I was watching an episode of The Bob Knight Show a couple of days ago from the end of the 1985 season when Chuck Marlowe asked Knight about Marty Simmons’ decision to transfer. Knight’s response was interesting, not because it was crazy or angry or annoyed at Chuck for asking (all of which are perfectly cromulent reasons for something from TBKS to be interesting), and not just because of it’s sheer length and seeming disinterest in natural stopping points, but because it elucidated something that’s been creeping around in the darker corners of my brain these last few months.
At the heart of Knight’s response is what seems to be the central tenet of his recruiting and player development philosophy. This is what he said:
Well, I think, Chuck, what you’re talking about relative to Simmons indicating a desire to transfer and go to school elsewhere is something that, I think, happens. It’s gonna happen next year, or two years from now, or five years from now, or whenever, on almost every college campus in the country. My policy with kids and playing time has been to take kids at the end of sophomore year who have not, perhaps, had a great deal of playing time in the first two years. When we recruit a player, I tell him that I think he should try to learn what college basketball is all about as a freshman and, as a sophomore, hope to get to play some. And then as a junior and senior be able to come in and play as a full time player, and you probably have maybe seven or occasionally eight players that you can consider full time players. And if at the end of a sophomore year I don’t think that a player is going to be able to fall into or fill the role of a full time player in a junior and senior year, going back to when I was coaching at West Point, I would always bring those players in and talk to them about it in this way: “If you have an interest in playing basketball, actually playing in games, in the next two years, this is not going to be the place where I think you’re going to be able to play. We’ve got”…and I’d go through the players we have and so on and so forth, and I’m trying to project what I think is going to be his ability to play during these next two years, in the junior and senior years. If a player has played a great deal, like an Alford has played virtually as a starter in most every game that we’ve played since he’s been here or certainly in the vast majority of them, then there’s no need to talk to him about what his playing status is going to be. But I’ve always felt that a player needs to know that going into the junior year. If he in fact really wants to play, if just being part of the team, being here, isn’t going to be quite satisfying enough for him then he should go somewhere else and I usually understand that and actually encourage kids if playing time is a foremost consideration for them then we’ll help them make arrangements to go elsewhere, where they have a better chance to play. Either the player hasn’t quite been as good as we thought he might be, obviously we recruited him because we thought he’d be a very good player for us here, that we use that rule of thumb, play a little bit as a sophomore and then play as a junior or senior and that’s how we recruit every player that we look at and yet there will be times when that thing, that formula just doesn’t work out and then I think it’s only fair to the player that he knows it. When we have a player that’s going into his senior year that still isn’t going to be able to play I have even, on occasion, given those players the option as to whether, in fact, they wanted to play basketball or not. By saying, “You’re not going to get to play. You’ve put in three years, it’s going to be tough for you to play next year. Do you, in fact, want to play? If you’re gonna play, you’re going to have to really make a great contribution in practice. I can remember kids, again going back to West Point, that have said, “Well, I’ll do whatever I can.” And on occasion there have been kids that have said, “I’d rather just get done what I have to do academically.” So, I think, as long as you’re only going to play five, and as long as you’re only going to be pretty much only working from a total roster of 15 players you’re going to have to come to a point where a player is not going to be able to play. There will be players like that. I think the only way to go about it is to let the player know what you’re thinking is in terms of how much he’s going to get to play instead of letting the player continue to be a part of what you’re doing and then become very disappointed because he doesn’t get the kind of playing time he would like have. If playing is important, I think that a player, where ever he’s going, after two years, should then look at a situation where he’s definitely going to get to play. And that has happened in the past with us. It’s happened here, after this season has been completed with Marty Simmons, and it’s going to happen in the future, whether it’s going to be with us or whomever and that’s the way we’re always going to try to go about it.
Did you get all of that? God, I love The Bob Knight Show!
Knight recruited players he thought would be really good and then, at the end of their Sophomore year (or in some cases junior year) he would look at the team make up and if that player didn’t look to be a full time player going forward he would let them know that and sometimes they’d move on. It was unbelievably common for that to happen.
The following is a list of players who left after their sophomore or junior seasons.
1983 – John Flowers (mid-Januray departure, but it was playing time related, or so it seems)
1984 – Tracy Foster
1985 – Marty Simmons and Mike Giomi
1986 – Andre Harris (1 season JuCo), Delray Brooks, Courtney Witte,
1987 – Tony Freeman (1 season), Dave Minor (1 season),
1988 – Ricky Calloway
1989 – Jay Edwards (went pro), Chuckie White (1 season JuCo)
1990 – Lawrence Funderburke (midseason storm out)
1991 – Chris Lawson
1993 – Malcolm Simms (1 year)
1995 – Steve Hart, Michael Herman
1996 – Sherron Wilkerson (not about playing time) , Lou Moore (Transferred in, transferred out), Chris Rowles
1997 – Jean Paul
1998 – Jason Collier (mid-season, not about playing time),
1999 – Luke Recker (clearly not about playing time)
2000 – Tom Geyer (Left with Knight)
I’m stopping there. More out of fatigue than anything else, but with all that in mind, let me ask you this?
How is Crean going to deal with over-signing players every year?!?!?!!?
I have much more to say about this quote and it’s incredible relevance to today, but I’ll save that for my next post.