For the first time in nearly 20 years, longtime Indiana basketball coach Bob Knight returned to the campus at Indiana University.
Knight, now 78 years old, was a surprise attendee at Indiana’s baseball game against Penn State on Saturday in Bloomington. It was his first appearance at IU since nearly 30-year tenure as the Hoosiers’ basketball coach came to a tumultuous end in September 2000.
— Indiana On BTN (@IndianaOnBTN) April 6, 2019
Knight, before working his way up to the press box to watch the game, seemed happy to be back.
“It’s going to be a nice afternoon,” Knight said. “It’s nice being here.”
— Indiana Sports Beat w/Jim Coyle (@jimcoyleISB) April 6, 2019
Indiana officials were aware of Knight’s visit, per the Bloomington Herald-Times.
“My understanding is that Coach Knight was in town for other reasons,” IU athletic director Fred Glass told The Herald-Times. “He expressed interest in coming to a baseball game and obviously we were happy to facilitate that. I haven’t talked to him and don’t expect to.”
Knight vowed never to return to Indiana
Knight’s relationship with Indiana has been rocky, to say the least.
As recently as 2017, Knight, who coached IU to three national championships, vowed to never return to Indiana. In an interview on the Dan Patrick Show, Knight said he had “no respect” for the Indiana leadership that pushed for his ouster. He even wished death upon those who are still around.
Many wondered if Knight would finally return to Indiana when the school celebrated the 40th anniversary of its undefeated 1976 national champions. But it did not come to fruition.
However, after a speaking engagement in suburban Indianapolis Thursday night, Knight decided to make the trip over to Bloomington for his long-anticipated return.
Knight compiled 662 wins, including three national titles, five Final Fours and 11 Big Ten titles, over 29 seasons at IU. But his career was marred by controversy. Knight was known for his surly demeanor and bursts of anger.
His time at IU finally came to an end after former Hoosiers player Neil Reed told CNN in 2000 that Knight grabbed him by the neck during a practice in 1997. Later in 2000, an IU student said Knight grabbed him by the arm. That proved to be the final straw, and IU president Myles Brand fired Knight.
The end of his tenure was the subject of an ESPN “30 for 30” documentary.
Knight’s health said to be in decline
In March, longtime Indiana radio play-by-play man Don Fischer said that Knight was “not well.” Fischer added to the Indianapolis Star that the coach’s health was “in decline.”
"He's going through some major issues and it hurts me to even talk about it just because a man with that kind of a mind, who was so tremendous at coaching the game of basketball, and you know, at the age that we get to at this point in our lives, you want to keep thinking that that brain is never going to go away, and it appears that's a real problem for him right now and what he's dealing with,” Fischer said per the Indianapolis Star.
During his appearance at Center Grove High School in Greenwood, Indiana, on Thursday night, Knight reportedly had some issues with his memory. According to the Star, Knight “seemed to forget his wife had already been introduced,” repeated a quip “more than 20 times” and said that a former player had passed away. By contrast, Knight also had moments where he was “endearing and charming” and had “a fiery, quick wit.”
Additionally, Knight mentioned “five times” that coaching at IU were “the best days of his life,” per the Star.
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