College hoops just got boring   

Updated: February 7, 2008, 11:36 AM ET

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So now that Bob Knight is gone from the scene, the whole good riddance crowd can rise up and exalt in his departure, saying the only problem is it comes too late.

But you know what it says here? It's a sad day in sports. That's right -- a sad day. And before you start raging on and on about choking players and tossing chairs and putting humans in garbage cans, consider how much less interesting college basketball is this morning than it was 24 hours ago.

About 15 or 20 years ago, back when Knight had been coaching for only 20 or 25 years, guys like him started being replaced in college basketball by coaches whose idea of success was signing a big-time recruit after getting a street agent to put a bag of cash on the kid's doorstep.

And if that kid stayed for a year and rarely went to class and got to dictate how many touches he got, fine. If that's what it takes to get the kid, and if bending over backward means you're in line to get the next kid who demands special treatment, then that's what they'll do.

For better or worse, that's not how Knight operated.

He wasn't one of the lobby lizards who hang around the Final Four wearing logoed sweat suits and glad-handing anybody who might stand a chance of helping them get a better job or a bigger player.

Three years ago, I spent a couple of hours with Knight at Texas Tech while on assignment for ESPN The Magazine. His first question was perfectly Knight-like: "So … are you an a--hole?" After I laughed and told him I'd leave that to his judgment, he spent most of an afternoon talking about everything from the triangle offense to the Battle of Antietam to his reasons for making sure his players are clean-cut. It was one of the most fascinating, and challenging, conversations I've ever had.

The game never passed by Knight, but the whole enterprise of college basketball did -- long before he decided 42 years was enough. The number of coaches who stand for something -- even though their old-school methods could be questioned -- were overtaken by the guys whose only interest in academics is eligibility.

Typically, he couldn't leave on uncontroversial terms. By leaving with a month of the season left, he invites more critics to question whether he was just hanging around to reach a milestone (900 wins) before washing his hands of an average team.

Until Monday, Knight was one of the few larger-than-life characters left in sports. He wasn't always right, but he was never dull. He held to the idea that kids were there to learn basketball and go to class.

Some of his ideas were downright archaic: He refused to put names on the back of jerseys because he believed the name on the front was the only one that mattered. His faults, to me, could be summarized in one sentence: He was a man who demanded discipline while often exhibiting none himself.

So yeah, a sad day.

This week's list

I'm just going to go ahead and say no and let the chips fall where they may: Less than 24 hours after New York beat the Patriots, members of my profession were asking the musical question, "Can the Giants repeat?"

Three things that had absolutely nothing to do with the Patriots' loss: (1) the premature scheduling of the championship parade, (2) the book on the perfect season prematurely being available on, (3) Tom Brady's dismissive response to Plaxico Burress' 23-17 prediction.

Just for the heck of it (little-used Drake division): Lewis Lloyd.

There aren't many memorably horrible coaching moves in Super Bowl history, but Bill Belichick gave us one for the ages: His third-quarter decision to go for it on fourth-and-13 instead of attempting a 49-yard field goal that would have given the Pats a 10-3 lead.

I don't have the numbers in front of me, but I'm sure somebody does: The odds of kicking that field goal in the antiseptic Arizona conditions are far better than the odds of picking up 13 yards in that situation.

Besides, you didn't need to be "Inside the Huddle" to know one thing: By that point in the game, it was obviously not one of those games in which the Patriots could shrug their shoulders and throw a 20-yard pass like it was no big deal.

One reason to look ahead to the day pitchers and catchers report: It was big news Monday when agent Drew Rosenhaus came out and said Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson won't sit out next season.

You know, next season: As in, the one that starts in September.

Finally, always remember: Use payday advances responsibly.

Tim Keown is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. Sound off to Tim here.


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