Thursday, November 2, 2023

RIP Bobby Knight

I've got a lot of ties to Coach Bobby Knight, who has passed away at age 83. For starters, I was born in southern Indiana and feel that kinship. My dad went to Indiana University in Bloomington. My wife went there too. 

The only time I've ever set foot in Assembly Hall, Knight's classroom of basketball, was not to see a Hoosiers game but was rather to sneak up near the stage to see John Cougar Mellencamp's dozens of guitars spread across the stage hours before that local boy performed there. 

I was shooed off by security when they spotted me. No biggie, my real task on that trip was to determine whether I wanted to attend grad school at IU, which had offered me a full scholarship to the journalism program. But even in that short time standing in that hallowed ground of college hoops, I truly could feel Coach Knight's presence.

His accomplishments are mouth dropping: mainly his four national championships (one at Ohio State as a player and three as IU's coach). He retired in 2008 with 902 NCAA coaching wins, which was the most in history at the time and is now sixth most. Perhaps even more impressive were the ways he focused on not cheating, making kids actually go to class, his ultimate game preparation, his wit in interviews, and his frequent charitableness and kindness. 

Of course, many people didn't like him, and Knight gave them good reason, with his tirades bordering on serious abuse at his players and the famed chair throw across Assembly's floor.

Michael Jordan shocked by Coach Knight and IU
But I still loved Knight and the drama he brought to every game he coached. I had started following college basketball around 1982 and North Carolina was and still is my team, and my first memories of Knight began with his Hoosiers winning one of the sport's biggest upsets ever in the 1984 championship over UNC. That Tarheels team had an absolutely sick confluence of future NBA stars: Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins, Brad Daugherty, Kenny Smith, and Joe Wolf. In fact, that's probably my favorite team ever.

But, as can sometimes be the lack of logic in the ways we express our sports fandom, I still don't hold it against Bobby Knight.

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