Today marks the 36th anniversary of one of the most iconic temper tantrums ever thrown in sports history. On Feb. 23, 1985, legendary Indiana head basketball coach Bobby Knight let all his rage out on a poor old bench chair by hurling it across the court at Assembly Hall.
We know how creative Knight was with his referee-triggered freak-outs, but why did he choose a chair as his weapon of choice that fateful day?
Bobby Knight’s coaching career
After Bobby Knight graduated from Ohio State University in 1962, he already knew exactly what he wanted to do in life. Knight scored an assistant coaching job at Army a year later and was eventually named the head coach at the young age of 24.
He spent six years with the Black Knights before taking the Indiana University head coaching job in 1971. That’s when his coaching career took off. Knight led the Hoosiers to a Final Four appearance in just his second season in charge. In 1975, Knight led Indiana to an undefeated record and an NCAA championship. Under Knight, Indiana reached the Final Four five times and won three national titles.
Knight finished his coaching career with Texas Tech from 2001-08, but he didn’t have nearly as much success there as he did at Indiana.
The legendary head coach finished his career with 902 wins in 42 seasons, which is just behind Mike Krzyzewski (1,132) and Jim Boeheim (946) for the most of all time at the men’s Division I level.
The infamous Bobby Knight chair toss at Indiana
As much as Bobby Knight is remembered for his brilliant coaching career, he might be even more famous today for his patented temper tantrums. When Knight wasn’t happy with the referees, his face would turn as red as his Indiana team jacket, and refs had to keep their distance when they made a questionable call at the end of a close game.
Knight’s most iconic moment on the sidelines happened on this day 36 years ago. During a tense Big Ten game against Purdue, the Hoosiers were called for three fouls in the span of 59 seconds. Knight started voicing his displeasure with the nearby referee and was immediately hit with a technical foul, which wasn’t exactly rare for Knight back in the day.
In an inexplicable fit of rage, Knight moseyed back to the bench, picked up a chair from the bench area, and effortlessly hurled it across the court in disgust. Assembly Hall erupted in applause as Knight was ejected from the game.
Nearly four decades later, the clip is still used at the forefront of any coaching outburst montage.
Why did Bobby Knight throw the chair?
Watching the video back, it looks as if Knight was dead set on throwing the chair from the moment he turned around to face the bench. But it turns out that chair would’ve never left its place if Knight was wearing his sport coat at the time.
“Really, what happened was it was the first game that I’d coached at Indiana without a jacket,” Knight told David Letterman in 1987. “I reached for the jacket, and I would’ve sailed the jacket. And our team doctor … told me later, ‘Soon as I saw you turn around and reach for your jacket—you didn’t have it on—I tried to grab everything you could throw. He said, ‘I grabbed the trainer. The only thing I missed was the chair. You beat me to the chair.’”
A jacket toss would have been much less dangerous that day, but it wouldn’t even be mentioned 36 years later the way the Bobby Knight chair toss still is today.