I wanted to share something written by Seth Kolloen, who covers college hoops in the western third of the country for my site, Storming the Floor. He's been watching Bobby Knight announce college basketball games this year, and he says his opinion on Knight as announcer is a radical change from his opinion of Knight the coach:
Bobby Knight is revolutionizing basketball commentary on ESPN.
Knight is best basketball commentator I've ever heard, and this is the secret of his success: He talks about basketball.
In a field dominated by commentators who want to tell you about a player's mom's job history, or whether a team deserves the ranking they've got, or blather on about "momentum" or "playing within yourself," or worse yet (I'm talking to you, Steve Lavin) discuss the cultural relevance of the iPod, Knight stands apart by being pertinent to the actual sporting event that is occurring in front of him.
I've learned more about basketball from listening to one game of Knight than I did in three decades of Billy Packer. And Knight's not boring either -- he employs a savage dry wit.
Here are some of Knight's comments during LSU/Arizona State a couple of weeks ago:
"Arizona State sets a lot of ball screens, but what they don't have is someone coming off the ball screen who can shoot."
"Dotson made a great pass there ... he made the pass away from the defensive man."
"The shot fake is the greatest weapon in offensive basketball."
"The defensive man made no move. He might as well have had a camera there." (ha!)
"That was a bad pass. Let's make sure we get a basket. Let's not try for a home run on a low-and-away slider."
"One of the most important things in offense is reading your defensive man. I always say if you watch your man he'll be talking to you."
My love of Knight's commentary surprises me, which goes to show how drastically I misunderstood the man during his coaching days. When he first started working for ESPN, I expected a surfeit of crotchedyness. I mean, look at the man. Does he not look like he could rant for six hours about how much he hates e-mail? Maybe he does, in his private moments. But when basketball is going, he is all business.
This brings up a question: What exactly is ESPN looking for in a commentator? How can you employ a hard-core hoops analyst like Knight, but also a personality-obsessed hyperactive like Dick Vitale? Maybe TWWL wants diversity, to have guys at both ends of that spectrum and everywhere in between. I can respect that.
My preference, and if you're reading this, I suspect yours too, is for someone like Knight. I can understand the need for a Vitale or Lavin when a less-advanced audience is watching, like during the NCAA Tournament. But, honestly, does anyone besides hard core college basketball fans watch the sport in November and December? If I need human-interest stories, I can watch Oprah. If I'm watching basketball, tell me about basketball.
Well said, Seth. You can read more of Seth's college basketball coverage through his weekly report on west coast hoops, While You Were Sleeping.
The Morning Email helps you start your workday with everything you need to know: breaking news, entertainment and a dash of fun. Learn more