A Man Who Left An Indelible Mark On The Game Of Basketball While Exhibiting The Best and Worst Of Human Nature | Bob Knight Dies At 83

Legendary Hall of Fame basketball coach Robert Montgomery Knight has died at the age of 83.

Nicknamed “the General,” he led the Indiana Hoosiers to three national championships and left a mark on the game of basketball that is unmistakable. So too was his abhorrent conduct and penchant for violence, often directed at his players.

His family announced his death Wednesday night as he had been in the hospital dealing with an illness and his overall health declining for the past several years.

“It is with heavy hearts that we share that Coach Bob Knight passed away at his home in Bloomington surrounded by his family,” the statement said. “We are grateful for all the thoughts and prayers, and appreciate the continued respect for our privacy as Coach requested a private family gathering, which is being honored.”

Knight Was A Coaching Savant

Knight began his coaching career at Army at the age of 24, becoming the youngest head coach in Division I in 1965. During his six-year tenure he amassed a record of 102-50 and led the Black Knights to four NIT Tournament berths.

While at Army he coached a point guard named Mike Krzyzewski, who would go on to become head coach at Duke University and amass the most wins in Division I men’s basketball history with 1,202.

Krzyzewski and Knight’s relationship deteriorated over the years and was damaged during the 1992 Final Four when Duke beat Indiana and Knight congratulated the Blue Devils on their win but walked right by his protegé without offering a word.

Knight was petty like that and stubborn.

“We lost one of the greatest coaches in the history of basketball today,” Krzyzewski said in a statement. “Clearly, he was one of a kind. Coach Knight recruited me, mentored me, and had a profound impact on my career and in my life. This is a tremendous loss for our sport and our family is deeply saddened by his passing.”

Still, Knight’s tenure at Indiana was legendary. He compiled a 662-239 record from 1971-2000. In his 29 seasons the Hoosiers won 20 or more games 22 times. The team made the NCAA Tournament 24 times, winning the title in ’76 (undefeated, which has never been matched), ’81 and ’87. The Hoosiers advanced to five Final Fours and won 11 Big Ten regular season championships.

Knight Was Also A Terrible Man

But it was during his time at Indiana that Knight’s infamous temper blew up into huge scandals and when he put his foot in his mouth on more than one occasion.

He threw a chair across the floor in the middle of a game in 1985 against Purdue, upset at a referee’s call. He had numerous physical confrontations with opposing coaches and officials. Knight would go on profanity-laced tirades at the media in his press conferences.

In a 1988 interview with NBC’s Connie Chung Knight said, “I think that if rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it.”

He later said the comments were taken out of context. Not sure what context that statement would ever be acceptable.

Knight once brought a horse whip to practice and cracked it in the direction of Black player Calbert Cheaney in 1992.

In 1997 Knight choked player Neil Reed at practice and got physical with another player. There was an incident with his own son, Pat Knight and another with Sherron Wilkerson.

On September 8, 2000, Indiana freshman Kent Harvey, told campus police Knight grabbed him roughly by the arm and berated him for speaking to Knight disrespectfully. Knight was fired from Indiana two days later.

Those were the most infamous incidents, but there were several others.

Knight then coached at Texas Tech from 2001-08, compiling a 138-82 record. The Red Raiders qualified for the NCAA Tournament four times in seven seasons, and qualified for the NIT once. He retired from coaching on Feb. 4, 2008.

Knight was an innovator in terms of on court coaching. He pioneered much of the actions we see in the sport today as it relates to the motion offense. Passing and screening constantly until someone is open for an easy basket. On defense, Knight preached aggressive, tenacious man-to-man principles where every shot and pass was contested, and rotating to help teammates was mandatory.

Again, his mark on the game is second to none. But the man left much to be desired. Though he was not without his staunch supporters.

Knight’s most famous and best player was Isiah Thomas, who starred for him at Indiana and won a national title in ’81. Zeke often credits Knight with helping mold him into the player he became in the NBA.

The hoops legend reposted a video of Knight from his days at Indiana on the social media platform X, with the caption “lots of teammate tears flowing tonight for our coach.”

Basketball legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson also posted a message about Knight on X.

“Rest in peace to Hall of Fame basketball coach Bobby Knight! I remember when he came to recruit me at Everett High School right after they went 32-0 and won the National Championship in 1976. All 1200 students skipped class that day because they wanted to catch a glimpse of the legendary Coach Knight. A true champion! Cookie and I are praying for the entire Knight family and all of his loved ones.”

Human beings are complex and we are not the sum total of our good deeds, nor are we the sum total of our bad ones. We are a combination of both.

Bob Knight was a revered, legendary coach and a man who could be cruel, hateful and vindictive. He was both, and we have to acknowledge that.

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