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Schaap Stands Ground With Knight

September 15, 2000|LARRY STEWART

Once a bully, always a bully.

There was no need for ESPN's Jeremy Schaap to ask Bob Knight if he was going to change.

During Tuesday's interview with Schaap, the fired Indiana basketball coach, never hinting at being sorry for anything, showed he's still the bully he always has been.

Knight would ramble and Schaap, the son of longtime broadcaster Dick Schaap who has built a reputation of his own as a good interviewer, would try to reel him in. Then Knight would complain about being interrupted and say, "Will you let me finish?"

As the badgering intensified, Knight said, "You've got a long way to go to be as good as your dad. You better keep that in mind."

Who was in trouble here? Who had just been fired for continued boorish behavior?

"I was relieved when the interview was over," Schaap said by phone after returning home to New York. "I've interviewed difficult people before--Rocker, Tyson, Parcells--but no one that difficult, and that intelligent."

During the interview, when Schaap called what had happened to Knight a tragedy, Knight lectured him on the definition of tragedy. "I have a friend whose wife just had cancer surgery; that's a tragedy," Knight said.

Schaap, the next day, said, "He knew what I meant. I considered that more of a cheap shot than the comment about my dad.

"You know, right before we went on the air, someone on the crew said, 'Watch out, I bet he makes a comment about your dad as a put-down.' And, sure enough, that's what he did."

Actually, it was more of an unintentional put-down of the senior Schaap, implying that he would have let Knight say whatever he wanted. Dick Schaap couldn't have been too happy about that.

In the interview with Jeremy, it was interesting that Knight professed to know the definition of tragedy, even though there are different degrees and types of tragedy, yet he seemed to have no idea what zero tolerance means.

Zero tolerance is zero tolerance. Period.

Knight said he still wants to coach, but if no job is in the offing, look for television to come calling. Television loves people with marquee value, no matter their character.

For instance, Fox Sports Net went after former Dallas Cowboy receiver Michael Irvin, then embarrassingly had to back out after Irvin got into more trouble and, worse yet, argued with the Fox brass that he had done nothing wrong. In Irvin's mind, there's nothing wrong with being a married man caught in another woman's apartment where there is marijuana present.

In Knight's mind, he has done nothing wrong.

It's called denial.

So what would Knight be like as a television commentator? Can you imagine? Every time someone else would want to talk, Knight would say, "Will you let me finish?"


After good friend Digger Phelps arranged the Knight interview, ESPN chose to go with Schaap instead of Roy Firestone mainly because Schaap was already in Bloomington working on the story.

"I was traveling, interviewing Peyton Manning in New York," Firestone said. "And I understand why they would go with Jeremy, who I like and respect a lot. But I must admit I was a little disappointed I didn't get another opportunity."

When Knight was interviewed by Firestone in late May, the plan was for Knight and Firestone to watch the tape of Knight choking former player Neil Reed, but ESPN at the last moment reacted to veiled threats that Knight might walk off, so that idea was scrapped. Knight then intentionally embarrassed Firestone by asking him if he had seen the tape. Firestone had to admit he hadn't.

"Except for that mistake--and it was a mistake on my part--I was very proud of that interview," said Firestone, adding that it helped that he set the ground rules right before they went on the air.

"I told Bobby, 'You'll keep your answers brief and to the point,' " Firestone said. "He said, 'What do you mean?' So I told him again."

Firestone said since he was in an airplane Tuesday he didn't see the interview in its entirety. "But from what I saw and what I've heard about the interview, Jeremy did a good job," he said.


John Feinstein, a guest on Jim Rome's radio show the day after the firing, said Knight blew up at him only once when, 14 years ago, he spent a season with Knight and his team to write "A Season on the Brink." And what caused the blowup? He overheard Feinstein refer to him as "Knight" rather than "Coach Knight" or "Mr. Knight." . . . Dick Vitale was a Rome guest Thursday and said Knight is finally conceding he may need anger-management counseling. . . . ESPN Classic will devote a three-hour block to Knight tonight, beginning with a "SportsCenter Flashback" at 6. At 7 will be an original "Classic Sports Reporters" with Jeremy Schaap as the host. The panel includes Dick Schaap. . . . The Knight interview Tuesday got a 2.16 cable rating. Normal rating for that time is a 0.7.


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