February 2, 2004
Memo to the File
Re: A public incident with Coach Bob Knight
Richard Butler and I had finished lunch at Market Street (United) on 50th and Indiana and as we were about to leave at approximately 12:35 p.m. noticed the Athletic Director, Gerald Myers standing at one of the lunch venues looking upward at a menu. Richard and I approached him and began a casual conversation. Gerald and I specifically talked about the Lady Raider's game yesterday afternoon and he indicated he was surprised that I did not fly home with the team. I responded that I had actually driven to Austin because of other engagements scheduled during the weekend.
I expressed to Gerald my appreciation for Coach Knight's approach to the game (post our January 2, 2004 meeting in my office) and demeanor, specifically to include asking the student section to refrain from distasteful chants during our game with the University of Texas. Gerald stated that it is great why don't you tell him yourself he has had a couple of "rough" days and he would enjoy the positive feedback. I asked Gerald to share my comments with Coach Knight. Gerald stated that Coach Knight was in fact at the salad bar in Market Street and recommended that I tell him myself. I followed Coach Myers to the salad bar as he had requested and at his insistence.
I saw Coach Knight and asked Richard to go with me to express my sentiments and commend him for his approach to the game, his ability to handle tough situations and specifically the response to our student section at the UT home game. As I approached Mr. Knight I placed my hand on his shoulder, kidded him about eating healthy, and stated that "Most of us only hear the negatives, it is important that sometimes someone remembers to express the positives. I expressed the same sentiment that I did with Gerald Myers that despite some tough loses I especially wanted to commend him on how he had handled the last few weeks and in particular the student section at the University of Texas game." His demeanor and habitus changed drastically. With a red face his response was curt and angry as he responded, "I always handle things well, and have always handled things well." Gerald and Richard were to my right and Mr. Knight was to my left only a foot or so away. He walked about two or three steps to my left with a very angry look, tried to place more salad in his take out tray, obviously upset when I asked, "What seems to be the problem. I only wanted to commend you and provide some positive feedback when I am certain most of the time we all seem to hear only the negatives." As Richard Butler can attest I never raised my voice but I was stunned by the response.
He became even more agitated stating that I was always misinterpreting him just like his actions in the locker room last year when he abruptly walked away from me in front of Gerald Myers. The response was clearly disconnected from the original conversation and at first confused me. I did finally understand that he was now responding to an episode last year that occurred in the Tech locker room. Knight trying to rationalize his response stated that last year he was only straightening his collar and that I over reacted to his actions at that time and misrepresented them. (This locker room episode occurred prior to the Texas A&M game, the A&M game immediately followed the University of Texas game when Andre Emmett and Nick Valdez were not awakened for practice and a media furor occurred where I stated to the media when no other university officials were available for comment the "we would look into this event")
I responded that Gerald Myers (still to my right) was also in the locker room and that he had a similar impression and was so upset by Knight's actions toward me that he immediately followed me to my suite to apologize in front of several witnesses. Knight's response (in a very loud voice) was in essence "he did not!" Knight then began a very angry and confrontational outburst in public directed at me. He stated almost in a scream, I always misinterpret comments and that I called him a "liar, apparently because I had contradicted his version of the locker room encounter." He repeated yelling, "I am not a Liar!" At this point he was red faced, physically confrontational and the entire area of the busy lunch crowd was watching.
Richard commented this is a public place let's leave. Richard and I chose to walk away out of the store. Just steps past the checkout counter I turned around to see Bob Knight charging up behind me furious with fists clenched and confronted me before I could leave the store. I did not engage him in the store. Once in the parking lot he continued to yell at me that I had called him a "liar," (again in reference to the episode in the locker room pre-game last year). The level of anger and body habitus was entirely inappropriate for the venue and the audience. Gerald tried to pull Coach Knight away by his shoulder somewhat unsuccessfully. At that point I did tell Bob that as the Chancellor of this university system I did not deserve to be treated in public or private in this manner. I walked to my car as he continued to glare at me from his vehicle. The intensity of his actions was clearly inappropriate and alarming.
As we left the parking lot and turned right onto 50th Street, Coach Knight's tan Lincoln was in the inside left turn lane (attempting to turn left onto Indiana). Richard and I were in the outside turn land also prepared to turn left. Suddenly we notice Gerald Myers get out of the passenger door and appeared to be yelling at Coach Knight who had left the vehicle and dashed across the westbound lane of 50th street. Gerald proceeds to try and call to Bob Knight but finally leaves the car cross Indiana to the north. The car sat abandoned with the drive door open stranded in the left hand turn lane. Bob Knight abruptly returns to his car, turns left and appeared to be trying to get Gerald back into his vehicle. Several dozen cars and passerby witnessed this event.
David R. Smith, M.D.