How intimidating is it to be in the presence of Bob Knight? I'm writing this blog still feeling like his eyes are watching my every move. The second he walked into Koch Arena on Friday evening you felt everyone just kind of straighten up a little bit, be on better behavior and run a little faster.
Coach Knight took a seat about 15 rows up to sit and watch the Shockers practice. He didn't say much, even when Kellen Marshall went to say hi. Kellen said to coach, "Hi Coach Knight, my name is Kellen Marshall, I'm coach Marshall's son." Coach Knight responded with "Ok." Classic Knight.
Coach Marshall was so amped on Thursday when we interviewed him. He was psyched up to see the guy that has been one of his idols forever. Marshall almost got to coach against Knight when Wichita State played Texas Tech a few years ago; today he got to talk to Knight about hoops, at Koch Arena, with his kids close by. Today was definitely a dream day for Marshall. I saw him earlier in the day on Friday and he was almost giddy.
The best part of the practice was the awkwardness of waiting for Knight. Practice was over and Marshall and the players were huddled up near their tunnel waiting for coach Knight to say a few words to them. Then they waited some more. And for a few more minutes. Holly Rowe was sitting court side and she just smiled; having worked with Knight for three years Rowe knows that Knight pretty much does what he wants.
Finally Knight emerged from the concourse level and slowly walked down the stairs to the court; the eyes of the Shocker players glued onto the legend as he approached the group.
Now, most of what Knight said to the team I either didn't hear or can't put in print without redacting a few choice words and that would really lessen the impact. Essentially the point of Knight's speech was to keep it simple and if you lose, so what? So what! You've got four games left before the tournament, Knight said, if you lose tomorrow so what?
Knight had the guys rolling with a few choice lines and the guys were rapt with the maroon sweater-clad legend standing in front of them. The talk lasted somewhere around 5-7 minutes and soon the guys were off to the showers or off to do their various radio or print interviews. Coach Marshall and Coach Knight stayed out near center court chatting and taking pictures. Kellen eventually got his proper introduction and a picture with Knight and his dad.
I spent most of the practice chatting with Steve Dickey, the team's chaplain. Near the end he asked me if I had any thoughts about what win #31 should stand for. I told him, you know what I think? 31 doesn't deserve the Greg Maddux game or the Dave Winfield stamp. No, 31 is all Wichita State's. 31 belongs to the Shockers. When you google the number 31, 20 years from now, it will be the number to describe the Shockers' regular season.
Friday belonged to Coach Knight. Saturday and #31? That is all Wichita State's,