Bob Knight the winningest coach ever?

For those of you that follow the sports world, or even just listen to the sports segment during a newscast, it’s no news to you that Bob Knight is now officially the winningest basketball coach in NCAA D1 history. 880 wins netted him that title, complete with all the rights and privileges thereto. Now, I don’t particularly claim to follow basketball at all. I’m terrible at the sport, I don’t really understand the rules, let alone the strategy of the game, and just hearing about the happenings in the NBA is enough to rule out any chance I ever had at being a basketball fan. Admittedly, I feel bad that I don’t really dig basketball all that much. One of the things my dad always made sure I had growing up was a basketball hoop. He built one when we lived in Crawfordsville (IN) when I was just 6 or so. In Milford (OH) he bought the nicest one I ever owned. It quickly became not the nicest because it was nice enough all the neighborhood kids decided to play on it and ultimately break it, but it started out really nice. When we moved to Marion we got the portable kind and set it up on the street, but by then my love of baseball and wishing we had a football team had taken over any desire to shoot the rock. And in the effort of full disclosure, I should probably say that even in Milford on the nice hoop, I spent far more time throwing footballs into the basket than I did basketballs, so I guess it’s just my destiny.

Having established that basketball is not really my favorite sport, you can draw the fairly accurate conclusion that I don’t really care that much who the best college basketball coach is. If I had my choice, I’d pick Coach K because I think he’s a great guy (and I think ultimately he will break Knight’s record, but that’s off the topic). But I don’t have my choice, and instead I am faced with reconciling the fact that Bob Knight, the epitome of poor anger management, the thrower of chairs, and the strangler of necks is the best coach ever. At least sort of.
The other day I was listening to Mike and Mike in the Morning, a morning sports talk show on ESPN radio, and one of the many podcasts I “subscribe” to. As they were talking about Bob Knight and the controversial figure he is, someone pointed out that yes, he’s thrown chairs at people and strangled players and even hit police officers, but he’s never been involved in any doping or cheating scandals. He’s committed countless criminal acts in his tenure as a coach, but none of his teams have ever cheated their way to winning. And because of that, everything is okay.

.     (Additional period to emphasize the pause)

What strikes me about this whole thing is how eerily familiar it is to stories you hear floating out of churches on any given Sunday. All sorts of sinful things slide right on by a church community. It seems almost every pastor is too worried about making everyone happy and keeping their 85% “yes” votes to ever call out sin, and certainly it’s no one else’s job–I mean, that’s not kosher to tell someone you know what they’re doing and they know what they’re doing is wrong! As long as it’s not one of the big sins like adultery, homosexuality, or murder, then everyone’s fine. We put up with people throwing chairs and strangling players because hey, the team never cheats.

One of the reasons, among many, that I’m such a fan of Rob Bell is the fact the he speaks straight talk to his church. Now granted it’s a lot easier to do that to 12,000 people because you’re not singling out anyone in a crowd, but still, I love the fact he’s willing to do it. I’ve heard him say the word “unacceptable” several times while he’s speaking on stage. He holds his congregation accountable for their actions.

Call me strange, but I like to be held accountable for my actions. I wouldn’t always say that if you asked me, because for a while it’s nice to get away with whatever you want. But before long, I get tired of just doing things my way, and as much as it sucks to be called out on things, I like the Josh Morton who’s held accountable for the things he’s doing. He works harder, speaks more honestly, is conscious about where he’s looking, what he’s thinking, and what he’s saying, concentrates harder on loving people, and sleeps better at the end of the day. I believe very firmly that part of what the Holy Spirit does in our lives is just that. He holds us accountable. But I also believe that the Spirit uses other people in our lives to do that as well. Parents. Mentors. Close friends. Coaches. And pastors.

In the end, the only thing that will remain with the basketball world is the number of wins and losses in Bob Knight’s record. Yes, those of us old enough to picture that red chair flying across the court will always remember it. But in time, his legacy will narrow down to a simple statistic. Two numbers: one before the dash and one after. But our lives are the complete opposite. None of us will carry a win-loss record with us through our lives. Sure, others may try to remember them for us; there will likely always be the perception of who’s a good Christian, who’s not and who’s a .500 Christian. But our legacy doesn’t narrow down to two simple numbers. Our legacy is recorded game by game, point by point. The issue is not whether or not we were cheaters. Because in life, chair throwing is just the same as cheating. And it’s not how you finish in the end, it’s how you get there that counts.