Tuesday, March 18, 2008

ESPN's "Knight" In Shining Armor

In a move that not many people ever thought to be possible, ESPN has upped the ante in its coverage by using Bob Knight in its coverage for the NCAA Tournament. While I believed this move was purely for ratings, the General has actually done a great job in his first few weeks on the job as an analyst.

Knight's broadcast style is unorthodox to say the least, often neglecting to look into the camera when explaining a point and sitting in his chair with his shoulders hunched over like a first-grader in a time-out. When asked by Rece Davis who he thought would win between Illinois and Minnesota on Saturday morning's show, Knight replied "I really don't care" and left his answer as that. When asked about what distance the 3-point line should be moved to next season, Knight replied, "They should move it back to the lockeroom!" Did anyone say anything in protest? Nope. He's Bob Knight! Just like his coaching press conferences, his on-air spots are ratings and sound-byte gold.

Besides, are YOU going to tell the winningest coach in D1 history what to say about his sport?

...That's what I thought.

Knight has also been able to take the job in stride, despite Dick Vitale's best efforts to get Knight to comment on the obvious coaching vacancy at Indiana, where Knight won 3 NCAA titles. Vitale has repeatedly said that Indiana would be stupid not to name their arena after Knight and bring him back. If Vitale is on College Gamenight at the same time Knight is, you can bet he is going to plug Knight for the job.

And Knight's reaction? All the while Vitale is goading the General for some type of reaction on the issue, Knight sits leaned over the newsdesk, head resting on his hand, staring expressionless at the camera while he waits for Vitale to finish.

Backstage, an ESPN producer is pounding Maalox like a frat boy at a case-race.

However, Knight doesn't get to answer the question as a nervous Rece Davis steps in to break the awkward silence and move the conversation along. ESPN knew exactly what they were doing when they put Knight on the same panel as Davis (a veteran of studio shows such as Gamenight and SC) and Digger Phelps, Knights good friend and former colleague in the coaching ranks. Phelps is a big player in this move, probably even being the one getting Knight a deal at ESPN and is the one person able to talk Knight back down to earth if he starts to lose it.

I look forward to hear what Knight has to say. For all his faults, the man knows basketball and his views about the game are usually dead-on. When he talks, I'm turning up the volume on the TV to hear what he has to say (as opposed to hitting the MUTE button every time Jay Billas opens his mouth). His unorthodox, rough style is exactly what Gamenight needs in order to inject some life into the show.

I can't wait to see how this March turns out.


Stu said...

I've loved watching him so far, he definitely adds a unique character to that broadcast

Anonymous said...

I would love to see Knight snap and throw a chair across the studio if Vitale keeps goading him

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