Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Alford beats Knight 

Iowa basketball coach Steve Alford finally got the monkey off his back, beating his mentor Bob Knight's Texas Tech squad 83-53. Alford, of course, was an All-American guard under Knight at Indiana, leading the Hoosiers to the national championship in 1987 (won over Syracuse on a heroic last second shot from the corner by the otherwise forgotten Keith Smart). Alford also played on the Knight coached Olympic team that brought back the gold from Los Angeles in 1984 (back when the USA used to do that)*.

The media generated tension between Alford and Knight is well documented, and will probably be fabricated everytime they play. That's fine with me, as it gets an otherwise unspectacular matchup televised on ESPN. An uninteresting game for all but the most rabid Hawkeye fans, the game did reveal an Iowa team that, for the first time under Alford, is starting to resemble a Knight coached Indiana team characterized by a tenacious defense and a patient, efficient offense, with hard working players who can execute both.

Fortunately, Alford has yet to display Knight's other tendencies, such as strangling players, throwing chairs onto the court, and cursing out the press after the game. Alford's relationship with Iowa fans remains rocky, but with the Hawkeyes off to a 10-1 start, and no seniors on the squad, perhaps he has turned the corner in Iowa City.

*A classic Bob Knight story from that team was when he stopped practice, got down on his hands and knees on the basketball court, and wrote "Wayman Tisdale hustled here" on the floor. He also referred to guard Leon Wood as Leon "Woo." When asked why he replied that there was no D in Leon's game.


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