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Outside the Lines: Bob Knight and anger management

Outside The Lines - Bob Knight and Anger Management - Can an Old Coach Learn New Tricks?

Announcer - May 21, 2000.

Ley, Host - Behavior modification. This the popular image we often recall. Malcolm McDowell in StanLey Kubrick's classic "A Clockwork Orange."

Malcolm McDowell, Actor - I'm going to be sick.

Ley - But in the real world, counseling someone with an out of control temper is complicated.

Linda Alis, Psychotherapist at Midwest Counseling Center, Bloomington, In - There's not an easy answer. When someone is trying to deal with an anger management problem, there has to be a real commitment. And there has to be a real taking of responsibility.

Ley - Indiana's Bob Knight says he is willing. To keep his job, he must change.

Unidentified Male - Coach Knight does have a temper. We all know that.

Darald Hanusa, Psychologist at Midwest Center For Human Services, Madison, WI - He needs to come to an understanding that his behavior is abusive. And he really needs to be confronted on that issue.

Ley - Today on OUTSIDE THE LINES, Bob Knight and anger management. Can an old coach learn new tricks?

Announcer - OUTSIDE THE LINES is presented by 1 -800 -CALLATT. Joining us from ESPN studios, Ley.

Ley - Before he became a legend, Bob Knight had a sense it might come to this. Just three years into his time with the Hoosiers back in 1974, Knight speculated he would soon wear out his welcome and, in his words, "have to leave." A generation later, it may happen.

The world around Bob Knight now includes a bizarre vigil. There are pools and public opinion polls on when not if Knight will snap and have to be fired.

Somewhere in the media is the reporter who like the individual who played gotcha with Governor George W. Bush on naming world leaders believes he will be the one to ask the question. Somewhere amid the rabid emotions of the Big 10 is that fan who thinks his gesture or sign might do the same.

Repeated incidents of what his school president Myles Brand called "abusive, uncivil, and embarrassing behavior" leave Bob Knight in the zero tolerance box. The university's decision to give Knight this infamous one last chance has been criticized, ridiculed, and vilified. But the fact is, until Knight sat in Brand's living room late last Saturday night and gave his word he would control his temper, Knight was going to be fired, leaving us with the proposition that a coach, renowned for his temper and bad behavior, will be able to turn on a dime and change.

Greg Garber explains what Bob Knight at the age of 59 might not have to learn.

Bob Knight,Head Basketball Coach, Indiana University - If you concentrate, you can be aware, or you can anticipate. If you're aware, then you can recognize. If you can recognize, then you can react and when you react, execute. And if you go right down that quick list, then you comply.

Greg Garber, ESPN Correspondent (voice -over) - Concentrate, anticipate, recognize, react, execute. This is Bobby Knight's mantra to his players.

With his career on the brink, it's what he must do to keep his job. On Monday, Indiana University trustees announced a zero tolerance policy for the coach.

John Walda, President, Board of Trustees, Indiana University - This review is the first of its kind during Coach Knight's 29 -year tenure. It also uncovered new information that illustrated a protracted and often troubling pattern in which Coach Knight has a problem of controlling his anger and confronting individuals.

Garber - In the view of two behavioral experts, the first step toward recovery is acknowledging the problem.

Alis - I think it's important to recognize that people who deal with - this is rage -aholism (ph). This is a rage -aholic (ph).

Hanusa - He has to believe that as a human being what he's done is hurting other people. He has to embrace that on some level, that it's not OK to treat people the way he has, and understand that it's hurtful. And if he gets it on that basis, in other words if he can develop some empathy for the pain that he's caused others, then I believe he'll be able to do that piece of moral development which just seems to be missing with him.

Lou Henson, Former Head Coach, Indiana University - Well, what do you expect out of Knight? What do you expect out of him? I mean, he's the classic bully.

I was in the locker room, and he jumped on me. I wanted him to come outside. He's a classic bully, I'll tell you.

Hanusa - It's very symbolic of sort of schoolyard bully tactics where they yell, they holler. They're basically abusive. Now they don't like to call it that. That's why it's more comfortable for them to say, "I have a bad temper."

