I was born in Indiana, my father played high school basketball, I played high school basketball, my favorite college basketball coach growing up was Bob Knight, and my two favorite college players of all time were Calbert Chaney and Damon Bailey. I remember watching Knight almost deck Ted Valentine while storming off the court, I remember him shoving Michael Lewis into a chair, and I remember watching the video of him grabbing Neil Reed for the first time. When you grow up admiring someone, you also find yourself making excuses for your heroes. You can justify every act, point out all the great things that he has done and simply ignore the cold hard facts that are right in front of you. I was in law school when Bob Knight was fired at Indiana, and I remember defending him to my classmates and talking about his graduation rates, his charities and the fact that he never cheated. It was blind loyalty. I also did not want to admit that I admired someone that was a bully.
Watching the press conferences this week I was reminded of my staunch support for Bob Knight and how misguided I was. I was also reminded that i was 24 years old at the time and that 36 year old me can't fathom what the Rutgers AD was thinking when he didn't immediately fire the basketball coach. Then again, wanting to take responsibility for hiring a bully is something that an AD would be embarrassed by, and would want to be swept under the rug. The similarities between Bob Knight and Mike Rice go beyond the verbal and physical abuse; it is the fact that without video evidence going public, both coaches would have never been fired. This is simply a sad commentary of what people will do to avoid upsetting the apple cart.
The fact that the Rutgers' AD hoped this would go away, or that Mike Rice would change is not surprising when you consider how often in everyday life people ignore bullying instead of confronting it head on. How many times have you witnessed someone being physically or verbally abused, whether it is a child, a wife, or an elderly person and simply ignored it? What happened at Rutgers is just another example of bullying being ignored and how in our society it is not given the amount of attention it needs in order to stop it. People are always able to justify a person's actions when they have a vested interest in the character of the bully. I was able to do it with Coach Knight, and the Rutgers AD was able to do it here with Mike Rice. Hopefully this situation will help protect others from bullies like Mike Rice and Bob Knight, but the odds are it won't.