The stage was set. Every Hoosier in Assembly Hall was anxiously waiting the dramatic return of legendary former Indiana head coach Bob Knight on Saturday.
His accomplishments speak for themselves. From 1971 to 2000, Knight made Indiana one of the most formidable college teams in the nation. He led Indiana to three NCAA championships and 11 Big Ten Championships. Knight’s 1975-76 team was the last NCAA team to go undefeated for an entire season.
Looking at that alone, it’s easy to see why so many Indiana fans love him. But why does Knight’s presence excite anyone, especially the people of the university he spent most of his coaching career at?
When Knight’s name was announced in Assembly Hall on Saturday, I couldn’t help but think about how strange it was for people to be celebrating him. And let me tell you, the celebration was excessive.
I only have 143 followers on Twitter, but over 600 people were watching my livestream of his 10-minute standing ovation. I can only imagine that the more senior reporters at either side of me had even more viewers.
Why not celebrate him, you ask?
Well, it’s simple. Bob Knight was — and is — a horrible, terrible, no-good, very bad man.
I know what you’re thinking. Yelling, swearing and throwing chairs — that’s just Bobby being Bobby, right? Sure, he was intense and angry, but that’s just his competitive nature, right? Not really.
I swear a lot, I’m pretty competitive and sometimes I’ll even throw things. But I’ve never assaulted a player. I’ve never intimidated or bullied any reporters. I’ve never wiped my derriere with my bare hand and presented the contents to my players. You want to guess who has done all three of those things?
That’s right. Knight.
If you don’t know the story of Neil Reed, I’d consider you a pretty innocent sports fan. Reed played for Indiana from 1994-97, during the later half of Knight’s tenure at Indiana. Reed appeared in 122 games in three seasons and averaged almost 12 points per game for the Hoosiers. Indiana fans loved Reed, but they loved Bob Knight even more.
So when Reed decided to leave Indiana in 1997 to play for Southern Mississippi, nobody thought to blame Knight for any of it. After all, Knight was only pushing him to be the best he could be. If Reed couldn’t handle it, he was obviously too soft.
Three years later, CNN Sports Illustrated ran a story saying that Reed claimed Knight choked him during a 1997 practice. While Knight vehemently denied the allegations, practice footage was released less than a month later. Knight grabbed Reed — one of his own players — by the throat and attempted to choke him.
Knight was fired from Indiana that same year, but he did many more terrible things over the course of his career at Indiana.
Knight was terrible not only to his own players, but to anyone in the media. If you want to see all the times Knight cussed out, insulted or threatened a reporter, then pull up YouTube and set aside a few hours, because there’s a lot to go through.
In 1992, Knight walked into a post-game press conference with a whip in his hands, and said, “Probably no motivational device I’ve come across is as good as this.” Knight then pointed out what he insisted was actual blood dripping from the end of the whip, but it was unclear if there was anything on it at all, according to Sportscenter.
He also once said journalism was “one or two steps above prostitution.”
Does being a pompous jerk make your accomplishments any less great? Maybe not. On paper, Knight truly is one of the best basketball coaches ever. But why chant “Thank you, coach” to a man who was verbally and physically abusive to almost every other member of his profession?