What it really is - if you name it what it is, then you have to take responsibility. And what people like Coach Knight do is they get abusive.

Garber (on camera) - But can Knight at age 59 after 35 years as a Division One head coach change his boorish behavior, what he calls his temper problem?

Hanusa - Claiming that you have a temper is really a defense mechanism. Claiming that you really don't have control of your behavior and blaming it on a temper is a way for people not to have to take responsibility.

Alis - When there are consequences that are uncomfortable or discomforting, that's when people think about their behavior and walk in the door and say, "Hey, I can't deny this anymore even to myself. I have to make a change."

Garber (voice -over) - Like so many other public figures, Knight has been allowed to function under a different set of rules.

Hanusa - We tend to create monsters ourselves because we put them in a position where we put such a premium on winning, and we overlook other kinds of behaviors. So in a sense, we create our own problem.

Alis - I feel like that's what we're doing here in Bloomington now. We're wrestling with the fact that we are in some ways culpable for enabling the situation to have been created.

Richard Lapchick, Center for the Study Of Sport In Society - It's my hope that Bobby Knight may have been able to reach that point where he's able to coach in this era that has clearly said that the type of behavior that he exhibited with former players is not the way to coach anymore. But I think we have to understand that those rules have really changed over time.

Garber - According to behavior experts, change can only occur if there is a sincere commitment to change.

Hanusa - I think he's neither sincere nor committed because I don't really believe that he thinks he has a problem.

Alis - You have to own that you have this problem. You can't kid yourself. You know, you can kid us for a while. But you can't kid yourself. If you're really still in denial about it, then nothing is really going to change for you.

Garber - Whether he seeks professional help or not, Bobby Knight's every move will be analyzed. So what will his legacy be, three national championships or these disturbing episodes of anger?

Lapchick - I think what Bobby Knight wants his legacy to be is that he was a coach who won a lot of games for a university that he seemed to love. I don't think Bobby Knight wants to be remembered for the types of incidents that have got him to this point where the announcement this week had to be made by the president of the university. I think Bobby's going to work hard to try and change that image.

Garber - A year -and -a -half ago, ESPN's Digger Phelps asked Knight the inevitable question. Is he a potential time bomb in the manner of Woody Hayes?

Knight - Well, I think everybody is. I think there are circumstances that could develop surrounding any human being that would set that human being off in an abnormal way. I think that we all hope that when such a situation would arise that we can control our emotions, or we can react to the circumstances in such a way that doesn't put either that person or people surrounding them in any kind of a highly embarrassing or difficult situation. But I don't think that we ever really know.

Garber (on camera) - And we won't know for some time how well Knight is able to control his anger, unless he's able to follow his own mantra of concentrating, anticipating, recognizing, reacting, and finally executing.

For OUTSIDE THE LINES, I'm Greg Garber.

Ley - And when we continue, we'll discuss Bob Knight and anger management with a psychiatrist who is a former Olympian, a professor of psychology, and a Big 10 basketball coach whose own temper is known to be just a little bit hotter than normal when we continue.

Knight - When my time on Earth is gone and my activities here are passed, I want they bury me upside down, and my critics can kiss my ass.

Ley - Bob Knight and anger management.

We welcome this morning from Chicago the head basketball coach at Northwestern University, Kevin O'Neill, a man often described as fiery. Dr. Mike Miletic joins us from Detroit. He is a physician, a psychiatrist, and a former Olympic weightlifter. And from Philadelphia, Frank FarLey, a professor of educational psychology at Temple University.

Gentlemen, before we get to you, I want to put up a quote that Bob Knight issued, part of the statement that essentially saved his job last week. "There are times that my passion for basketball has led me into confrontations that I could have handled a lot better. I've always been too confrontational, especially when I know I'm right."

Mike Miletic, those of us in the media who practice psychiatry and psychology without a license, that caught our attention. What does a statement like that say to you about his willingness to change?

Dr. Michael Miletic Psychiatrist and Psychoanalyst - Well, I'm particularly attracted by the last phrase, "particularly when I know I'm right." I think that's part of his fatal flaw, always feeling like he knows when he's right. And that's one of the difficulties in dealing with a problem such as Mr. Knight presents us with, not just for himself but for a society at large as we're looking in on the problem and how to handle it.

