IU trustees could fire Knight

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 12, 2000

The Associated Press

Bloomington, Ind.

Friday, May 12, 2000

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Bloomington, Ind. – Bob Knight’s once rock-solid support at Indiana University might be eroding amid an avalanche of accusations that he has long intimidated students, staff and school officials.

A high-ranking school official told The Associated Press that university trustees are weighing whether to ask Knight to resign rather than continue an investigation and risk a showdown that could lead to his firing.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity after talking to several trustees, said the decision could be ”tantamount to dismissal.”

But many of Knight’s players say they will leave the program if he is forced out, an athletic department spokesman said late Thursday.

”Our players became very upset today, and told me they were tired of being quiet. They don’t want to see things tried in the media,” Todd Starowitz said. ”To a man, everyone supports Coach Knight.”

The nine-member board of trustees will meet Sunday, apparently to decide whether to expand an investigation of Knight, who has been accused of physical and verbal abuse during his 29 years as Indiana’s basketball coach. The probe is expected to be completed by mid-June.

In one of the latest damaging allegations to emerge, Knight is accused of throwing a vase near the secretary to the athletic director 12 years ago, shattering it against a glass-framed picture on an office door.

In another incident, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Thursday that Knight attacked former assistant coach Ron Felling last Nov. 30 after overhearing him talk about problems with the program. The two had to be separated, the newspaper said, and Felling left the team five days later.

A third incident surfaced when Indianapolis television station WRTV reported Thursday that Knight attacked sports information director Kit Klingelhoffer 10 years ago during a confrontation over a news release. Klingelhoffer was knocked out, the station reported.

Despite the mounting evidence against Knight, some people at the school believe he will keep his job, and many of his former players still support him.

”With all the things he’s done for this university, and with his record over the years and the kinds of players he’s produced, I can’t imagine that this hullabaloo will amount to anything,” said Edgar Williams, Indiana’s former vice president and chief financial officer and Knight’s close friend throughout his tenure.

University vice president Christopher Simpson said the trustees have made no decision about whether to ask Knight to resign.

”They have not reached a conclusion. To suggest otherwise is incorrect,” Simpson told the AP on Thursday.

If the Knight investigation is expanded, it could include the accusation about the vase, which reveals as much about him as it does the campus culture that has loved, feared and tolerated him for three decades.

Venting his fury at the athletic director at the time, the late Ralph Floyd, Knight allegedly grabbed a vase in the office of Floyd’s administrative assistant and flung it across the tiny room, shattering the glass on a framed picture.

Pieces of glass and porcelain flew in front of the administrative assistant, Jeanette Hartgraves, as she recoiled in terror.

”I hadn’t been here too long and I didn’t know what to do,” said Hartgraves, who holds the same position under current athletic director Clarence Doninger. ”I was frightened to see someone that mad.”

Hartgraves spoke of that unreported episode reluctantly, only to correct certain details after a faculty member mentioned it in an interview regarding the current probe of Knight’s conduct by the university’s board of trustees.

”We’re not supposed to be talking to the press,” she said. ”But I’ve seen his temper other times … the shouting and the cursing, things like that.”

Knight, who refused to be interviewed by The AP while under investigation, never apologized and never was reprimanded, Hartgraves said. Nothing about the thrown vase, the danger it posed to Hartgraves, or the insubordination to the athletic director was put in Knight’s file.

”It was just put aside,” Hartgraves said, indicating that no one in the athletic department wanted to challenge Knight’s standing at the university shortly after he won his third NCAA championship in 1987.

It’s just the latest in a series of accusations against one of the nation’s best known and most successful coaches.

Former player Neil Reed accused Knight of choking him in practice three years ago; Knight reportedly once brandished soiled toilet paper ”to motivate” his team; and Butch Carter, a former player and now the Toronto Raptors’ coach, said Knight told a black player in 1980 that he would end up like ”all the rest of the niggers in Chicago.” Other players there at the time have said they never heard Knight use the racial slur.

Knight’s alleged outburst in Hartgraves’ office reveals the type of behavior that other faculty members argue is against the university’s code of conduct and would lead to their dismissal or reprimand if they acted the same way.

”There’s been one set of rules for everyone in this university and another set for Bob Knight,” said Murray Sperber, an English professor, author of three books on college sports and Knight’s most vocal critic among Indiana faculty.

Hartgraves told the Indianapolis Star that in February 1998 she received a call from Knight’s secretary asking if the coach could speak to someone who was in a budget meeting with Doninger. When Hartgraves asked if she could tell the person what the matter concerned, Knight got on the phone and swore at her, she said.

Hartgraves said Knight then slammed down the telephone and stormed into the waiting area in Doninger’s office. She said Knight called her other expletives and advanced toward her in anger before Doninger restrained him.

Doninger said he was present during the encounter but declined to discuss it further.

”We’re not going to comment on anything related to the investigation until it is complete,” he said.

The trustees also are examining whether Knight intimidated Doninger, and nearly came to blows with him following a loss to Ohio State in February.