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And now, a kinder, gentler Bob Knight

The way it might be:

The familiar coach sits still, silent, watching his team go through its pregame warmups.

Once, back before he was declawed, Bob Knight would be yelling by now. He would be clapping and glaring and snarling. Now, Knight sits on the Indiana bench and recites to himself the wisdom of Miss Manners.

Finally, he stands. "Over here," he says. Then he pauses. "Please."

His players circle him. Knight pauses. "Smith, could you pretty please put out the cigarette. We're trying to win a game here."

Knight exhales, slowly. Then again.

"Okay, is it okay with everyone if we play man defense tonight? I really like man defense, and we've had a little success with it around here."

"Naw, coach," one of his players says. "Too much work chasing that little guy around. If we play zone, I can rest up for offense."

"Yeah," says another. "And for dancing."

Knight pauses. His head hurts.

"Okay, guys," he finally says. "If you want, we'll play zone. After all, it's your team."

First half

The Hoosiers start slowly, with Ohio State All-American Boom Shackalacka hitting three straight jumpers. Knight closes his eyes and tries to think of old Kung Fu reruns. He is Master Po. Grab the pebbles from his hand.

He opens his eyes just in time to see his center fumble the ball out of bounds. He bites his lip. He counts to 10. He stands and starts to move toward the court, but then he looks into the stands and sees the face of school president Myles Brand. Oops. He picks up a scrap of paper from the floor and shows Brand he was just picking it up.

The Buckeyes are ahead 23-11. We should have worked on the zone, Knight thinks, but that was the day the players wanted to take off and go to the lake. It wasn't that way in the old days.

An Ohio State guard drives to the basket and slams into an Indiana forward, sending him sprawling. The whistle sounds. The referee runs out and calls blocking. He counts the basket, pumping his arm right in front of Knight's face.

"Mr. Official, sir," Knight says, keeping his voice low. "Might I suggest that I disagree with that call."

"Ah, sit down," the official says. "And by the way, don't they make those red sweaters in a larger size?"

Knight clenches his fist. Unclenches. Clenches. Seethes. He sits.

If you look closely, you can see the steam rise from his neck.

Second half

The halftime speech had gone well, Knight thinks. Heck, most of the kids didn't even bring something to read.

But now the game has begun again, and things are out of control. Knight's throat starts to hurt, like the profanity is stuck and it just wants to get out. Heck, Chaney would be screaming by now. And Huggins. Even Krzyzewski would yell at this.

Knight takes deep breaths. It doesn't work. The more he looks at his players, the more necks he sees that need squeezing. When he gets home, he'll throw his Barca-Lounger. Yeah, that's it.

Finally, Knight calls a timeout. The players walk over to him. Two of them are talking about the blond cheerleader on the end.

Knight leans into the huddle. "Guys, you're better than this," he says. "Mr. Duncan, what might you have been thinking when you took the three-pointer with 20 seconds left on the shot clock?"

"I was thinking I wanted to shoot."

Knight sits. He feels like his head is going to explode. He wishes it would.

Afterward

Knight walks into the interview room slowly. His head is down. His shoulders sag. Final score, Ohio State 120, Indiana 53.

He leans into the microphone. "Any questions from you hard-working members of the media, whom I admire very much?" he asks.

"Yeah, Bob," the columnist from the Star asks. "Indiana's having a tough year. Do you think it's because you aren't a bully anymore, or has college basketball simply passed you by?"

Knight, for a moment, sees a flash of white light in front of his face. He swallows. Something tastes bitter. "No, Mr. Benner," he said. "I just think we have to play better. And might I add, that's a nice tie you're wearing."

"So, Coach," another writer asks. "You guys really laid down tonight. What? Did you think it was the first round of the NCAAs?"

A sound comes out of Knight. It sounds like either teeth grinding or ulcers flaring. Maybe both. "That's funny," Knight says.

"Hey, Bob," says ESPN special correspondent Neil Reed. "Why did you play a zone? Everyone knows Ohio State kills zones."

Knight pauses. His eyes grow hard. "Do you want to coach my team?" he said.

"Oooh, oooh. You snarled at me," Reed says. "I'm telling."

"No, I meant it sincerely," Knight said. "I admire your insight, and would like very much for you to sit on the bench by me in my next game."

Knight smiles. It looks like shark's teeth. Peace is overrated, he thinks. By now, his blood pressure is so high he can hear his heart beat. He is starting to sweat. Maybe this isn't worth it. Maybe he should just turn into Godzilla again, and throw a chair and punch a cop and shoot a booster. Yeah, that would make him calm. That would be great.

"Any of you writers need help with your sidebars? I'll be back after I fetch the pizzas."

Summation

This is how it ends, with Knight on double-secret probation, pledging to be a good boy, with Brand pledging there will no more sacred cows at a college that has bred one for three decades, with everyone else poking at the old bear with a stick to see if they can rile him.

At first, it sounded as if Indiana had chosen a light punishment.

When you think about it, though, it sounds perfect.

Up next:MAKING NEWS

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