American basketball coach Bob Knight has died. A great coach to be sure. But perhaps much of what we know about Bobby Knight comes from the one occasion on which he became so upset he slung a chair across the basketball court. He was a bombastic fellow. He was unforgiving and he sought perfection. He had a hard time accepting anything less. Many of his players credit the high standards he instilled in them for their success in life. That’s what a coach is supposed to do.
I want to tell you a story I personally have knowledge of about Bobby Knight. There was a family who were somewhat unique in Indiana, because the woman had graduated from Indiana University while her husband was a Purdue guy. If you don’t know it, in Indiana such a marriage is rare. The two schools are bitter rivals and don’t have much good to say about one another.
This couple are friends of mine. They had a son who played high school basketball. He was not a great player and was never going to earn a scholarship, but he was dedicated. As fate would have it, he got very sick, and it became obvious that he was going to need a heart transplant to survive. Somehow the information about this impending operation made its way to Bobby Knight, who at that time was the Indiana coach. This family lived in Fort Wayne, a long way from Bloomington where Bob Knight lived and coached.
Bobby had been told that one of the problems with heart transplants, especially among younger patients, had to do with the mental anxiety of the patient. Paranoia about their own health often impedes medical progress. Upon learning the details of the upcoming operation, Bobby Knight reached out to the family and asked if he could come to visit the young man before the surgery to try to help him with his fears and give him a good mental outlook as he faced this difficult medical process.
Coach Knight drove from Bloomington to Fort Wayne and spent the evening before the surgery with the young man. The surgery worked and the young man survived, but afterward, there were challenges having to do with his ability to maintain a positive outlook. Coach Knight told the family he would visit as often as possible if there was no publicity.
The family aggred, and he became a frequent visitor, driving back and forth. His incognito visits worked, and the young player recovered.
There are no more loyal Bob Knight fans than this couple. I have been to their home and seen all the posters and other memorabilia. They would tell you that they believe Bobby Knight helped save their son’s life just as surely as the surgeon. I wanted to share this story with all of you so that you would get a glimpse of what a good person Bob Knight was. None of us are perfect, but somehow our imperfections get all the headlines.
Jim Rohrer of Evergreen is a business consultant and author of the books “Improve Your Bottom Line … Develop MVPs Today” and “Never Lose Your Job … Become a More Valuable Player.” Jim’s belief is that common sense is becoming less common. Contact Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org.