Lerner Crowd Eats Up Knight’s Good-Natured Negativity

October 18, 2012

An assortment of negatives proved a giant positive for Bob Knight fans who came out to see the iconic former basketball coach speak Wednesday evening at the Lerner Theatre.

Touching a bit on his upcoming book, “The Power of Negative Thinking,” sharing a variety of basketball anecdotes from mostly decades ago, and mixing in other primarily light-hearted tales, Knight engaged a crowd estimated at 1,200 for about 80 minutes, drawing laughter throughout and a standing ovation when he was done.

Knight did not take questions from the audience, nor did he mention much of anything related to current events — such as the announcement earlier this week that he was auctioning off many of his possessions, or that Indiana University, the program he guided for 29 years, was named earlier in the day as the No. 1 team in the USA Today preseason coaches’ poll.

People didn’t seem to mind such omissions, though, not that Knight would’ve necessarily cared if they had.

“My pleasing everybody’s never been part of my approach,” the 71-year-old Knight said at one point to laughter and applause.

Officials from the Boys & Girls Club of Elkhart were plenty pleased anyway.

The event, dubbed One Knight Only, served as the organization’s major fundraiser for the year.

Ryon Wheeler, associate executive director of the club, said afterwards that all 25 VIP reception packages offered as part of the event had been sold, most at $5,000 apiece, others at $3,000.

Tickets for the speech only were $50 and $75, with 900 tickets sold by Monday.

Wheeler said Wednesday night that it was too early to determine exactly what the club’s net proceeds from the event would be.

As for Knight, the current ESPN basketball analyst said the book he is writing with close friend and former Bloomington sports editor Bob Hammel is coming along.

It’s full title is “The Power of Negative Thinking: An Unconventional Approach to Achieving Positive Results,” and it’s due for release next March.

Knight said the book is meant in part as a tongue-in-cheek jab at the power of positive thinking and at the many clichés that are often offered as solutions to problems “even though they don’t really have anything to do with the problem.”

“I think I’ve been a person who kind of looks at things from the negative side,” Knight said, indicating that doing so often provides a more realistic or comprehensive assessment.

Knight said people, just like basketball players, are best off learning their limitations and proceeding from there.

“You can be anything you want to be?” Knight mocked. “Well climb a tree and try being a bird. It doesn’t work. What I’ve tried to teach is, know what you can do and what you can’t do.”

Knight said pacifying someone with flowery talk doesn’t necessarily help them.

“Mommy’s going to kiss Suzy’s boo-boo to make it better?” Knight said. “Well then Mommy better have some iodine on her tongue.”

Knight’s own tongue became most current event-oriented when he talked about the “one-and-done” individuals who play one year of college basketball while fully intent on going pro.

“I think that’s really hurting college basketball,” said Knight, who has been critical of the prevailing one-and-done flavor at defending national champion Kentucky. “It’s no longer a student’s tournament. It’s basically guys who have sort of been hired to play for this school that wins the national championship. I hope someday we’ll get back to it being a college tournament.”