Jon Reed Goes Off On... December 2006
Friday, December, 15 2006
Bob Knight and Tom Coughlin
Recently there was a "Coaches Out of Control" segment in pop culture, starring Bobby Knight and featuring best supporting actor Tom Coughlin. Bob Knight's transgression got more attention - he actually nicked a kid in the chin, whereas Tom Coughlin didn't touch anyone - he just paced the sideline ranting like a little child during the end of a tough Giants defeat. I thought the whole debate about Knight's latest offense really missed the point. Folks faced off on one of two sides: either it was a big deal (Knight detractors) or it wasn't a big deal (Knight supporters). But what's offensive about Bob Knight is not his experiments with violence, but his hypocrisy. Like Tom Coughlin, Bob Knight demands total discipline from his team, but asks none of that from himself. These red-faced twins of the temper tantrum are the ultimate overweight gym teachers, expecting miracles of their team while they stamp the sidelines yelling about standards they don't bother to adhere to. Bob Knight's apologists fall over themselves to point out the stellar graduation rates of his kids, as if they wouldn't have found a way to graduate without the lubrication of his slobbering outbursts. Self-discipline, however unfashionable, is indeed an admirable quality. But too many men divorce self-discipline from emotional mastery. True self-discipline means you don't steam up the sidelines with a hot head when the game isn't going your way. Self-discipline means you don't lock the locker room door and bark at your team while the media huddles outside the door taking embarrassing notes. And true self-discipline means you don't tweak some kid on the chin because you are accountable to no one and your own Athletic Director is in your back pocket. Corrupt leadership is hardly exclusive to sports, but truly great leaders reckon with their own weaknesses. Men of steel like Coughlin and Knight don't have any weaknesses, so they impose their rigid standards on anyone who is unfortunate enough to report to them.