On Nov. 1, college and professional basketball Hall of Famer and former coach Bob Knight passed away at the age of 83.
His outstanding accomplishments in the sport include an NCAA men’s title as a player with the Ohio State Buckeyes in 1960, as well as three championships, five Final Four appearances and 11 Big Ten conference championships as head coach of the Indiana Hoosiers from 1971 to 2000. Knight retired in 2008 with a 902–371 record, good for the most coaching wins all-time at that time.
Knight’s family released a statement on the day of his passing: “It is with heavy hearts that we share that Coach Bob Knight passed away at his home in Bloomington surrounded by his family.”
“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. We will continue to celebrate his life and remember him, today and forever as a beloved Husband, Father, Coach, and Friend,” the statement continued.
Several of Knight’s players went on to have successful careers in the NBA, none more so than two-time champion Isiah Thomas, a member of Knight’s 1981 title run.
“The brilliance of Coach was that somehow, he knew you had more to give than what you were giving,” Thomas said. “He would cross all boundaries to bring that out of you.
“If you look at all the guys who played for him, we all have the same kind of mettle and toughness. We can all say we wouldn’t be the type of men we are today if we didn’t play for Coach Knight.”
Knight’s innovations in man defense and motion offense still have roots in many of today’s best basketball teams, and his coaching tree remains one of the most prolific in the sport. Another of his title-winning players, Steve Alford, has been head coach of Nevada since 2019.
“Playing for him was greater than I ever imagined because of how hard he pushed me,” Alford said. “I didn’t always appreciate it at the time, but I had great faith in who I was playing for. We won a championship together, but that wasn’t what mattered. What mattered is that he made me a better person.”
Current Hoosiers head coach Mike Woodson, also a former player of Knight’s, also gave his respects throughout his tenure and previous NBA career.
“Make no mistake about it, Indiana basketball is Bob Knight,” Woodson said in the fall of 2021. “I’ll never be able to fill Knight’s shoes. I don’t have enough time in the day to do that.”
Knight was more than willing to return the praise and express confidence in Woodson as the leader of Hoosiers basketball. “I just wanted you to know that there’s nothing that I think more of during my life than having had the opportunity to coach young boys, teach ’em how to be men and do it here,” he said. “I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for letting me do that.”
Known for his brash treatment of players that at times toed the line of what was acceptable behavior, Knight nevertheless always stuck to his guns on that front.
“What was right 25 years ago is still right,” he told Esquire magazine in 2000. “I’m not going to change. It’s up to [the players] to change. The best teachers I’ve known are intolerant people. They don’t tolerate mistakes.”