The thunderous applause that met Bob Knight’s ears last week may still be echoing off the walls inside Clowes Memorial Hall.
A crowd of more than 1,600 turned out to hear the winningest coach in Divison I men’s basketball history recount his life and coaching career. Knight, who led Indiana to three national titles, was greeted by a standing ovation before even beginning his speech.
Amid immense success, Knight’s career was often clouded by controversy. Several altercations, including a former player’s claim that Knight choked him during a 1997 practice, led to Knight’s demise as head coach of the Hoosiers. In 2000, Knight resigned after 29 seasons at Indiana.
Despite the controversial final act in Bloomington, Knight has remained an icon in the eyes of many Hoosier basketball fans, including longtime season ticket holder John Morawski.
“Still, people love him for what he did for basketball, IU and the state,” Morawski said.
Just as Knight’s candid responses and free-spirited court presence entertained audiences during his coaching days, Knight didn’t disappoint the Clowes Hall crowd.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Morawski said. “You never know what to expect with coach Knight. But he exceeded all expectations tonight. He was humorous, philosophical and gave me chills reliving some of the great moments in IU basketball history.”
In a speech that lasted more than an hour, Knight recounted career highlights, such as coaching Michael Jordan on the 1984 U.S. Olympic team and Hoosier guard Keith Smart’s game-winning shot in the 1987 NCAA National Championship game.
Knight took more time, however, stressing the value he placed on academic success in his programs.
“The most pleasing thing for me was the graduation rate we had,” Knight said. “My obligation was not to see that he made the All-America team. It was to see that he got a degree.”
Upon leaving Indiana, Knight served as head coach at Texas Tech from 2001-08, leading the Red Raiders to six postseason appearances. Since retiring from coaching, Knight has worked as a studio analyst and part-time color commentator for ESPN.
After years of being at the mercy of referees, Knight has the power in the form of a microphone.
Now, when Knight doesn’t agree with a referee’s call, his objection isn’t just heard by those within earshot. Knight can display his displeasure to hundreds of thousands of viewers.
“When the officials come out on the court, I hold the microphone out so they can see it,” Knight said through a grin.