Indiana University Hoosiers basketball coach Bob Knight denied allegations today that he grabbed a freshman student by the arm and cursed him out Thursday at Assembly Hall.
Knight said the accusations were “absolutely, totally untrue,” and that he had simply given the student a short lecture on manners. He said he’d “have to be a moron” to have grabbed a player in public, given the university’s stated “zero-tolerance” policy toward his well-publicized temper.
“This was simply a matter of manners and civility,” he said. “I don’t think my voice ever rose above a conversational tone.”
Profanity, Violence Denied
Mark Shaw, the student’s stepfather, says Knight grabbed the 19-year-old after he had addressed him by saying, “What’s up, Knight?” Shaw told the Indianapolis Star newspaper, “There were still finger marks visible on his arm.”
While Knight admitted he was upset, he maintains he did not curse at the student during the confrontation. The incident occurred as Knight crossed paths with the student and four others in a university building.
“I said ‘Son, my name is not Knight to you. It’s Coach Knight. I don’t call people by their last name, and neither should you,’” Knight said at a news conference this afternoon.
An assistant coach who saw the confrontation said there was no violence and no profanity when Knight confronted the teen.
“He never said a curse word, he never raised his voice,” assistant coach Mike Davis said.
Indiana University announced earlier this year that it would have a zero-tolerance policy with Knight.
But Knight said it was an “interesting coincidence” that the student was a stepson “of a guy who over the years has probably been the most vitriolic critic I’ve had.”
Shaw is a former radio talk-show host and longtime Knight critic.
“I want the apology by Bob Knight in front of the five boys,” Shaw said. “And whatever other decision the university makes [on this issue], that’s up to them.”
Zero Tolerance for Knight
Indiana University President Myles Brand announced on May 15 that the school was implementing a zero-tolerance policy with Knight. The coach was fined $30,000 and suspended for three games of this upcoming season by the university for previous misbehavior, which included allegations that Knight choked a player during practice in 1997.
The university has not spelled out how the zero-tolerance policy will work. A committee chaired by Athletic Director Clarence Doninger has met nine times in recent months to put together the behavior policy, which is expected to be completed by the end of the month.
“As a result of that allegation, which we are taking very very seriously, we have launched a police investigation,” university spokesman Christopher Simpson said. “Because there is an investigation under way, however, I’m not a liberty to comment further.”
Last week, Knight announced he would not help teach a course in coaching. Assistant Coach John Treloar will teach the class in Knight’s place.
School spokesman Todd Starowitz released a statement today on behalf of Knight that said “the nebulous guidelines of the zero-tolerance policy have forced Knight to refrain from teaching.”
“He’s such an unhappy person. I think he needs psychiatric help,” said Shaw, who has occasionally worked as a consultant to ESPN. “I’ve said that for a long time. And this is just an incident that triggered this anger.”
ABCNEWS Radio and The Associated Press contributed to this report.