Ley - Frank, what do you think about his prospects for change off a statement like that?

Frank Farley, Psychologist, Temple University - I don't think they're great. I really don't. He should have really had some anger control and anger management years and years ago.

I think though that it kind of falls down into two broad categories. Does he want to hang in there to get the Dean Smith record? Or is he going to feel sufficiently humiliated by all of this treatment that he may just bag it and go somewhere else, take another job offer?

Ley - Well, Kevin, let me ask you, when you heard he was being put into this zero tolerance box, what was your first reaction about Bob Knight's prospects?

Kevin O' Neill, Head Basketball Coach, Northwestern University - Well, I think right now you're going to have a lot of people come after Bob that over the years feel slighted by him, stepped on, whatever. I think you're going to see media people, other people, put him in a situation where, "Come on, Bob, let's see how much you can take. Let's see what this zero tolerance thing is all about."

Bob is three things, though. He's a proud guy. He's competitive. And don't forget, he's an intelligent guy that I think will do what it takes to get the job done.

Ley - How much of the fact that his job is on the line, Kevin, is the motivation here for him?

O'Neill - I don't think that's so much the situation as - I don't think that's the motivation. I think Bob Knight can get a job tomorrow anywhere. He's a basketball coach of greatness over time. I think that's the least of his worries.

I think he's got a lot of pride. He wants to keep coaching kids. He likes being around the kids. And he likes the competitive nature of this sport.

Ley - Mike, on Saturday night last, he looked Myles Brand in the eye, Bob Knight did, and gave his word he would attempt to control his temper. Now Myles Brand took him at his word. But he's also looking at 29 years at IU with a lot of incidents. Do you think Myles Brand was wise to do that?

Miletic - No, not at all. I think Myles Brand was frankly sucked in by all that because it's not just a matter of just temper management or anger management that we're dealing with here. This is a man that's been violent and abusive.

And we can't look at temper or angry outbursts as an individual act. You have to look at what it means to be abusive and what it means to be violent. That means that he's perpetrating something against somebody else that's in a less powerful position than he, namely the players, the assistant coaches, and the secretaries that he's...

Ley - Go ahead, Frank.

Farley - Well, it's also a personality problem. We're talking about a very ingrained personality. A personality doesn't change a whole heck of a lot by age 59. So it would be a really difficult job to turn him around, in my opinion.

Ley - Kevin, describe some of the pressures that running a basketball program, dealing with the media, dealing with expectations, that you're under and that Bob Knight will even be under to a greater degree.

O'Neill - What I think Bob's under more than anybody, even people that don't know a thing about sports - and there happen to be a lot of those people out there that don't know anything about sports that have an opinion - everybody knows Bob Knight. They know the red sweater.

And every clip shows him in some sort of tirade rather than him coaching or him teaching. So I think there's going to be that pressure to live up to a zero tolerance and a standard that is really difficult in this work.

This isn't the "Captain Kangaroo" show. I mean, we're playing Big 10 basketball. It's competitive. It's intense. Anybody in the job for 29 years would have some incidents over time that would make them look not - look a little different than they'd want to be viewed.

Ley - Mike, do you buy that description of Bob Knight's career?

Miletic - Well, I think that it's important what Kevin says about not making this man a target so that we can somehow push him over a cliff. And I think that that's something that's incumbent upon the public and sports writers and all of us to keep in mind.

But at the same time, this man has a pattern of abuse that if he were in any other walk of life, he would have been long gone if not in a court of law by now. Then those things, those incidents, also cannot be overlooked by us as we look at his career.

Ley - Frank, go ahead.

Farley - Again, in all fairness too, in following up on Kevin's comment, he has had a long career. And coaching as an emotional, physical kind of trade. And bad things will happen. I mean, more will happen to him because of his personality.

But I think we have to maintain perspective here and look at the good side of his career. Again, I think that he - I don't think he can change to a zero tolerance. I think he can change in some of the big ways, you know, the throwing of the chairs. He can stop that I'm sure.

But if you have a zero tolerance, it may catch him. He may not be able to conform to that.

Ley - Frank, is this something that you can cure Bob Knight? Or will he just have to learn some techniques to adapt?

Farley - Oh, you might be able to put him in therapy. And maybe he would change if he's willing to change. I doubt that he's going in that direction.

So you can change. But personality is a central feature here. And he's got a kind of angry personality. And it's very difficult to change that in major ways.

Ley - OK, we're going to step aside for a moment. We will have more on Bob Knight, his temper, and whether he can change in his one last chance as we continue Sunday morning OUTSIDE THE LINES.

Knight - Who the hell told you I wasn't going to be here? I'd like to know. Do you have any idea who it was?

Unidentified Male - Yeah, I do.

Knight - Who?

Unidentified Male - (INAUDIBLE)

Knight - They were from Indiana, right?

Unidentified Male - No, they're not.

Knight - No, weren't from Indiana. And you didn't get it from anybody from Indiana, did you?

Unidentified Male - (INAUDIBLE)

Knight - No, I'll handle this the way I want to handle it now that I'm here. You (EXPLETIVE DELETED) it up to begin with. Now just sit there or leave. I don't give a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) what you do. Now back to the game.

Ley - That particular outburst cost him $30,000. More now with Kevin O'Neill of Northwestern, Dr. Mike Miletic, and Professor Frank FarLey.

Kevin, let me ask you about the fiery nature of Bob Knight's personality being part of his total package as a successful coach, the thinking being, "Boy, if you calm him down, he looses his coaching edge." Do you buy into that?

O'Neill - No, I really don't. I think everybody - every one of us in any walk of life, our strength is probably our weakness also. Bob's a stubborn guy. He's a hard guy. He's a disciplinarian. He's all those things.

But I think he can remove some of those extracurricular outbursts and still be a darn good coach. He has to be allowed to let his personality come into his coaching. He has to push guys.

He has to demand, because that's him. So zero tolerance shouldn't affect his coaching. It should affect some of those other things that people take offense to.

Ley - Mike, what are some of the ways you can work with someone to teach them to adapt, to take a deep breath, to not have these problems?

Miletic - I think that's an important question that a lot of people this morning have been trying to take a look at. And my perspective at least is that in order to try to change some of these outbursts and violent episodes, what this man has to do is really to try to understand the meaning of them.

Why is he needing to behave in a particular way that he does at a particular time that he does? And without understanding the motive behind the behavior, I have a lot of pessimism as to whether he can change this. As Frank was talking about, these are deeply ingrained personality issues.

And he needs to be fully motivated about taking a look at the motive and meaning behind all of the activities that he's doing. Without the commitment to doing that, and it takes a major commitment particularly at this time in his life, I'm pretty pessimistic about his ability to make changes on the basis of management or behavioral control of them.

Ley - Can you, Frank, put a Band -Aid on this problem in the short term being - the Big 10 season, for example, next year?

Farley - Oh, I think you might be able to. And he might be able to get some yards down the road. But I think the long -term prospects are not good. He might actually well be advised to get into another venue, you know, a change of life.

He's almost 60. Lots of people sort of change their careers or do something new and different at 60. He might want to do that, coach another team, go somewhere else, start afresh.

Ley - This past week, Kevin, John Wooden made the statement, "I wouldn't want anybody I love to play for Bob Knight." John Wooden is a deity in the sport of college basketball, especially in the state of Indiana. When Bob Knight hears a statement like that, what do you think he believes, he thinks?

O'Neill - Well, I think this. I think John Wooden, obviously a great, great coach, maybe the greatest of all time in college basketball, I think everyone has a different personality. And I was told once upon a time by Lute Olson (ph), who I worked for, "You've got to be yourself. You can't be other people."

So I think Coach Wooden's opinion of what Bob's like might be much different than what Bob's own opinion of himself is. And everybody - one thing Bob is, people can say whatever they want. He's true to himself. He does what he believes in. And he does it regardless of what the penalties and punishments are.

Now he's going to have to change his behavior a little bit because now the penalties and punishments - remember now, Indiana hasn't said anything publicly ever about Bob in 29 years until now. So the old saying "you do things as long as you can do them," I think that holds true here.

Ley - But Mike, are personalities like Bob Knight's - and you would have I'm sure a clinical term for it - given to introspection, to sitting down investing the time in a pressure position like this in defining the root cause?

Miletic - I think that's the basis of the problem. I don't see him as having the kind of personality that is even able to do that. He lives in a very self -entitled, self -absorbed world in which he feels like he can create his own rules and make his own rules.

And although it was just sad that being true to himself has been a wonderful trait of his over time, being true to himself also means that he's really not wanting to look at himself and think about himself in any meaningful way when he pictures himself as being above the rules and above many of the other normal standards of behavior.

Ley - Frank, do you think he can challenge himself and look at himself?

Farley - Well, I think he can. He's elite. And he's bright. So I think he can do lots of things.

However, I think the zero tolerance policy is a mistake. On a scale of zero to 10, I think that he could get through on a two or a three. But zero tolerance allows him absolutely no wiggle room to express his basic personality. And I think that's set up to fail.

Ley - Yeah.

O'Neill - I agree with Frank. What in the world is zero tolerance anyway, Bob? Does zero tolerance mean he can't curse? Have they defined it? I don't even know what zero tolerance would be.

I would hope it doesn't take away his ability to express himself as a coach because he is an intelligent, hardworking, dedicated coach. And remember, there's a lot of people that have come through that program that have turned out pretty darn well in this life. So he's done a lot of good things along the way. And I hope those wouldn't be removed with a, quote, zero tolerance policy.

Ley - One quick last sentence from each of you. How will we know, and how will those close to Bob Knight know he's making a commitment to changing?


Miletic - Well, I think if you begin to see that he's able to still be fiery, as people are talking about is important for him, but at the same time if he's able to really curve the violent outbursts, the pushing, the shoving, the attacks at people that he's known for as well. So if he can retain the part of his personality that's passionate about his sport but not be abusive with it, then we'll see somebody that really is making a change.

Ley - Frank, in a sentence, can he do it?

Farley - He might be able to do it. I'm not optimistic. I think we'll know if he's about to curse, he bites his tongue, and we all see that, we know he's on the way.

Ley - Kevin, do you think that's in Bob Knight?

O'Neill - I think Bob Knight can do a lot of things. I think we'll know if he's still coaching five or six years from now he did the right thing and the university did the right thing.

Ley - Gentlemen, thank you very much. Thanks this morning to Kevin O'Neill, to Dr. Mike Miletic and to Professor Frank FarLey for joining us.

And next, we will take a look back at athletes and their posses, take a look into our e -mail inbox on OUTSIDE THE LINES.


Ley - Last Sunday as jury selection was about to begin in the Ray Lewis murder trial, OUTSIDE THE LINES focused on the issue of athletes and their entourages or posses. Todd Boyd, a professor and author on popular culture, talked about the values many young athletes bring to their new careers.

Todd Boyd, Associate Professor, University Of Southern California - I think you have to recognize when you come from a ghetto community and you don't have much in the way of material possessions, things like authenticity and loyalty become even that much more important. So as you watch someone go up the ladder, you find that there are many people who are depending on this person, who are looking up to this person, and who see this person's success as their own success.

Ley - Some e -mail reaction. A viewer in Florida saying - "The word posse has somewhat negatively been coined to represent any group of urban blacks for either good or troubled situations. It troubles me to believe that your segment's intent was to solely add negative detriment to the black athlete."

Another viewer, an African -American male who at one time was a free agent signing with the Falcons says, quote - "I have never understood the concept of posse, but would assume it has something to do with the reluctance of these athletes to be viewed as sellouts by the people with whom they grew up. So they take these individuals along for the ride, no matter what the risks or the consequences. My hope is these athletes grow up, put away childish things, and realize they are jeopardizing their futures."

And from Lakewood, Florida, the comment that athletes hanging with their posses isn't the problem - "Until academics is the number one priority, things will never change. The athletes have lived in the spotlight since a young age, and too many don't even know how to act in the real world. We put them on a pedestal and then wonder why so many fail."

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 ESPN's Bob Ley is joined by Kevin O'Neill, Dr. Michael Miletic and Professor Frank Farley to discuss Bobby Knight.
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