Reusse: Knight and his temper loom large in Minnesota memories

Bobby Knight was on one of his frequent game bird excursions to Western North Dakota. Sid Hartman had introduced Knight to Tom Swanson, a car dealer from Minot and ardent hunter, and he became a Knight companion on these hunts.

"Knight walked the fields with the best of them," Swanson said Wednesday. "If you put the work in, Bobby was a firm believer that you didn't shoot another guy's bird."

Meaning, if the ringneck pheasant kicked up in front of a hunter, the first shots belonged to that person.

"Jack Brannon was one of Bobby's basketball scouts and an excellent outdoorsman," Swanson said. "They were very close friends. It was late and we were at the end of a field. It was the last hunt of a long day.

"A bird jumped up in front of Bobby. Jack got off a quick shot and put down the rooster. Bobby said, 'That was my bird, Jack.' "

Brannon did not immediately plead guilty and Knight became more heated. And finally, it came to this:

"Three of them had driven all the way in from Bloomington [Ind.]," Swanson said. "Now, Bobby said, 'A guy that hunts like that, he's not riding back home in a car that I'm in.' "

Knight stuck to it and Brannon was left in North Dakota. "He hung around for a week, and we hunted every day," Swanson said. "Bobby … when he made up his mind, he wasn't changing it."

When hunting birds. Or when hunting basketball wins.

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Knight, the coach who made his legend with the Hoosiers, died Wednesday at 83 back home in basketball-loving Indiana after a long battle with memory issues.

Knight coached the Hoosiers from 1971 to 2000, when Indiana took the bold action of firing him after a series of temper-fueled incidents.

We saw that temper the first time he coached at Williams Arena on Jan. 8, 1972 — the first Big Ten game for both Knight and Minnesota's volatile Bill Musselman. The Gophers won 52-51, with Jim Brewer blocking a shot near the buzzer.

Knight saw chicanery from a referee and chased him down the steps at the Barn. The battle was on — Hoosiers vs. Gophers, generally dominated by Knight, but not always.

"I think I beat him seven of our last 11," said Clem Haskins, the Gophers coach from 1986 through 1999. "I had a special speech I would give to our players before those games. I've never revealed what was said to anyone but our players and I won't start now."

You beat Bobby by 40 one time in the Barn, right Clem? "It was 50 points," Haskins said. "Knight … great coach, great competitor, but that was a game for the ages."

February 27, 1994. Minnesota 106, Indiana 56.

Famously, Knight, the fierce competitor, simply sat on the visitors bench below the elevated court and watched for the entire second half. Not even his Twin Cities media pal could provide comfort after that game.

Chad Hartman, Sid's son, said: "More than anything, what Bobby appreciated was my dad's loyalty. Bobby would get in one of his brouhahas, and Sid went to the favorite line: 'You don't know all the great things he does for people.' "

Jim Dutcher coached the Gophers against Knight for a decade, starting as Musselman's replacement in 1975. Dutcher had just heard the news of Knight's death Wednesday.

"He was a complicated guy, but he was winning big when the Big Ten was really good," Dutcher said. "He was a tremendous coach who got away with tactics that wouldn't work in today's game.

"In fact, the switch in how coaches are required to deal with players was what caught up with him, cost Bobby his job at Indiana."

The Hoosiers were at their most potent when Dutcher took over at Minnesota.

"He had one of his best teams and we played them very close at our place," Dutcher said. "After the game, down there in that old hallway between the locker rooms … there are Sid and Bobby walking toward me.

"Sid said, 'Coach would like to go in your locker room and talk to your team — congratulate them — for a minute.' I said, 'Sid, the only coach who talks to our team is me.'

"Sid still was mad at me a few days later. I said, 'Sid, what do you suppose his reaction would be if we beat them in a close game, and I came down the hall and said, 'Bobby, I'd like to talk to your team.' "

Dan Barreiro, sportswriter turned afternoon drive titan on Twin Cities radio, covered the Hoosiers for the Indiana Daily Student — including as the beat writer for the 32-0 Hoosiers of 1975-76.

"Earlier, when I was a freshman, I was filling in for the beat writer," Barreiro said. "I came out to get on the bus to airport for the first time. It was full. I couldn't see a seat, except for in the front. So I sat down."

There was a groan through the bus. Then, assistant coach Dave Bliss tapped Barreiro on the shoulder and said: "That is where 'He' sits."

Barreiro jumped up and headed down the aisle before the head coach arrived.

"That was the reverence for Knight at Indiana for a long time," Barreiro said. "Bobby was 'He.'