My rock star attitude took a toll on the IU assistant coaches at the time. Dan Dakich and Joby Wright both challenged me with intense verbal confrontations on separate occasions. Ron Felling simply ignored me most of the time unless I humored his jokes. Tates Locke, on the other hand, was the one coach who was able to relate to me. One day Coach Locke and I sat high in the stands in Assembly Hall, and he asked me why I was attending IU? I think he expected me to say something along the lines of “to become a professional basketball player” or “to earn a degree.” My reply was one in which I stood by: “to experience all that college has to offer.” Coach Locke laughed, and as the conversation continued, he gave me much needed insight on how college coaching is designed and how the system was affecting my playing time as well as basketball players just like me all over the country.
Coach Locke quickly began to explain his view of coaching at the division 1 level. He said that every student athlete has an advocate on staff trying to get their player minutes on the court. They do this because in most cases they recruited that player. When a player does not perform to expectations on and off the court, the head coach usually blames the assistant coach who was responsible for the recruitment process.
When that assistant coach gives up on the athlete, dealing with that player becomes the responsibility of another assistant coach. The process continues until the team runs out of assistant coaches.
Then a decision is made to either encourage the player to leave or to let the athlete ride the scholarship out. When I said I understood, he said, “I am the last assistant coach on the list to deal with Mark Robinson.” Whether this was true or he was just trying to get me to leave the rock star mode, based off the behavior of the other assistant coaches, his reasoning made complete sense. We I left Assembly Hall, I felt much better about my interactions with Coach Wright and Coach Dakich. I understood that these assistant coaches were under extreme pressure, and it is sometimes easy to forget that the players dealt with are 18-21 year old kids. I also came to understand that as a player, once practice was over I could go back to my rock star world, and they had to continue to stay in the world of Bob Knight.
While at IU, Buzz Kurpius was the team’s academic advisor, and she did a wonderful job of keeping the team eligible. I majored in General Studies, but I had no clue what I could do with a degree in General Studies and neither did anyone else. Buzz was a sincere person, and most of the time it was clear that she wanted the best for the guys on the team. Her job was to make sure players attended class and passed classes. However, her oversight did not extend beyond our class work. At the time, everyone assumed athletes were gaining the necessary personal development and becoming better people through the basketball experience. Understanding the personal needs of the athletes on the basketball team was not a high priority, and the importance of personal development was unknown. I would argue that many academic advisors today are still unaware of the needs and benefits of personal development for athletes.
During the spring semester of 1988 my GPA did not meet the standard that Coach Knight believed to be acceptable. As a punishment, he assigned me to work during that summer at a company called Cook Group Incorporated. I did not know much about the company or what I would be doing, but since the work assigned was a punishment, I assumed it would not be pleasant. I reported to work and sat with Mr. Bill Cook, the CEO. I remember seeing Mr. Cook around Assembly Hall from time to time and had exchanged pleasantries with him and his wife, Gayle, on several occasions without ever realizing he was the CEO of a major company. On my first day we talked and laughed for a little over an hour while watching his marching band on tape. While I was enjoying this opportunity, Mr. Cook received a call from Coach Knight asking what job I would be doing? Mr. Cook replied to Coach that we had not yet begun that discussion. Coach Knight asked Mr. Cook to give me the dirtiest job he could find. I ended up cleaning bathrooms, maintaining a bird pool in front of the office, and sand blasting vents on the roof of the building all summer. However, every time Mr. Cook and I had an opportunity to chat, we would. After the summer job, I did not see much of Mr. Cook until I finished my degree……