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Leadership: Leaders, Followers, Environments by Art Padilla

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Success or failure

A few years ago at a conference, I made a presentation on toxic leadership. After my talk, someone in the audience asked what I thought about Coach Bob Knight, the former Indiana University and U.S. Olympic basketball coach, legendary for his explosive temper and raging outbursts. It was a wonderful question. On the one hand, I observed rather obviously that Coach Knight was known as a combative individual known to ridicule and verbally abuse sports writers and even his own university's president. He notoriously shook or grabbed a few of his players in the heat of games and practices. He was accused of assault in Puerto Rico before a practice session in San Juan where he coached the U.S. team during the Pan American Games. Perhaps Knight's most infamous incident involved throwing a chair across the court during a 1985 game against archrival Purdue (Purdue won, 72–63) after all six fouls in the game had been called against his team during the first five minutes.7 He was fired from Indiana in 2000 after yet another player incident. One year later, Texas Tech hired him, where he coached successfully for seven years, winning 138 more games.

On the other hand, I observed that Coach Knight seemed to be deeply respected by other coaches and is considered to be among the best defensive coaches ever. He won more games than any other coach in NCAA history, excepting his protégé and former player, Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, earning in the process three NCAA championships, ...

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