Knight’s Calipari Remark — Let It GoPosted by jstevrtc on December 18th, 2009
No doubt by now you’ve heard about Bobby Knight’s return trip to Indiana last night to speak at the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, and the lick he got in on Kentucky head honcho John Calipari. Just so we’ll have it in front of us, here’s what the General said:
“We’ve gotten into this situation where integrity is really lacking and that’s why I’m glad I’m not coaching. You see, we’ve got a coach at Kentucky who put two schools on probation and he’s still coaching. I really don’t understand that.”
That’s from the ESPN.com report on Knight’s trip to Indianapolis for his speaking appearance. The initial reaction for most people is going to be to question Bob Knight’s definition of integrity. They’ll reel off a laundry list of Knight’s transgressions and try to discredit him in that fashion. They’ll assault his character and call him all kinds of nasty names. Much will be written about the irony of Bob Knight accusing another man of a lack of integrity.
Of greater importance to us, though, is the actual content of what the guy said. Everything you read is going to focus on his slam of Calipari (though he didn’t actually say the name, for some reason), but we think any examination of the statement should start with a much more basic question: is what he said factual? Were things really “cleaner” back in the good ol’ days of Knight’s time of prowling the sideline? And did John Calipari really put two schools on probation?
First, let’s deal with the first claim — that there’s less integrity now than there was, say, 25 years ago. We’ll have to disagree with The General on that one. The NCAA is much more powerful these days than it was then. Coaches, players, and even boosters are monitored more closely than ever. Sports programs at colleges and universities all over the country are so concerned with maintaining a clean image and are so afraid of the NCAA that, to play it safe, they often self-report even the smallest possibility of something that could be considered an infraction. Despite their incredible achievements, some of the faces that would go on college basketball’s Mount Rushmore of Coaches — and yes, we’re talking about legendary names like Rupp and Wooden, among others — carry with them to this day suspicion about certain aspects of how they ran their programs. We’re not naive enough to think that everything’s totally clean now, but the era of recruits having new cars and bags of money thrown at them is gone. Things were much more corrupt in the good ol’ days that Knight is saying were so comparatively wholesome. Blue Chips was then, not now.
Second, there’s Knight’s accusation that John Calipari put two schools on probation. Again, we’d like to know Knight’s evidence on this. Everyone knows how Massachusetts and Memphis were both sanctioned by the NCAA (there’s that power of the NCAA we were talking about) during the times that Calipari was running things at those programs. What you hear much less about is that Calipari was never directly found to have done anything wrong at either locale. The NCAA, in a letter regarding their Memphis investigation, specifically told Calipari that he was “not at risk” in those proceedings. Knight is guilty of falling into a very tempting trap known as — and you logic scholars can tell me if I get this wrong — a cum hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy in his thinking. In other words, just because two things happen at the same time doesn’t mean that one caused the other. You’ll often hear really smart people (unlike your author here) state this as “correlation doesn’t imply causation.” We don’t know if Calipari is guilty or innocent. But if the NCAA didn’t have evidence to say Calipari was guilty of all this wrongdoing of which he’s often accused, and we all agree that the NCAA is the governing body which has the final say, then we have to presume his innocence. So where is Knight’s basis in making his accusation that Calipari put two schools on probation? Most likely…nowhere.
Upon reading Knight’s statement and considering the two aspects of it above, this blogger was reminded of a great Federal Express commercial from a few years ago that made fun of that sort of guy we all know who just always gets things wrong…
It’s doubtful, though, that anyone close to him will call Knight out on his lack of actual facts in the way these folks hammered their bespectacled co-worker. So if you’re a Calipari supporter of any kind and you’re all ticked off about what Knight said — don’t be. Because Knight’s premises behind that insult are factually untrue, there’s no issue here. We guarantee John Calipari won’t bother to address it except to laugh at it. Lest he continue to look like a man who just wants to grab headlines where he can (truth be damned), Knight needs to produce one of two things: the evidence behind his statements, or an apology to Calipari.
I wouldn’t hold my breath. Best to just let it go.