Someone fell asleep yesterday (in the Temple game), who was it? (Coach Knight stares at me). First Kirk, you let your man get free for a wide open dunk and then (he) misses the dunk. Both of you are dumb as hell! Bob Knight from Days of Knight
Bob Knight has always fascinated me. Growing up a Wisconsin Badger, I was able to witness some of his most epic Big Ten tantrums. There's just something sickly thrilling about watching a guy who has the ability to snap at any moment. I was nearly giddy when I would see Hoosier turnovers, missed assignments, boneheaded plays and such, just to wait for the glare, the clenched jaw, the barking, and the tossing of objects!
On the other hand, I really admired the genious of Knight. I hated Indiana because they were consistently good, did things right, were disciplined, and were rarely rattled. Prancing around in those damn candy cane warmup pants, the classic script "Indiana" jerseys, and clean cut hair styles. They were good and they knew it. Say what you will, but much of the credit for this confidence goes to Knight.
Thus, when I saw Kirk Haston's new book Days of Knight: How the General Changed My Life, I was pretty intrigued to gain some Knight wisdom from the perspective of a player. It's one thing to hear Knight personally talk about his philosophy, as he did in his 2013 book The Power of Negative Thinking, but it is another to see it applied to the players. For his book, Haston drew from pages of notes that he kept during his career, some at the insistance of Knight.
To start, I like Kirk Haston as a human being after reading this book. Many player stories come out full of vindictiveness toward other players and coaches, becoming nothing more than first hand accounts of how they got screwed. It's hard to make it through most of these stories without questioning the reliability of the narrator. Haston is honest. He tells the good and the bad. He lets you know that while nothing with Knight was perfect, there was enough method in the madness to prove valuable. Isn't this almost the same parental song we all sing? "Dad got on my nerves nagging me about homework and mom pissed me off by grounding me for violating curfew. But they are also the ones who have my best interests in mind and will battle for me more than anyone." Days of Knight, while noodling mostly through the relationship of Haston and Knight, is far more an autobiogrphical look at Haston's life than anything. And that's a good thing, not a criticism. Haston really is a fantastic person, earning reader respect with tales of his strong bond to family, friends, teammates, and God. He's a guy to root for, and Knight is only one of the many sages Haston admits have made him a better person.
I would put this book in the hands of any young adult. It should be in every high school library--not just in Indiana. The book is written competently in an unpretentious voice. I particularly liked the format, with pullout quotes from Knight called "Knight Lines" that were both funny and inspiring. Ultimately, Haston's lessons of humility and hard work are ones that all young athletes could stand to hear. Just as Knight brought out the best in Haston, I think Haston brings out the best in Knight here.