In the interest of full disclosure I feel I need to admit to some bias at the outset. I have strong feelings about both of these statements, and I need them on the record before I proceed.
1.) I detest John Calipari, what he stands for, and the impact what he stands for has on college basketball.
2.) I like Bob Knight, and I find that I agree with a lot of what he has to say.
Last week Coach Knight gave a talk in Wabash, IN, portions of which were made available on youtube.
He was asked at one point what he thought about Calipari and whether he’s good for college basketball. Knight said the following.
“I’m sure if I was a Kentucky fan, I would.” He paused for the laughter and applause and proceeded with, ”I’m not a Kentucky fan.”
This got the cheers you would expect it to get from a room full of people who, based on their willingness to pay for a ticket and the fact that they live in Indiana, are IU fans, and hate Kentucky.
But Knight went on.
“Kentucky, year before last, started five players in the NCAA tournament games that had not been to class that semester. That’s that one and done philosophy.”
That’s a pretty strong statement, “five players who had not been to class that semester.”
He didn’t say, “started five players who had no incentive to go to class that semester.”
“started five players who could have played the entire tournament without having gone to class that semester.”
Both of those would have been true statements, that had the added benefit of just being one person’s opinion.
But Knight said, “five players who had not been to class that semester.”
And the major problem with that sentence, aside from the fact that it seems to be completely false, is that it is easily proven on way or another. So, my immediate thought was, “Well, surely he has some sort of proof to back up such a strong statement. I’ll just wait patiently for him to present it. This surely isn’t just some inflammatory statement designed to pander to the audience in front of him. ”
Followed immediately by the realization that the exact opposite of my original thought had to be to true.
And then by, “That was an exceptionally stupid thing to say.”
Look, I get it. Knight’s point is that with a one and done situation a student can gain his second semester eligibility by attending classes first semester and then, knowing that they were leaving at year’s end and that the season would be long over before the second semester grades were out to determine eligibility, not attend a single class 2nd semester and still be eligible to play in the NCAA tournament.
But that’s not what he said, and the UK fans (and the administration) are less than pleased.
He leveled an accusation, for which he has no proof, at a group of people who will go to their deaths defending completely erroneous and indefensible positions. And who, by the way, didn’t like him already. Image how loudly they’ll yell if they actually have the facts on their side.
And in this case they do. Or, at my most wanting to assume the worst of UK basketball, Knight doesn’t have the proof to back up what he said.
So, thanks coach. You’ve put me in the horrible position of siding with Kentucky fans against you.
Knight’s only real option at this point, because he’s not one to back down from things he’s said or done is to go with the only response possible.
“My remark was not intended to be a factual statement.”