The Right, Wrong About Bob Knight's Shot at Kentucky's John Calipari

Jonathan LintnerSenior Analyst IDecember 18, 2009

KANSAS CITY, MO - NOVEMBER 24: Bob Knight former head coach, looks on as an ESPN commentator during the CBE Classic games on November 24, 2008 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Bob Knight, like so many former college basketball coaches and players, is a professional analyst.

Knight jumped straight to working at the highest level. At ESPN. At the four-letter network every aspiring journalist attempts to reach.

And he said this about Kentucky coach John Calipari—the coach of a team Knight is likely to call another game for this season—at an Indiana University fundraiser.

“We've gotten into this situation where integrity is really lacking and that's why I'm glad I'm not coaching," Knight said. “You see we've got a coach at Kentucky who put two schools on probation, and he's still coaching. I really don't understand that.”

Knight’s words were particularly disheartening knowing the standards he should be shooting to reach as an ESPN employee. As a so-called journalist. As a representative of the four-letter network.

What Knight did isn’t quite a look back to ESPN’s Dana Jacobson and the Notre Dame fiasco, but it’s not that far away.

Jacobson was reprimanded for her actions. Behind the scenes, the same should be expected of Knight.

That’s the wrong about what Knight said—but there’s also some right.

Every critic of Calipari will agree: He’s like Teflon. Nothing sticks to him. Not at Massachusetts or Memphis, the universities he left with NCAA violations rather than Final Four appearances.

Calipari gave the critics another chance to take a shot at him through freshman John Wall’s recruitment in his first offseason as coach of the Wildcats.

Wall was in line to join Calipari at Memphis against his “handlers” wishes, then followed the coach to Kentucky.

This past summer, Wall was charged with breaking and entering—after home-state coach Roy Williams had cooled off on the nation’s top recruit.

Why wouldn’t Williams touch Wall? Perhaps he thought something bad might stick to him.

Calipari didn’t.

That’s the good of what Knight said, recognizing what every college basketball onlooker already knew.

Though after this season, when Wall heads to the NBA, Calipari might not have to worry about his recruiting practices anymore.

Wherever Calipari has coached in the past, his teams haven’t been top tier until he arrived.

Kentucky, which expects to be the first school to 2,000 wins next week against Drexel, already has the prestige, the athletic budget, and the facilities to woo a high schooler without Calipari muddying the recruiting waters.

If you want to catch Calipari, this is the year to do it—while William Wesley is still welcomed behind the Kentucky bench, while Wall is still dashing past defenders, and while Calipari’s recruiting practices at Kentucky are still in their infancy.

Because after this season, he might not have to worry about a no-stick solution.

That’s why he chose Kentucky, and that’s why Kentucky chose him.

It’s also why Knight’s no longer a college basketball coach. Well, that and his journalism gig.


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