The Knight/Self Matter: Your Move, General

Posted by jstevrtc on February 18th, 2010

Sherron Collins‘ line after logging 16 minutes in the first half of Kansas’ eventual win at Texas A&M on Monday night:  three points, 0-3 shooting from the floor, 3-4 from the free throw line, three turnovers, no assists.

Not exactly his best half, of course.  Is it worth a benching?

Bob Knight thought so on Monday.  Providing color commentary for ESPN’s broadcast, Knight proclaimed that he would have benched Collins to start the second half, presumably to send a message.  What would that message be, exactly?  We’re guessing something along the lines of, “Hey, Sherron.  Play better.  And if you don’t, someone else  (like Brady Morningstar) will, so you’re expendable.”

Knight benching tactic: shrewd or outdated?

Keep in mind…this is Sherron Collins.  Leading returning scorer for KU over the last two seasons.  Pre-season All-American.  This is the guy who came off the bench for 11 points, six assists, and three steals in the 2008 title game as s sophomore.  That Mario Chalmers three-pointer to tie it with 2.1 seconds left in that championship game?  Collins had the assist.  Just three weeks ago, this was the kid who cringed through back spasms that had his muscles knotting up as if they were in vise grips during the Kansas State game…and still, in overtime, in one of the most raucous road environments of recent memory, when it came time to drive to the basket and take contact with less than ten seconds left, said to his coach and his team (as he has in many similar situations), “I want the ball.”

So…expendable?  We know Knight was just talking about not starting Collins; he wasn’t proposing sitting him for the game.  That would have been ludicrous.  But aren’t you taking a chance with that tactic?  If you’re going to use it, you’d better be sure that your star player will hear the message you’re trying to send, as opposed to another one that would do more damage.

Knight has taken a few hits in the media about his pro-benching comment.  And now, Bill Self has responded.

On the weekly Kansas coaches’ Hawk Talk radio show, Self was asked about Knight’s statement.  His response:  “Well, I think Coach Knight is very very wise, obviously with winning games and having a great mind…to be honest, we’re not just trying to win the game.  We’re trying to win over time.  I don’t believe in showing guys that you don’t have faith in them when things are not going well, when they’ve delivered over and over for you.  I’d never do that.”

Bill Self stuck up for his point guard and sent a message to his players -- current and future.

On a few levels, that’s great stuff from Bill Self.  From my view, that really seems to represent how he feels and isn’t just lip service.  And if you’re a recruit, isn’t that what you love to hear?  I’d feel much better knowing that the coach I could end up playing for isn’t going to sit me down or possibly give up on me when I make a mistake, or even when I’ve had a bad half.  It would be good to know that, if I’ve come through for my team on several occasions, a single bad half isn’t going to trump all of that in my coach’s eyes.  The current Jayhawks have now also witnessed another example of how he’ll stick up for them, even in this case where it’s the winningest D1 college coach of all-time offering his opinions about them.   While simultaneously complimenting Knight — though Self probably didn’t mean to put this spin on it — Self’s response makes Knight look like a stodgy, outdated disciplinarian who advocates a mind-game approach to dealing with players.  I don’t mean to put words in Coach Self’s mouth, there.  But can you think of any big-time college basketball player these days who would respond well to such a tactic without losing a little faith in his coach?  Knight’s move may have worked on his players back in his earlier days at Indiana, but this is a different time.

What will be interesting, now, is whether or not someone from ESPN asks Knight on the air about Self’s response.  I doubt that will happen, so the matter is probably concluded.  You have to admit, though — it’d be great to hear, and you know The General would love to offer his opinion.  Maybe somebody on the ESPN GameDay crew will step up for us this weekend if Knight makes the trip to Seattle.

jstevrtc (547 Posts)


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4 Responses to “The Knight/Self Matter: Your Move, General”

  1. uofmmarcum says:

    I don’t know if you count John Beilein as a big time college coach but he uses this practice semi-often at Michigan. Manny Harris, after a terrible game at Iowa was benched in overtime last year. That loss, at the time, was considered a tournament killer. Harris and Michigan responded by beating #16 Purdue with Harris dropping 27 points.

  2. Mark says:

    It’s unusual to read such a dumb post on this site. Yeah, Collins is good — awesome in fact — but your argument seems to suggest that giving him a breather after a bad half would be tantamount to Siberian banishment, irreparably harming his relationship with coach and team. Maybe a rest could have done him some good. And what’s the big deal if a coach wants to make a decision that a player will disagree with? That’s why there’s a division of labor in the first place. Part of the college game is about maturing as a player and as an adult, but your logic leaves very little room for either.

  3. David says:

    You are both missing the point. Knight made it obvious he was going to bench him because he didn’t play that great in one half. Sherron is the unquestioned leader on that team, it would have gone further than just affecting Sherron if Self told Sherron he was going to be benched because he wasn’t have that great of a night. Sherron was very effective on the defensive side of the ball that game in the 1st half, which is what Bill likes more anyway.

  4. jstevrtc says:

    Mark: Appreciate the comment, but your reaction strikes me as extreme. “Siberian banishment” and “irreparable harm” are a little strong. I said it would send a message, and it might not be the best one to send. I’m willing to bet that Bill Self knows his players better than Bob Knight knows them, and therefore knows how they’ll react to such a tactic. If I thought the temporary benching of Collins would have caused damage like that, I wouldn’t have even put up the post, because that’s not even worth the argument.

    The tactic Knight proposed — while still used in many cases, I’m sure — strikes me as something players from Knight’s IU days would respond to, while today’s players would take more of an offense to it, even if they didn’t voice it. It’s my feeling that the drill sergeant, super-authoritarian method of coaching simply doesn’t work with kids these days. You can’t grab arms or jerseys or yell at kids in front of 15,000 people and make examples out of them these days, things that were more tolerated in an earlier time. I’m not implying that it’s better or worse than Knight’s prime coaching days — just different. Now, as for your assertion that players need to grow up and learn to take it when they disagree with their coach, you and I both know that players and coaches disagree all the time, and players deal with it and move on because they know that the coach knows better, he’s the authority and you do what he says if you want to play. Coaches are still authority figures and teachers, that goes without saying. They teach their players about growing up as players and adults all the time. But you don’t necessarily have to use Knight’s method to do that. It’s my opinion (not nec. the other guys’ on this site) that in his broadcasts Knight has confirmed how he’s now out of touch and the game has passed him by, so if he talks about a coaching tactic that he’d use to motivate a player, and Bill Self says that another method might be better, in the current day I’m probably going to side with Self.

    Just for kicks, let’s use a hypothetical. Let’s say you — I don’t know, just spit-balling, here — work in the Poli-Sci department and you’re finishing up that doctorate. Doing some teaching, interviewing for jobs here and there, maybe wearing the same Shell jacket every day for the past 5-10 years. You’ve been doing a great job in your teaching, your bosses think you’re the best, and you take pride in it. But one day you give a lecture that’s a little off. Not your best work. You know nothing’s wrong, you were just having an off day. But, after coming back from a friend’s wedding in, say, Santa Barbara, where you spent a lot of time discussing lawn care (ahem) with parking lot attendants at your hotel of choice, you find that your superiors have suspended you for a few days in order to teach you a lesson as a result of your one bad lecture. How would you respond? Do you think you’d look at yourself in the mirror and say, “I’ll show them, I’m coming back better than ever!” Or, would you resent it a little, since your years of faithful and high-level service were forgotten after one bad lecture?

    [To other readers: just ignore the previous paragraph. He understands.]

    John Stevens
    RTC

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