Can Bobby Knight Score Big Points for Trump in the Hoosier State?
Policy + Politics

Can Bobby Knight Score Big Points for Trump in the Hoosier State?

© Tami Chappell / Reuters

Donald Trump famously dislikes “chokers” — or “chockers,” as he’s been known to misspell the word in hurried tweets. But on Wednesday, he’ll be standing beside one of the most famous chokers in sports history as he tries to strengthen his support among Indiana Republican primary voters.

Trump’s disdain, of course, is reserved for people who fold under pressure, which is probably why he feels no compunction about accepting the support of former Indiana University basketball coach Bob Knight, whose preferred method of choking involves placing his hand around the throat of one of his players.

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The announcement that Knight would appear with Trump in Indiana was a coup for the New York billionaire, who is facing strong competition for the 57 delegates the Hoosier state will send to the Republican nominating convention in July. It came just as Trump’s two main competitors, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, announced a limited alliance that would have Kasich stop campaigning in Indiana in order to allow Cruz a chance to challenge Trump one-on-one.

Knight and Trump may be kindred spirits in a sense, at least when it comes to a tendency to lash out at people who beat them at something or otherwise upset them. Knight’s list of physical assaults and verbal attacks on everyone from players to secretaries to his own son is lengthy and somewhat alarming.

However, in Indiana his name still carries a lot of weight. He led the Hoosiers to three NCAA championships, one National Invitational Tournament championship and 11 Big 10 conference titles while coaching there from 1971 to 2000.

When the choking incident came to light in 2000, Indiana University did not fire Knight, but instituted a “zero tolerance” policy with regard to abusive behavior by the coach. Within a few months, Knight had assaulted a student who he thought was rude to him, and was out of a job. He coached seven more seasons at Texas Tech, where the pattern of mistreating people persisted, and retired after 2008.

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That Knight is a Trump fan isn’t a complete surprise. Last September, when New York Times reporter Mark Leibovich profiled the GOP frontrunner, he wrote about a conversation with Knight over a speakerphone while in Trump’s office. Leibovich said Knight delivered a “stirring tribute” telling him, “No one has accomplished more than Mr. Trump has.”

More recently, Knight made it clear at an event in Indiana in February that he is no fan of Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton: “I damn sure don’t want to be listening to Hillary for the next four years.”