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VINE VOICEon 4 January 2010
Bob Knight had a long, if controversial, career as a basketball coach. His coaching was based on his early coaching career in the army and one wonders if the discipline which was expected of soldiers was really suitable for the Indiana Hoosiers. That Knight achieved success is beyond question, whether it was because of his coaching, or despite it, remains an open question. His supporters would regard him as firm but fair, his detractors as debilitating and unfeeling.

One of the myths about collective team sports is that they thrive on aggression characterised by foul language. However, individual sports persons require individual treatment while avoiding favouritism. Professionals are often excused loutish behaviour on the field with the suggestion that taking the fire out of their temperament would reduce their effectiveness. It's a myth. The late Derek Dougan made this point when he denounced the idea of the "professional foul" while Joe Royle made a similar point when he said of one of his players, "he needs an arm round his shoulder".

Feinstein makes no concessions in describing Knight's approach. Hard, uncompromising and "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" which one would expect from a coach who enjoyed belittling players as if to hide his own weaknesses. Total emotional involvement is a poor way of succeeding if such success diminishes one's own humanity. Knight's approach demanded discipline from his players while he showed little restraint in his behaviour towards officials. His one year of success was followed by constant failure which leads one to ask whether another approach would have been better.

In fairness to Knight he was always loyal to his players. When Landon Turner was paralysed for life in a car crash Knight spent most of his waking hours raising money for a fund which soon reached $400,000. Turner, "had a motorised wheelchair and a van. His parents' home was redone with ramps throughout so he could get around and a condominium was purchased for him to live in. When he was ready to return to school, his scholarship was waiting; Knight named him captain of the 1982 team he would never play for." Such generosity during coaching practice was unknown, not because Knight lacked it but because he was unable to express it in a coaching philosophy which did not allow for failure of any kind. This created an ability to hurt and cause pain to everyone who knew him, including himself.

Knight had three weaknesses "losses, grudges and tantrums." He found wealth and fame, the latter resulting in a capacity for intimidating officials. Over a period of thirty years Knight's tantrums were regularly reported and frowned upon until he was finally asked to resign. What comes over in the book is the intensity of the college basketball scene in the United States where money plays a major role. Other reviewers have found Feinstein's book to their taste. It's not an enthusiasm I can enjoy. Knight's approach reminds me of the weakness of many managers in team games - an inability to maintain their detachment in times of crisis. Personally I hope we've seen the last of the Bob Knights in sport and their replacement by more emotionally balanced coaches who display the discipline and professionalism they demand from their players.

I found this book difficult to rate. On a personal level I found Bob Knight's attitude to coaching at odds with my own coaching philosophy but then I've never coached a team sport. In his own terms Knight's ultimate successes were meagre and one wonders whether he ever learned anything from his failures. On another level, of course, the writer's aim was to provide a "warts and all" picture of what happened during his year with the Indiana Hoosiers. In that he succeeds and deserves no less than four stars for achieving that objective.
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on 2 December 2007
As best I can tell, this is the finest book yet written about Indiana University basketball and Bob Knight, and it's 21 years old. Feinstein is a top notch biographer and he doesn't sugar coat anything in this book. It's filled with interesting anecdotes and quite a few raw quotes. The mid-1980s was a magical time for IU basketball, including in their rivalry with Purdue and Gene Keady. And Feinstein tagging along for a whole season gives the reader a good feel for some of the magic of basketball in the state of Indiana, as portrayed in the movie Hoosiers. I think Feinstein is quite objective in his portrayal of the good, the bad, and the ugly in Knight. Regardless of your opinion of Knight, I think it's clear that he cares about his players, the sport of college basketball, and about running a clean program. Feinstein ends by stating that the then 46-year-old Knight is "A young man with a bright future. If he doesn't destroy it." Knight may have come close to doing so around 2000, but he's recovered nicely and seems to be doing well at Texas Tech. Author of Adjust Your Brain: A Practical Theory for Maximizing Mental Health.
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on 29 January 1999
I didn't know what to think of Bob Knight before I read this book but now I greatly admire him. Sure he's vulgar and aggressive, but he's a man who believes in athletics and academics. He does his job with all of the passion in his heart. I've read other things by Feinstein and I often find him to be unfair to people just for the sake of sensationalism; this holds true in this book. I take some things he says with a grain of salt for that reason. Read this book if you have a chance. The strongly convicted and impassioned among you will be huge Bob Knight fans by the end of it.
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on 20 January 1999
...I admire him greatly. What a marvelous read. This is one of the top sports books I've ever read, and it was Feinstein's best book...(Sorry John, but each book gets worse...you are the Orson Wells of your genre) The book deals with such drama and human emotion that parts left me drained. Ever since I read this I have always rooted for coach Knight. He does so much good in the world, and yet we never read about it...curious. Even if you are not a sports fan, this is a wonderful read. Enjoy
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on 6 January 1999
Feinstein is an excellent writer, and I'm a rabid fan of his, so I have to give this book 4 stars; he covers the characters and environment of IU basketball with such care and attention to detail, that you can't help but enjoy the text. I was a Knight fan before I read this book (how can you NOT like a guy that's impassioned enough to chuck a chair across a court?), but now I'm not so sure. That's the only drawback : maybe the characters are not so likable afterall....
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on 14 July 1997
This is a fascinating look into the genius and the madness that is Bob Knight. Feinstein details what its like to play for the demanding hall of fame coach. He takes you behind the scenes and into the locker room. Once I started, I could not put this book down. This book is a must for any basketball fan.
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on 22 December 1997
Feinstein's account of a season with marginal Indiana is splendid. Knight, coaching a .500 ballclub, is followed through the grueling Big Ten schedule that includes wintry stopovers in Madison and rural Iowa against other Big Ten powers. The account follows the struggles of the team as it withers and grows and withers and grows again under the sometimes Napoleanic sometimes Mr. Rogers behavior of three-time NCAA and Olympic champion Bobby Knight. Few Dean Smith fans also comment favorably on the coaching style of Bobby Knight, but this account renders Knight likeable. It also rightly puts Knight at the top of his profession among the game's greatest innovators and leaders along with Dean Smith of North Carolina and Henry Iba of Oklahoma State. A great read.
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on 6 March 1999
This is a great book which tells you alot about bob. The author doesn't hold anything back from you and he lets you know of everything. READ IT TODAY!!
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on 4 March 1999
It's been some years since I read the book, but I recall it vividly. I know that Bob Knight hated it and Feinstein, but I've always thought that the book is a fair portrayal of a great man who is not perfect (and who is). Just as many a man becomes a man from his Marine basic training, so does Bob Knight mould his boys into men, stressing what is important both on and off the court. I would love for my son to be coached by him. What harm are a few "F" words going to do? Another reason that I enjoyed the book so much is that I was a Cleveland State fan at the time and the Indiana season ends with a defeat at the hands of an unknown, but very talented, Cleveland State team.
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on 23 May 1999
These are just some of the qualitites that The General exhibits and imparts to his players. I'm sorry to say it, but IU is one of the last honest programs around. Don't go to class, you don't play. Players leave Knight's program a better person. And there is not a more loyal person on the face of the Earth than R.M.K. I'll admit, the game may be passing him by, but it is a shame that it is. When Knight's coaching and teaching methods are "out of style," it is a bad sign for college basketball.
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