Bob Knight, hoops comedian: He'll be here all night

Bob Knight, hoops comedian: He'll be here all night

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by Scott Fowler / Charlotte Observer

Scott Fowler / Charlotte Observer

Posted on March 15, 2011 at 9:46 AM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 15 at 9:51 AM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Who knew Bob Knight was such a comedian?

The former Indiana coach, now an ESPN broadcaster, stole the show at the "Inside the Brackets" gabfest Monday night at Spirit Square in uptown Charlotte. Knight threw out one salty one-liner after another -- most of them unprintable in a family newspaper -- to highlight an entertaining evening of college basketball talk.

Knight asked early if there was anyone in the crowd of several hundred who had officiated basketball at any level. Three men raised their hands, and Knight proceeded to good-naturedly rip them for the rest of the evening.

He also told several stories about how far he went while coaching Army to make sure a guard named Mike Krzyzewski would never, ever shoot the ball.

Knight, announcer Billy Packer, former Duke star Mike Gminski, former North Carolina star Phil Ford and surprise guest Jay Bilas of ESPN talked hoops, picked upsets and told stories for two hours. Among the things those who were there learned:

Packer and Knight believe Brigham Young will be upset early, with Packer going so far as to pick Wofford to beat BYU in a Round of 64 matchup.

Knight said if he were in coach K's shoes and Kyrie Irving was cleared to play by doctors at Duke that Knight would use Irving off the bench in the NCAA tournament rather than insert the point guard into the starting lineup.

Ford said North Carolina coach Dean Smith advised him to go pro after his junior year and Ford replied: "Who's going to tell my Mama?"

Knight said he thought the Tar Heels' NCAA situation had actually improved by losing to Duke in Sunday's ACC tournament final.

"That will wake 'em up a little," Knight said of the Tar Heels.

The men also gave a sort of unofficial tribute to former Tar Heel coach Dean Smith, a good friend of Knight's despite their different personalities.

"I think I did and said a lot of things he wished he could have - that's why we got along so well," Knight said. Knight had to stop talking about Smith abruptly one time Monday night because he started to choke up.

Gminski recalled that Smith "wrote me the best letter I've ever gotten" - right after Gminski had spurned the Tar Heels for Duke as a recruit.

A few years later, Gminski laughingly said that Smith managed to get him thrown out of a Duke-UNC game - at Cameron Indoor Stadium - by purposely overplaying an elbow Gminski had thrown at Al Wood.

Ford apologized in advance to Knight, then called Smith the best coach there ever was. "I tell everybody that the games were easy," Ford said. "Practices were hard."

Quipped Knight: "That's why you should have come to Indiana. We had easy practices."

The event was part of a prostate cancer education and awareness campaign (www.OntheLine.com for more details).

The men didn't talk that much about the 2011 NCAA brackets. None of them picked a Final Four, for instance, although Bilas said Ohio State and Kansas were clearly the two best teams. But the evening was rich in basketball history, like the story that Knight told about coaching Michael Jordan on the 1984 U.S. Olympic squad.

Knight said the U.S. was about to play a poor Uruguay team in the Olympics and he told Jordan: "I want this over in five minutes. I don't want to get on anybody for once. I want to enjoy the last 35 minutes. Make it happen."

After four minutes of near-perfect basketball, the U.S. had an insurmountable lead.

Jordan walked by Knight during a timeout, placed his hand on the coach's shoulder and said, "Coach, if you'll check the scoreboard, we're a minute ahead of schedule."

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