March 15, 2013

Positive thinking is no match for preparation

By Bob Knight
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Bob Knight is 72. I guess that’s not so hard to believe, given that he coached college basketball for more than 40 years (1965-2008). Knight was a huge presence in the game for much of that time, primarily with Indiana University, where he won three high-profile NCAA titles and nurtured the skills of excellent players who went on to solid pro careers and coaching careers of their own.

Even today, Knight remains an opinionated presence as a TV basketball analyst, yet the chair-throwing king of on-court conniption fits and testy host of postgame press conferences has definitely mellowed into respected elder statesman. Plus, he now has the time to organize and codify his philosophies for winning, as expressed in The Power of Negative Thinking: An Unconventional Approach to Achieving Positive Results, which he co-authored with Bob Hammel, a veteran Bloomington sports columnist whose extracurricular stock in trade appears to be writing books about basketball in general, Indiana basketball in particular and specifically books about (and written with) Bob Knight.

Knight’s many fans will relish this spin on Norman Vincent Peale’s classic The Power of Positive Thinking. For Knight, no matter what the pursuit, success is not so much about thinking happy thoughts as it is about preparedness, fundamentals and a realistic outlook. He cites many pertinent examples of this credo from his event-filled career, while also freely quoting his heroes, such as Sun Tzu (author of The Art of War), former Oklahoma football coach Bud Wilkinson, General George C. Patton and basketball coaching legend Henry Iba. For Knight, the biggest “negative” lessons can be learned from those who failed, and he references Napoleon, Hitler and Robert E. Lee as prime losers at critical military junctures.

In a somewhat lighter vein, he finds wisdom in the musical The King and I, professes affection for a good cliché, holds dearly the philosophy of the song “The Gambler” and proudly recalls his experiences coaching Hoosier players such as Isiah Thomas, Steve Alford, Quinn Buckner and Bobby Wilkerson (“the most valuable player I ever coached”). More soberly, Knight frankly discusses his personal difficulties coaching at his last stop at Texas Tech and also defends his track record on technical fouls and referee-baiting (not really that guilty). Most chapters conclude with a series of “Knight’s Nuggets.” (For example: “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” Translation: Make those free throws, dammit.)

With March Madness in full swing, this readable book’s got plenty of game for basketball fans.

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