Legendary basketball coach not only endorses GOP front-runner, he shares many traits with tycoon.
As Donald Trump campaigns in Indiana Wednesday with legendary basketball coach Bobby Knight, he gets the support of a revered figure in the Hoosier State who, perhaps, could be called the Donald Trump of hoops.
The real estate mogul and Knight share a number of attributes, including:
Winning. Trump built a business empire based on his brand and has enough personal wealth to qualify as a billionaire. Knight, meanwhile, amassed 902 coaching victories in the NCAA to make him one of the winningest coaches of all time. Most of those wins, 662, came at the helm of Indiana University from 1971 to 2000, where he led the Hoosiers to three national championships. Indiana has made just one Final Four appearance since — in 2002, when the Hoosiers lost the national title game.
Controversy. Where do you start with Trump? His campaign has been one politically incorrect gasp after another. Yet, despite knocking Sen. John McCain’s war record, pitching a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States, blaming Mexico for sending murderers and rapists across the border, and countless other statements, he remains on the cusp of winning the GOP nomination. Knight had a penchant for throwing chairs, yelling at referees, and verbally abusing his own players. The bombastic behavior ultimately got him fired at Indiana after a freshman accused him of grabbing him by the arm and cursing at him.
Complicated relationship with the media. Both Trump and Knight are media magnets, drawing TV cameras and a trail of scribes wherever they go. Both men have had a prickly relationship with the media, however. Trump routinely peppers his stump speech with references to the media’s dishonesty and calls out individual reporters who he believes have treated him unfairly. Knight could be condescending and sarcastic with sportswriters.
Popularity. Despite the controversy — or, perhaps because of it — both men have remained popular. Trump is coming off a five-primary sweep on Tuesday that came on the heels of a massive victory in New York the week before. He has led in almost every national poll for the GOP nomination since last summer. Knight enjoyed loyalty from grateful Indiana fans even at the nadir of his career. A poll sponsored by The Indianapolis Star and WTHR in 2000 showed that 55.5 percent of the state’s residents wanted Knight to remains as the school’s basketball coach even after allegations that he had choked a player at practice.
In a year in which voters have roundly rejected traditional politicians, it is a safe bet that support from Knight is more meaningful than any endorsement from a governor, senator, or other officer holder.