Indiana University Basketball Coach Bob Knight shoved a Louisiana State fan against a wall Saturday night after the fan yelled obscenities at him in a motel lounge in Cherry Hill, N.J., where the Hoosier team and a number of LSU fans were staying.
Today, at a midday press conference scheduled to discuss Monday night's NCAA final between Indiana and North Carolina, Knight volunteered his version of the incident.
Knight said the fan, identified by an LSU official as Buddy Bonnecaze, cursed Knight as the coach, his wife and three of four other people in his party walked through the lounge at the Cherry Hotel Inn.
According to Knight, the fan who was dressed in purple and gold, the LSU colors, congratulated Knight for winning the game (Indiana 67, LSU 49) some five hours earlier. Knight said he responded, "Well, we weren't really Tiger bait after all, were we?"
Knight said that was a reference to LSU fans yelling, "Tiger bait, Tiger bait, Tiger bait; here comes Tiger bait; there goes our Tiger bait," as IU players walked Saturday between their breakfast room and a meeting room. Knight said he did not consider what he said as being offensive.
As Knight and his party continued walking into the motel restaurant, the caoch said the fan went toward another door and turned and shouted an obscenity at him.
Next, according to Knight, "I walked over -- I did a little bit more than walk over, I walked swiftly over -- and I said, 'Would you like to say again what you just said.' And he said, 'Well, you were sarcastic and rude to me.' And I said, 'No, I wasn't . . . I just threw something back to you that our kids had been hearing all day long.'"
At that point, Knight said Bonnecaze replied, "Well, you're still . . ."
Knight said, "I grabbed him and shoved him against the wall and turned and walked away. Now, if being called . . . three or four times and going over and grabbing the guy in public and then shoving the guy up against the wall is something I've done wrong then so be it."
Tommy Neck, chairman of the athletic committee of the LSU Board of Supervisors, confirmed the events as "about the way he told you all." Neck said he restrained Knight and took him to Neck's room where the coach cooled off quickly.
Knight said he would not have chosen the Cherry Hill Inn to be the team's headquarters had he known LSU fans were booked there, too.
After the press conference, Knight said there was a difference between taunts such as "Tiger bait, Tiger bait" and obscenities yelled by a stranger. Knight, convicted in absentia in San Juan of assaulting a policeman during the 1979 Pan American Games, said he would be "very upset" if one of his players went at a fan who taunted him. However, Knight added, if the fans said obscenities, "and he (the player) would have reacted in any way possible, it wouldn't have bothered me in the slightest.
"It's easy to say ignore it," he said. "I've probably ignored 10,000 things like that. But I'll be damned if I'm going into a restaurant with my wife and ignore something like that."
He said he always walks off a basketball court with his head down and fixed so he can't see where the obscenities are coming from. He said he does not believe that buying a ticket should allow a fan to cuss.
"We put up with a lot of that garbage in sports," Knight said. "How many athletes the last five years have gone into the stands? . . . Society has just become so tolerant of so many things that we turn our backs on, that we just accept, not like, but accept. We say the hell with it; just let it go; it isn't worth the fuss anymore. And I don't think that is a particularly good omen for the direction in which we as a country are headed."
Knight said three or four years ago he got up at a Michigan game in Ann Arbor and said that he was going after the next person who threw an obscenitity at him or his players. And he has gotten on the mike at Assembly Hall in Bloomington and said he would take his team off the floor if the crowd didn't stop chanting obscenities.