The U.S. basketball team's loss to the Soviet Union last week in the Summer Olympic Games was not all that surprising to former U.S. Coach Bob Knight - only because Knight knows the rest of the world is catching up.
"I don't think it's a case where we need to make all kinds of changes or adjustments or anything else," said Knight. "This team, I think, was very capable, but it's just like anything in a one-game deal . . . going all the way back to 1972, there has always been the chance of somebody beating us."With the start of basketball practice at Indiana University only one week away, Knight addressed a coaches' clinic at East High School Friday night. Before the clinic, he propped his sneakers - yes, the brand that he represents - on a chair in a basement classroom and willingly answered questions.
The clinic appearance was one of about eight he makes nationally each year on a rotating basis, although Knight does have local ties. He's a close friend of BYU Coach Ladell Andersen; he loves to fish and hunt in the area, which is how he met current Utah State Coach Kohn Smith, his former IU assistant; and he coaches Hoosier senior Brian Sloan, the son of Jazz assistant coach Jerry Sloan. He also considered taking over the University of New Mexico job last spring, but decided the demands of recruiting for a different program were too much at this stage of his career.
Although he says the Olympic process takes too long for him to consider coaching the U.S. team again, he's an avid Olympic basketball historian. Of the 1972 loss to the Soviets, regardless of the crazy ending, he said, "That was an indication we couldn't play with anything less than our best teams."
Added Knight, "My team in '84 . . . a team that has Michael Jordan is exceptional to begin with. We had no problems (the Soviets boycotted the Games), but even then I thought there were about five teams that could play well against us."
Having spent most of the last two months fishing and hunting in the Intermountain area - "When I was fishing, I should have been home; and when I was hunting, I should have been fishing," he said - Knight watched some of the U.S. team's games in Seoul. Of the loss to the Soviets, he said, "We probably just didn't play defensively as well as we could."
Knight has no philosophical argument against having American professionals play Olympic basketball, but he makes a point about the 1992 Games that many have overlooked. The U.S. team will have to qualify for the Games, because only the defending champions and the host country receive automatic berths. The qualification tournament could be as early as late April, when NBA teams are still in the playoffs - in any case, that will extend the team's play by about a month. "I can't see a lot of those pros being willing to do that," he said.