|Knight chummy, but still opinionated, as new job puts him in spotlight|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 16 March 2008 15:19|
College basketball fans hoping to see the Hall of Fame coach succumb to his trademark temper were left disappointed.
Knight's new job as guest studio analyst put him in the spotlight Sunday, when the NCAA announced its tournament field and he and four colleagues talked about it for four straight hours on ESPN.
Curious viewers saw a chummy commentator who patted a colleague on the shoulder and shook his hand after they agreed on a point, not the testy coach famous for sniping at reporters.
Knight, the winningest coach in Division I men's basketball history, resigned from Texas Tech on Feb. 4 then was hired by ESPN later that month. He made his debut Wednesday.
Wearing an ESPN sweater (but not in his customary red) over a collared shirt, Knight was still his opinionated self Sunday. He declared the NCAA should scrap automatic bids and dismissed the assertion that teams gain an advantage by playing tournament games close to home.
About the most inflammatory thing he said was a friendly swipe at fellow analyst and former Notre Dame coach Digger Phelps, who insisted that long trips can wear out a squad.
``You Catholics need a better travel agent,'' Knight said. ``You need a Methodist travel agent.''
Knight appeared relaxed and comfortable bantering with the other four commentators in the studio: Phelps, Jay Bilas, Hubert Davis and host Rece Davis.
He alluded to his stormy tenure at Indiana, where he won three national championships but was fired by school president Myles Brand, now the NCAA president. Knight joked that he didn't have much pull with the NCAA, yet that wasn't going to stop him from giving unsolicited advice.
He even kept his cool when the irrepressible Dick Vitale, brought in via satellite, went on a rant about how the Hoosiers needed to rehire the coach. Knight rolled his eyes, a slight smile on his face, then rested his chin on his hand in good-natured exasperation.
When host Rece Davis suggested that was his sign to turn off Vitale's microphone, Knight quipped, ``I think if we cut off his mike, he'd have a spare.''
Knight sounded hoarse, clearing his throat several times. He had a tendency to harp on the same point repeatedly even after it had already been discussed in depth, such as his beliefs that the tournament field should be expanded to 128 teams or that mental toughness is crucial for making a postseason run.
But unlike some athletes and coaches who move into TV, Knight never hesitated from offering strong opinions when asked and sounded as though he had done his research. Clemson could give Kansas the most trouble in its side of the bracket, he said. Memphis could face the toughest early-round matchup of the No. 1 seeds in a potential Sweet 16 meeting with Pittsburgh.
His surprise pick to win it all: Pitt.