Bobby Knight, the legendary Indiana basketball coach who has been an ESPN college basketball analyst since 2008, most likely will not be retained by the network when his contract is up at the end of the season, multiple sources told me.
ESPN confirmed his contract is expiring after the season, but a spokesman would only say “no decisions have been made” about Knight’s future. The spokesman said Knight has a few games left in the regular season, perhaps an opening round NIT game, and the former coach will contribute to ESPN’s postseason coverage from the studio or perhaps on-site.
A call to Knight’s cell phone went unanswered. Of the five people I spoke with who are aware of Knight’s situation, four think ESPN won’t extend him; a fifth believes maybe it is Knight who will decide he’d rather walk away.
Knight has had an up-and-down tenure at the Worldwide Leader, and bottomed out this season with an embarrassing moment at Vanderbilt when he struggled to decipher the shot clock from the game clock, and announcer Rece Davis had to explain it to him.
One source said that ESPN is “hiding” Knight on terrible games this season because of his struggles, and yanking him out of the spotlight.
How did Knight end up at ESPN? Multiple sources say he was a favorite of Norby Williamson, who is the former VP of Production. When Williamson was replaced by John Wildhack in 2012, many at the network felt it was clear the mercurial Knight would slowly be phased out.
Said a source: “Knight was a Norby guy. When Knight came to Bristol, Norby would follow him around like a PA [production assistant] – it was kind of embarrassing.” Two sources said Williamson did his best to cram Knight into Sportscenter, even pushing “Knight Rules,” which was a poor man’s Gruden Camp (minus the players, it was just Knight breaking down tape).
“They were boring, but a must-run,” said a Sportscenter anchor who was familiar with “Knight Rules.” As an inside joke, the “Knight Rules” were slugged in the Sportscenter rundown as “2xxx,” which was Williamson’s phone extension.*
Knight appeared to fall asleep on the Gameday set in 2012 and I don’t believe he has been back since. Knight turns 73 in October, right before the start of the next college basketball season.
* I left out the final three numbers because it is still Williamson’s extension.