Robert Montgomery Knight was born October 25, 1940 in Massillon, Ohio. He is the former head men’s basketball coach at Indiana University, and currently works as an analyst for ESPN’s college basketball broadcasts.
Knight attended Orrville High School, excelling in both football and basketball. He then went on to play basketball for Fred Taylor at Ohio State University where he was a reserve forward on the Buckeye’s 1960 national championship team. Upon graduating in 1962, Knight coached junior varsity basketball at Cuyahoga Falls High School in Ohio for a year, and then enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he became an assistant coach for the Army Black Knights.
After two years, Knight became the head coach at the tender age of 24. He spent six seasons in West Point, compiling a record of 102 wins and 50 losses. His best season came in 1969, when the Black Knights went 22-6 on their way to an appearance in the National Invitational Tournament Semifinals. The point guard on that team was none other than future Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski.
When Lou Watson was forced out of Bloomington, Indiana in 1971, school officials entrusted the storied program to the 31 year old Knight. In his second year “The General” led the Hoosiers to the Final Four, and in 1975 the team finished the regular season with an undefeated record. Misfortune struck when leading scorer Scott May suffered a broken arm against Purdue University late in the season. Indiana eventually fell to Kentucky in the Regional Finals of the NCAA Tournament.
The next season they again went undefeated in regular season play, and with no injury to stop them this time, went on to beat Michigan in the NCAA Championship Game, completing a perfect 32-0 season. The feat hasn’t been accomplished since, with Larry Bird‘s Indiana State team coming the closest, failing to lose a game until the 1979 Championship against Magic Johnson and the Michigan State Spartans.
Knight went on to win the 1981 championship behind the stellar play of point guard Isaiah Thomas, and the 1987 title with New Castle, Indiana native Steve Alford leading the way. In 1984 he coached the U.S. National Team to a gold medal in the Olympic Games. The early 1990’s produced a Final Four, an Elite Eight, and a two Sweet Sixteen appearances, but as the decade wore on the tournament success started to wane. Despite never winning less than 19 games between 1994 and 2000, the Hoosiers failed to advance past the second round in the postseason tourney.
In 2000, after being put on a “zero tolerance” policy by IU President Myles Brand, Knight was fired by Brand for an incident involving a freshman student named Kent Harvey, who just happened to be the stepson of Mark Shaw, a local radio talk show host, and vocal critic of Knight.
After sitting out a year, Knight took the head coaching job at Texas Tech University, a position he held for seven seasons, leading the Red Raiders to five NCAA tournament appearances. Citing exhaustion, Knight retired mid-way through the 2008 season, handing coaching duties over to his son, Pat Knight. Upon his retirement, Knight was the winningest coach in NCAA Division I men’s college basketball history, finishing with 901 victories.
Although he is undoubtedly one of the greatest coaches to ever carry a whistle, Knight’s career was plagued by incidents involving his temper. Among the more infamous include:
1979: Accused of punching a police officer in San Juan, Puerto Rico while he was coaching the U.S. basketball team in the 1979 Pan American Games.
1985: Threw a chair across the court in a game against Purdue.
|Bob Knight’s infamous chair throwing incident against Purdue|
1988: Told Connie Chung in an interview that “if rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it,” spurring protests from women’s groups across the nation.
1993: Allegedly kicked his son Pat during a game against Notre Dame, though both say it was a chair, and not Pat’s leg that received the punishment.
1997: Grabbed Neil Reed by the neck during practice. Video of the incident was eventually released on CNN.
|ESPN Sportscenter Top 10 Bobby Knight Quotes|
On the flip side, in a profession that’s littered with sleazy con men, under the table payments, and a lack of concern for the ‘student’ part of ‘student athlete,’ Knight stands head and shoulders above the crowd. He graduated nearly all of his players, never came close to breaking an NCAA rule, and was referred to by John Feinstein — not exactly his biggest supporter — as “a principled man in a business frequently lacking principles.”
Indianapolis sports fans may be split down the middle on how they regard Knight personally, but there’s no denying he’s an Indiana basketball legend
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