Is Bobby Knight Right for Rutgers?

BrianContributor IJanuary 27, 2010

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

The Rutgers men's basketball program has never been a powerhouse. It hasn't held a national ranking since 1979, hasn't made it past the first round of the NCAA Tournament since 1983, and hasn't appeared in the tournament since 1991.

Four years ago, the Scarlet Knights thought they turned a corner when they hired Fred Hill to take charge of their program, the man who recently helped bring one of the nation's best recruiting classes to Villanova as an assistant coach. 

In the first three years of Hill's tenure, Rutgers' best finish in the Big East was 14th place; this year, they are poised to finish near the bottom of the conference yet again. The speculation over whether Hill's days in New Brunswick are numbered is rampant—and his firing is probably likely.

A number of names have been tossed around as candidates for the Rutgers coaching job, but none of them is as high-profile as Bob Knight. Recently, a rumor has been spreading through the Internet that Rutgers may pull the plug on Hill soon, and that they might be interested in Bob Knight. The rumors usually end by citing that Knight is interested in Rutgers as well.

Knight was "interested" in the job at Georgia, too, but he wasn't invited to set up shop in Athens.

Knight doesn't come cheap; no coach with more than 900 career wins would. Rutgers can't expect a ton of funding from the state right now—certainly not for a basketball coach. It will likely cost the university a seven-figure payout to get out of its contract with Hill. The boosters would need to come up big for basketball in order to bring a big name to New Jersey.

Assuming that the money wasn't an issue, would Rutgers really want to take on the controversy that is Bob Knight? Choking players, throwing chairs, attacking fans (both home and away), are all moves within Knight's repertoire—all of which could create a difficult legal and public relations situation for the university. 

Furthermore, there is no reason to believe that Knight could turn Rutgers into a contender. He has a lot of wins during his career, and he certainly knows the X's and O's of the game as well as anyone. However, his antics on and off the court will likely drive away some of the top prospects.

Knight never got the Red Raiders further than the Sweet Sixteen (one appearance), and they never finished higher than third in the Big 12 (his first year). Knight missed the NCAA Tournament three times (including the 2007-08 season, when he resigned) as the Texas Tech coach, and in two of those years, he failed to qualify for the NIT field, as well.

After seven largely mediocre years in the Big 12, could the Bob Knight of 2010 compete in the Big East?

Why take the risk?

After paying Hill to go away, Rutgers should look for a cheaper option with a greater upside. That option could be Kevin Boyle, head coach of the nationally ranked high school power St. Patrick's of Elizabeth, N.J. Boyle has been rumored to have his eye on a college coaching job, and who better to bring him up to the big time than Rutgers?

Can a high school coach make the jump to the Big East? For most high school coaches, the answer would be no. But this is St. Pat's, a high school that recruits kids from New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia to come and bolster its program. Boyle has his finger on the pulse of the prospects in the region at a very early stage. He should have no problem finding talent to come to Rutgers.

Maybe even a couple of his current players would come with him. After all, Michael Gilchrist is still uncommitted.

Boyle's presumed low price, his connections to his own top prospects, and his ability to recruit talent in the region should make him one of the leading candidates for Rutgers.

If Rutgers really wants to hire an established college coach, I would look at Steve Donahue from Cornell. Under his watch, Cornell is playing the best basketball that the Ivy League has seen, certainly since Fran Dunphy left for Temple and probably since Pete Carril was at Princeton.

After the bulk of his key players graduate this May, Donahue will likely be willing to move on to his next challenge. He has shown himself capable of recruiting at the Ivy level as well as coaching a mid-major at a high level.

Will Knight be in the mix? Sure, but all things considered, Rutgers would be better off looking elsewhere.


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