Capitals

Column: Knight not living in past, will auction it

201210160142061410828-p2.jpeg

Column: Knight not living in past, will auction it

Here are a few things you won't find among the many items Bob Knight is putting on the auction block over the next two months in New York:

The tampon he left in one of his players lockers as a motivational message. The megaphone he kicked before chewing out Indiana's cheerleaders for disrupting a free-throw attempt by another of his players. The vase he allegedly hurled uncomfortably close to a secretary. The garbage can into which he deposited a drunken LSU fan. The folding chair he launched across the Assembly Hall court five minutes into a game to clear up any confusion over what he thought of the officiating.

Just about everything else Knight amassed over more than four decades in the coaching business - save for some things close pal and late baseball Hall of Famer Ted Williams gave him - will be offered for sale between now and Dec. 5. For those who can't wait, or don't want to pay premium auction-house prices, there's always eBay, where a quick search for ``Bob Knight'' turned up 616 items Monday night. The opening bids ranged from a high of $1,500 (or best offer) for a basketball autographed by Knight and his former pupil, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, down to 88 cents for a trading card (or 99 cents for the ``Buy-it-Now'' option).

Speaking over the phone during a layover at the Denver airport earlier Monday, Knight told The Associated Press that he and John Havlicek, the Boston Celtics great who was Knight's teammate at Ohio State, hatched the idea of funding their grandchildren's educations by cleaning out the closets and drawers in their homes. For Knight that included, among other things, his three NCAA championship rings, an Olympic gold medal and even one of his sport coats.

``Everybody lives in the past,'' Knight said. ``Not me. ... I've got stuff I didn't even know I had. I don't put anything up in the house. If you came into the house you would think I was a mailman. And I don't even wear rings.''

It's hard to imagine Knight needs money, since he segued into lucrative TV work for ESPN as both a studio analyst and color commentator for games shortly after walking away from his last coaching job, at Texas Tech, in the middle of the 2008 season. But we'll know for certain, and soon, whether he's done living in the past. In what appears to be a provocative move, the network has apparently juggled its college basketball lineup for the upcoming season so that Knight will call Southeastern Conference games, including Kentucky's games on the road.

A bit of background is in order. Knight's distaste for the Wildcats' program and their oft-criticized coach, John Calipari, is hardly a secret. In addition to roasting Calipari and his one-and-done approach to recruiting in speeches for months, Knight refused to even mention ``Kentucky'' by name. Though that ended late in March as the Wildcats sliced and diced their way through the NCAA brackets en route to the national championship, it will be interesting to see whether Knight holds a grudge.

We won't know whether hard-core Kentucky fans do, since ESPN has decided that Knight won't work Kentucky games at Rupp Arena. The network apparently doesn't mind providing some kindling - imagine a postgame meeting between the two, or a production meeting beforehand - but it doesn't want to risk the bonfire Knight might ignite simply by showing up courtside in Lexington. Exactly why he agreed to the new assignment remains anyone's guess. The only thing Knight said about the arrangement, according to a statement released by ESPN, is that ``I'm looking forward to watching and describing these games.''

Even though he turns 72 on Oct. 25, Knight has remained almost as grumpy and controversial off the court as he once was on it. Nearly four years ago, after a career's worth of railing against gambling, he agreed to ride shotgun for announcer Billy Packer on a string of cheesy NCAA tournament specials taped at a sports book on the Las Vegas Strip. Packer explained the choice of locale by explaining at the time, ``Bob and I, and a lot of people, want to really experience what this is really like because we do think, next to being center court, this is the place to be.''

Right. Because nothing says ``March Madness'' like scantily clad cocktail waitresses, a heaping buffet, a wall of wide-screen TVs and people wandering aimlessly in the background or standing in line at the windows. Never mind that when Knight was coaching at Indiana and always putting the best interests of the game ahead of his own, he complained about betting lines published in the Bloomington paper this way: ``Why don't the newspapers run whores' phone numbers? Is betting on basketball, football or baseball less illegal than prostitution?''

Outside of Las Vegas, the answer is still no. But it serves as a reminder that when the price is right, just about anything can be bought.

---

Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org and follow him at Twitter.com/JimLitke.

Quick Links

MacLellan: Reirden will get the first crack at replacing Trotz

capture_reirden.png
USA TODAY Sports

MacLellan: Reirden will get the first crack at replacing Trotz

Will Todd Reirden replace Barry Trotz as head coach of the Washington Capitals?

Based on what GM Brian MacLellan said Monday, it certainly sounds like it’s Reirden’s job to lose.

“We’re going to start with Todd here,” MacLellan said. “I think we’ve been grooming him to be a head coach, whether for us or someone else.”

“We’ll see how the talk goes with him and we’ll make a decision based on that,” MacLellan added. “If it goes well, we’ll pursue Todd. And if it doesn’t, we’ll open it up a little bit.”

