TAMPA. Fla. — Legendary college basketball coach Bob Knight used a whirlwind of stories and anecdotes — many of them humorous — to deliver his motivational messages about the keys to winning on the basketball floor, in business and in life. He was the keynote speaker at the International Boatbuilders’ Exhibition & Conference Industry Breakfast.
“It’s important that when you have a great moment of success you don't lose sight of the future — you can't sit on [the success],” said Knight, who was a college Division I coach for more than 41 seasons and enjoyed a .709 winning percentage with three national championships.
To relate this point, he told a story about superstar player Michael Jordan and the gold-medal-winning Olympic basketball team of 1984. Jordan had scored, rebounded and passed exceptionally in the first half of one game. But instead of congratulating the great player, he wanted Jordan to do more in the second half.
“I said to him, ‘You haven’t set a screen yet,’ ” Knight said. Jordan responded by saying, “Coach, I’m setting them faster than you’re seeing them.”
This story and others prompted hearty laughter from the crowd.
Knight said one of the keys to success and winning is to “eliminate the reasons why you lose.” He also talked about the importance of strong leadership, self-reliance “and not trying to please everyone.”
Knight said coaches and leaders should allow their players or employees to participate. He told the story about one of his best players, Scott May at Indiana University, who was struggling to defend an opposing player in one particular game. The player had scored 23 points in the first half with May guarding him.
“I said, ‘He just burned your ass for 20 minutes out there. … What are we going to do?” Knight told the crowd. A teammate known for his defense volunteered to guard the high-scoring opponent.
“I said [to May], ‘What do you think of that?’ [May] said, ‘I think it’s a damn great idea.’ ”
The audience also had a chance to ask questions, although Knight jokingly warned that he wanted only “intelligent questions.” One question was whether he would ever go back to coaching.
“No. I coached enough,” he said. “I like to go fishing.”
Knight praised the marine industry for bringing great enjoyment to people. “I was impressed with your organization — you provide a lot of neat things for ordinary people,” he said. “A lot of enjoyment comes from what you people do. You should be proud.”