Bob Knight Must Have Studied Machiavelli
Currently, Bob Knight sits a top of the leader board for all time wins by a college basketball coach. He is also the only coach to win the NIT, NCAA March Madness Tournament, the Olympic Gold Metal, and the Pan American Games. Knight also led Indiana to a perfect 32-0 season as well as winning the Naismith Men’s College Coach of the Year Award. If I were to continue listing all of Knight’s achievements, this post would be incredibly long, so I’ll get to the point. Overall, Knight is considered to be one of the best college basketball coaches of all time, and personally, I consider him to be the very best.
There are many different styles of basketball coaching, and Bobby Knight’s was unique to say the least. However, if looked at closely, it is very to say that Knight approached the game with a very Machiavellian style. Let me explain. Machiavelli says that when a prince, or in this case coach, is deciding whether to be feared or loved, “it is safer to be feared than loved if you cannot be both” (Machiavelli 72). Knight took this approach to heart as he is arguably one of the most feared coaches in the history of any sport. Even though this is example is quite extreme, there is footage of Knight choking one of his players during a practice in 1997. Additionally he has been arrested for assault, is known for his excessive yelling, and I’m guessing most of you are familiar with his chair throwing incident. However, despite all of these actions that might be considered a bad example, no player on any of Knight’s teams have ever gotten in trouble with the NCAA or their respective universities. I believe this is because of the fear Knight instilled in them; something Machiavelli would be proud to see.
In chapter 10 of “The Prince,” Machiavelli discusses the importance of having a strong army to defend the nation (Machiavelli 46). Machiavelli recommends that a prince “put together a sufficient army and fight a battle against anyone who comes to attack them” (Machiavelli 46). It appears that Knight interpreted this in a basketball sense, as he prided his teams on superb defense. It was known that whenever you played one of Knight’s teams, you were going to have trouble scoring the basketball no matter how good your offense was. Knight valued defense of the basket, just like Machiavelli valued the defense of a nation. People in the basketball world will tell you defense wins championships, and Bobby Knight’s dedication to defense is one of the main reasons he has so many.
My last comparison between Machiavelli and Knight comes in chapter 19 of “The Prince.” In this chapter, Machiavelli tells a prince he should be wary of two things, “one internal, on account of his subjects; the other external on account of foreign power” (Machiavelli 79). The way a coach can keep the internal aspect of this problem in order is to make sure he is respected by his players. Even though Knight was feared and a little bit crazy, all of his players respected him and played hard for him each and every day. Knight’s teams almost always had winning records, and when a team is winning the coach will have the attention and respect of his players. As for outside sources, Knight could not let critics of his coaching style change the way he ran his team. After the chocking and chair throwing incident, Knight was placed on a zero tolerance policy with Indiana University, meaning one more mishap would get him fired. However, this did not make Knight change his coaching style because that would be letting the foreign powers win the battle. This led to Knight keeping the respect of his players and coaching for several more years despite his old age. Knight always made sure he stayed true to himself and his players, not letting an internal or external problem arise.
Even though Bobby Knight may be looked at as a crazy old man now, nobody can contest his success as a head basketball coach. Knight will always be viewed as one of the greatest minds in basketball, partially because he took some advice from one of the greatest minds in politics. Maybe more coaches should sit down and read “The Prince” if their team isn’t doing so well.
Machiavelli, Niccolò. The Prince. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago, 1998. Print.
Pictures came from these URLs:
Bobby Knight Facts came from a life time of watching sports, so it is tough to give credit to any one source. Some facts were also taken from this website: