledge of college basketball. The former Army, Indiana and Texas Tech coach is a legend, having won 902 games over his career – more than any other head coach in Division I men’s college basketball history.

But Knight’s knowledge of the game was not the deciding factor in the hire, as he gives the network a star attraction during a month in which CBS dominates college basketball coverage.

To the casual fan, Knight is known more for his sometimes shocking behavior and comments rather than his success on the court. ESPN hired him knowing this, hoping fans will tune in to “The Worldwide Leader in Sports” not for the quality of programming, but for the shock-jock value it hopes Knight will provide.

Knight’s conduct may be helpful as a commentator but could also rub people the wrong way, which is exactly what ESPN is looking for.

Knight has never been a fan of reporters. In fact, up until his resignation, the coach continued to jab and mock reporters and even brought his toddler grandson, Will, to a postgame press conference in January following win No. 899 against UTEP. Knight spoke absolute nonsense, telling his grandson he will be a good coach for not answering any of the media’s questions.

The former coach seems to have sold his soul, as he now becomes a member of the media he so frequently criticized for years.

“ESPN has been real good for college basketball, and I look forward to working with some of their people who I have known a long time,” Knight said in a press release.

This is not the first time ESPN has been involved with Knight. The sports network ran a movie based on John Feinstein’s “A Season on the Brink,” which chronicled Knight’s 1985-86 season at Indiana. ESPN also aired the reality program “Knight School,” which followed 16 Texas Tech students competing for a walk-on spot with the Red Raiders.

ESPN has a possible new reality show on its hands, matching Knight with other well-known personalities in the college basketball studio, including Digger Phelps, Dick Vitale, Doug Gottlieb, Jay Bilas and Pat Forde.

College basketball fans, welcome to ESPN’s newest reality show: Real World Bristol.

Episode 1: First day of work.

Upon entering the studio, Vitale runs up to Knight and gives him a huge hug, screaming, “Welcome to the show, baby! The General! The greatest there ever was! Mr. Indiana!” After escaping Vitale’s grip of love and adoration, Knight reaches under the studio desk and throws his chair at Dickie V. But Vitale remains unfazed, responding, “Great throw, baby! He’s still got it!”

Digger Phelps, a former Notre Dame coach, then walks up to Knight and sarcastically tells him how much he appreciated Knight landing all the best high school recruits in the state of Indiana. Knight gives Phelps a blank stare that would scare Sasquatch from those Jack Link’s commercials. Phelps quickly turns around and runs off, saying, “Let me go get you a highlighter to match that tie of yours, Coach.”

Former players Jay Bilas and Doug Gottlieb walk into the studio, sending Knight into a rampage and forcing him to be restrained from attacking the analysts. “Coach, you’re one of us now,” Bilas says calmly to Knight, who realizes his error and sits back down.

But when ESPN.com columnist Pat Forde walks into the studio, no one can hold Knight back as he seeks revenge for the critical column Forde wrote as the former coach approached Dean Smith’s all-time wins record. The two then engage in a month-long verbal brawl that gets more ratings than the actual tournament.

Note: Forde wins by disqualification after Knight refuses to answer one of his questions and says Forde is “one or two steps above prostitution.” (Knight actually said this about journalists once.)

Ridiculous? Well, it’s what ESPN is hoping for. Enjoy the train wreck.

Jeremy Werner is a junior in Communications. He can be reached at [email protected]