In the world of college basketball, the name Bobby Knight is synonymous with Indiana, winning, and controversy. In his 29 years with the Indiana Hoosiers, Knight guided the team to three national titles, including the 1975-76 squad, which is the only team in NCAA history to complete an undefeated season at 32-0.
Despite his success, Knight was dogged by controversy throughout his 40-plus years coaching. Whether it was choking a player or the infamous tossing of a chair during a game, Knight often made headlines for the wrong reasons. Today, now 79, with his health failing, Knight is nothing like the gruff former coach, who was beloved or disliked, depending on your rooting interest.
Bobby Knight guides Indiana to the top of college basketball
Bobby Knight didn’t take long to make his mark on the Indiana basketball program after he arrived. In 1972-73, Knight’s second year with the Hoosiers, he guided the team to a Big 10 title and an appearance in the Final Four before losing to UCLA and legendary coach John Wooden.
The next three seasons, the Hoosiers won the Big 10 title, and in both 1974–75 and 1975–76, Indiana played undefeated basketball in the regular season, winning 37 consecutive games. In the 1975-76 season, Knight’s team breezed through the NCAA Tournament, including revenge in the Final Four, defeating the UCLA Bruins in the semifinals. The Hoosiers capped off the perfect season with an 86-68 win over Michigan to become the first and only team to complete an entire season’s schedule unblemished.
Knight directed the Hoosiers to two more national titles in 1980-81 and 1986-87 before departing the program after the 2000 season. He finished his coaching career with Texas Tech in 2007-08, after leading the Red Raiders to four NCAA Tourney appearances in seven seasons.
Bobby Knight’s controversies
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While Knight’s many achievements as a coach are undeniable, his temperament often came into question for numerous incidents throughout his career that revealed a volatile side to the coach. In 1997, former player Neil Reed claimed Knight had choked him in practice. The coach denied the accusations, but video later confirmed the player’s allegations.
There are various other examples of Knight’s volatility, including explosive outbursts and profanity-laced tirades directed at players, coaches, and members of the media. Knight, however, is most remembered for a 1985 incident at home when the Hoosiers took on rival Purdue.
Just minutes into the game, after a pair of fouls were called on Indiana, Knight vehemently contended one of the fouls should have been declared a jump ball. He received a technical for his protest. That’s when he proceeded to grab a red plastic chair from the Indiana bench and flung it across the floor in front of the Purdue free-throw shooter. Knight received a pair of additional technicals and was ejected from the game. Through the years, Knight joked he was being a gentleman and was throwing the chair to an old lady standing on the opposite sideline.
Bobby Knight’s failing health
After retiring from coaching in 2008, Knight transitioned into broadcasting as a studio analyst and color commentator at ESPN. In November 2012, he called his first Indiana game, something he had previously refused to do. He left ESPN after the 2015 season.
In February 2019, it was reported Knight’s health was failing. A couple of months later, the coach appeared at a function and struggled with his memory. He introduced his wife twice to the audience. He also mistakenly identified a former IU basketball player as dying, and told a story about Michael Jordan, then repeated the same story substituting a former IU player for Jordan.
Later in 2019 Knight and his wife purchased a home in Bloomington, indicating the long-time coach had buried the hatchet and was ready to settle at the place where he made his legendary name. In February 2020, Knight made an emotional return to an Indiana basketball game where he was honored. It was his first time in Assembly Hall since his dismissal by the school two decades earlier.
More than 50 former players attended the game, including Isiah Thomas, who, along with several other players, cried when Knight made his way on to the court. It was a night everyone in attendance would never forget.
Knight and his failing memory might not remember the evening, but his presence provided closure of sorts for many in attendance as the greatest coach in Indiana basketball and one of the greatest college coaches in history returned home one last time.