MacLellan said he isn’t sure exactly when the interview with Reirden will take place. The front office needs a few days to regroup. It’s also a busy stretch in hockey’s offseason. In the coming two weeks, MacLellan will direct the NHL draft in Dallas, monitor development camp in Arlington and then call the shots when free agency begins on July 1.  

“We need to take a breather here but I think Todd is a good candidate for it,” MacLellan said. “I’d like to sit down with Todd and have a normal interview, head coaching interview. I think most of our discussions are just casual. It’s about hockey in general. But I’d like to do a formal interview with him and just see if there’s differences or how we’re seeing things the same and if he’s a possibility for the head coach.”

Reirden, 46, spent the past four seasons on Trotz’s bench. He was elevated to associate coach prior to the 2016-17 season after coming up just short in his pursuit of the head coaching position in Calgary.

Reirden’s primary responsibility on Trotz’s staff was overseeing the defense and Washington’s perennially potent power play.

Prior to joining the Capitals in 2014, he was an assistant coach for four seasons with the Penguins. And before that, he spent a couple of seasons as the head coach of AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Penguins’ top minor league affiliate.

A native of Deerfield, Ill., Reirden also had a lengthy professional career that included 183 NHL games with the Oilers, Blues, Thrashers and Coyotes.

Asked what he’s looking for in the Caps’ next head coach, MacLellan said he’s looking for a forward-thinker, a strong communicator and a players’ coach.

Reirden is all of those things.

“Someone that's up to date on the modern game,” MacLellan said. “Someone that's progressive, looking to try different things. Someone that has a good relationship with players. They communicate, can teach, make players better. It's becoming a developmental league where guys are coming in not fully developed products and we need a guy that can bring young players along because more and more we're going to use young players as the higher end guys make more money.”

One of the side benefits of elevating Reirden is the fact he already has a strong relationship with many of the current players, meaning there won’t be much upheaval as the Caps look to defend their championship.

“It could be a natural transition,” MacLellan said. “But once we sit down and talk face to face about all the little small details in the team, I'll have a better feel for it.”

MacLellan said a decision on the other assistant coaches—Lane Lambert, Blaine Forsythe, Scott Murray, Brett Leonhardt and Tim Ohashi—will be made after the next head coach is named.

MORE CAPITALS COVERAGE:

Quick Links

Brian MacLellan explains the reasoning behind not extending Trotz before the 2017-18 season

usatsi_9814395.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Brian MacLellan explains the reasoning behind not extending Trotz before the 2017-18 season

As shocking as the news of Barry Trotz’s resignation on Monday felt, it probably shouldn’t have given that whether or not he would return to Washington after the 2017-18 season was a storyline all year long.

Trotz entered the 2017-18 season on the last year of his initial four-year deal leading to speculation over whether the team was dissatisfied with his results and ready to move on from the head coach when his contract expired. Teams typically do not allow a head coach to enter the final year of a contract so that they do not appear to the players to be a lame duck coach.

Ultimately, that turned out to not be a problem as Trotz led the organization to its first Stanley Cup in his contract year. While there was interest from both sides in an extension in the wake of winning the Cup, ultimately a new deal could not be agreed upon and now the defending champs are without a head coach.

This begs the question, could things have been different had the team worked out a new contract with Trotz before the 2017-18 season? The answer is almost certainly yes, so how did things get to the point where Trotz was allowed to go into 2017-18 without an extension?

During a press conference with the media on Monday, general manager Brian MacLellan explained the team’s reasoning in not extending Trotz in the summer of 2017.

“We were struggling at the time to get over the hump,” MacLellan said. “We couldn't get over the second round and Barry hadn't been able to coach out of the second round yet either.”

In 15 seasons with the Nashville Predators, Trotz was not able to coach his team past the second round in the playoffs. In his three seasons with Washington leading up to the 2017-18 campaign, he had led the Caps to two division titles and two Presidents’ Trophies, but again could not get past the second-round hump that had plagued both him and the team.

Based on MacLellan’s comments, another early playoff exit would have likely led to the team choosing to allow Trotz's contract to expire.

“I think from the organization's perspective, some changes would've had to be made if we lost in the second round again,” MacLellan said.

But what if instead the unthinkable happened? What if the Caps forced Trotz into a “prove it” contract year and he was able to lead the team to the Stanley Cup? Didn’t they risk losing him all along?

Yes and no.

MacLellan confirmed reports on Monday that Trotz’s contract included an automatic two-year extension “at an increased rate” if he won the Cup. So while both sides were negotiating an extension, technically Trotz was already under contract through the 2019-20 season.

In the summer of 2017, MacLellan had a choice to make. At the end of the two-year championship window, he could choose to extend a head coach who had not brought the team the type of postseason success he was hoping for, he could fire a coach who had just won two consecutive division titles, two Presidents’ Trophies and whose team was eliminated in the playoffs by the eventual Stanley Cup champions, or he could ride out the final year of Trotz’s deal and, in the off chance the team won the Stanley Cup, still rest easy in the notion that Trotz would automatically remain under contract.

MacLellan went with option C. It almost worked.

MORE CAPITALS COVERAGE: