Knight returns to Assembly Hall

After nearly 20 years of staying away, Bob Knight returned to Assembly Hall on Saturday.

During a halftime celebration for the 1980 team and other players from that era, the Hoosiers’ legendary coach returned to a warm embrace from the crowd.

“Bobby, Bobby, Bobby,” was the chant as Knight emerged from the tunnel.

For years, ceremonies honoring IU’s best teams in front of the Assembly Hall faithful were absent one of its most important figures — a complicated icon who, after his firing from IU in 2000, had left under tense circumstances and vowed never to return. Just as it would take time to heal the fractures his ouster created in the IU basketball community, it took even more time for Knight, resettled in Texas, to find the grace required to make a Bloomington return.

While he as recently as 2017 expressed a desire never to step foot on IU’s campus, telling Dan Patrick in a radio interview that he wished all the administrators associated with his firing were “all dead,” small steps closer to Assembly Hall were made in the years before and after that statement.

In 2013, Knight’s appearance at a Wal-Mart  — 5.8 miles southwest of Assembly Hall — drew a flock of supporters. Just a couple of weeks after the Patrick interview, IU’s legendary coach came to Bloomington North High School — 2.7 miles northwest of Assembly Hall — and gave a speech praising recently named IU coach Archie Miller and the IU fanbase. The next year, he spoke at Bloomington South.

A year after that, in April 2019, Knight attended an IU baseball game at Bart Kaufman Field, just three-tenths of a mile north of the Hall. That summer, he moved back to Bloomington and began popping up in the social media timelines of his admirers, posing for pictures. He even visited the Bluebird for an event hosted by an IU basketball fan podcast, Hoosier Hysterics, when he was asked if he would like to attend a game sometimes soon.

“Let’s go tomorrow, “ Knight told fans at the bar.

Nearly three months later, the most famous name in IU basketball history was back in the building. That small act, standing alongside his former players during the halftime celebration, was a cathartic moment many had waited for.

He walked out with former players Scott May and Quinn Buckner and son Pat at his side, and Knight was then fully embraced by the rest of his players once he reached center-court, a group that included Isiah Thomas and Mike Woodson. 

Knight was passionate in a moment, pumping his fist and shouting some words to the crowd. He also went to say hello to ESPN broadcaster Dick Vitale. At that point, he faced the student section and engaged them in a chant of “Defense, defense.”

IU athletic director Fred Glass released a statement after Knight’s appearance.

“Over the course of his Hall of Fame career, I don’t think anything meant more to Coach Knight than the relationships he developed with his players, and it’s great that he is able to enjoy this moment with so many of them,” Glass said. “We are very pleased to welcome him back to Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.”

 

16 comments

  1. This homecoming was five to ten years too late, but I guess it’s a case of better late than never. I don’t know what to make of the Assembly Hall crowd’s reaction to his return. So many of the people in attendance were too young to remember the Bob Knight people my age knew.

    I hope Knight, his family and his IU players are at peace now and that only their good memories of their time with him remain. We will never see the likes of him again.

  2. Today was the epitome of the stark contrast of what IU BASKETBALL was, and what it now is. I was shocked that the crowd seemed stunned during this halftime event. Of course it was emotional, but I thought the place would be as loud as it was when Watford drilled the shot vs. KY. I figured I wouldn’t be able to hear Dicky V & ESPN would break with nothing to be said or heard. Certainly the majority of the crowd was there during those “good ole days”. I guess I had envisioned more. I was teary eyed and speechless as it unfolded.

    But it was because I realized how much IU Basketball meant and means to me. It is a large part of my DNA, attitude, & personal competitiveness that I doubt I’d have otherwise.

    But then I realized that every kid in the student section never saw Knight coach a game. At best a 6th yr. Sr. or grad student would’ve been 4 or 5 when we last went to a Final Four. Yet we all hang on to the glory days which are so so far, far away. And that was apparent as well when the mountain of a man, and a legend that basically built the mecca he was visiting, appeared strikingly frail. It is such a tragedy how it became, how it was, and how it all came crumbling down.

    Still today we are left with ashes. Ashes of a successor who couldn’t handle the pressure. Ashes of the next man up who violated our program ethics. Ashes of a lame duck former player who tried to mop up the mess he was part of & is now left with bitterness. Ashes of a rebuilder who got us back to relevance, but fell far short of prior excellence. And new ashes are building up, adding on to those prior, to the point of utter darkness.

    As the day and night have worn on, I have been reminded of several important lessons.
    1. Everyone’s best days are numbered.
    2. What once was, may never be found again.
    3. Be happy for what you DO have every day.
    4. Don’t take anything for granted.
    …..ya’ll get the drift.

    I probably care more than the entire student section. And that, to me, is so very sad. It is not my version of Indiana anymore.

  3. Awz,
    I know we all wax nostalgic for those glory days of old, and they were great. I’m very sorry these kids couldn’t have been around to see RMK coach in his prime.

    However, could RMK have coached in today’s basketball world? The truth of the matter is, we know he probably could not have done so, because he was already starting to have difficulty with the changing culture as his tenure neared the end. He was already having trouble with the self-absorbed culture of the kids coming in who had no idea of a team first mentality. The only thing we see now is the narcissistic mentality of today’s recruits who only view college as a necessary stepping stone to the megabucks of the nba. It doesn’t matter whether they actually have the talent to play at the next level, they all think they do.

    The only thing worse than so many thinking they have a fast track to fame and fortune, is for the most part, those who actually do have the talent. Those are the ones who usually (there are exceptions) will place themselves first, and the team second. Doesn’t matter if the team tanks or they damage their own potential, they’ll still look out for themselves first and the team second. I think that may be at the root of what we are dealing with currently with IUBB, and it is a poison which will destroy a locker room.

    Weeding this mentality out of your program does not happen overnight because it taints everything it comes in contact with even after the source is removed. IUBB spent 10 years recruiting this type of mentality, and it will take several years to get that out of the culture. Some may pan the incoming class this fall, but I see them as an antidote to what ails IUBB. I see team first guys in all 3 of the recruits. I don’t care if we only recruit 3 & 4* players just so long as they are team first and will stick around 4 years. If we do that, the wins will eventually come.

    However, if we fall into the trap of “got to have it now,” IUBB may never hang another banner.

    1. I completely agree on every point. Unfortunately if (y)our instincts are correct, our fan base will continue to fracture and our current coach will get run out of town by 2022 due to not achieving to expectations which are Final Fours, Elite 8s & Sweet 16s. I believe he is a really good coach trying to instill a ‘defense first’ mentality that the personnel is simply not interested or capable of executing. Sticky defense leads to layups & free foul shots which lead to better shooting overall after seeing the ball go through the net.

      It was quite telling who got sent to the press conference yesterday; TJD & Hunter. I believe it wasn’t just because they scored the most points. I believe it was for us to look forward. Interesting also that TJD dominated the discussion.

      As for Green (again), Mr. Me-First, unfortunately he IS the key to digging us out of holes. But when he isn’t hitting, he sulks. In fact, when he doesn’t start he sulks. It starts there. Unfortunately we’ll go as far as he takes us, as sad as that is. I think that is the crux of the underlying problem here. The “win now if Green shows up” vs. “live w/o him to change the guard”, pardon the pun.

  4. AWIN and Think reading your posts and watching Knight’s return, I have to agree with you Think. Most if not all the men introduced as the players came to IU as kids who would rather shoot hoops in their drive way than spend time on smart phones. The recruits today think being a “gym rat” is someone that shows up to a gym and shoots baskets for an hour and then leaves to do other things. I attended Kokomo high School in the 60’s and can recall Kids that wanted to Play high school ball HAD TO play “pick up ” ball at Foster Park from Noon to 10 PM 6 days a week or they wouldn’t get past first cut for team. IM not so sure some of today’s players can say they spent their summers playing pick up basketball. Most play AAU tourneys and that’s about it. go home and rest never to pick up a basketball til the weekend. I think skills have suffered, I think “basketball” discipline has declined. I think basketball “I Q” is learned on the pick up courts of the city parks and not BORN with it. We point a “blaming” finger at Archie but reality may be that when the recruits get here, their “basketball discipline” is already set firmly and trying to adjust it or improve it is nearly if not 100% impossible. Green is perfect example..as much as hasa been written and expressed , he STILL insists on “loosey-goosey” style basketball. We as fans may have to realize that the players that are 4-5 stars todaywouldnt rate a 3 star years ago.

  5. Everyone disappointed in the crowd at halftime? I certainly wasn’t. I observed them to be loud(Bobby Bobby Bobby), interested, engaged and respectful. Even in his present health RMK was fiery(defense defense), challenging and playful. I believe it was Vitale repeating his answer to why did you move back to Bloomington, ‘the fishing is good, we have friends here and my my players are close’. Vintage Knight.

  6. It was a freak show…and Knight is a shell of himself. I saw nothing in it as “healing.”
    My favorite memory of Knight over the last decade is when he refused Crean for a handshake….That’s the Knight I will remember in splender. And it was in that moment of dissing Crean, a charlatan who set us back 20 years, which speaks to everything ThiNKaBouTit put in his comments above @ 8:08 a.m.

    I was speaking of the NBA/”Me First” mentality permeating the program when it was in the comforts and mirages of winning and high rankings…I still saw the damage that was being done and how disjointed the product proved to be in March Madness. Nobody listened. Nobody cared. ‘The General’ saw it clear as a day his sharpest mind.
    Knight would have happily returned long ago had we not insulted McCracken and his old teams with the malarkey and collusion between Glass and Crean. They had marketed Indiana into a circus act….I nearly throw up when I think of what those two men did to Indiana Basketball. Archie has inherited all of that dysfunctional mess and ineptitude so far removed from what the candy stripes, Knight and ‘Indiana’ represented in team and teaching first and foremost.

    Yesterday? Freak show almost as big a freak show as the dysfunctional basketball played for the decade preceding Archie. Crean was nothing more than poor man’s version of John Calipari….with even less basketball IQ. Outside of Zeller saving his butt, it was always about Galileo finding his next D-Wade to put on his resume….Those kids (primarily Indiana kids) who wanted more out of the candy stripes were always fighting against the dysfunction and the projects…and the waiting on athleticism to finally catch up to fundamentals and basketball understanding.

    1. “Grrrrr!!! Keeping holding grudges! Feed my anger!!!

      Grrrrr!

      It isn’t 1976 anymore!

      Grrrrr!!!”

      Sorry you’re so miserable Harv. Even the old man with the deepest grudge gave his up. But you have to turn a day that had nothing to do with Crean into a rant about him and Zeller. Looking forward to the decades to come of the same copy and paste rant.

      Yesterday wasn’t as much about Knight as it was about all those players who played for him. THEY were the ones who wanted him to come back and bury the hatchet. It wasn’t about Knight and Indiana University. It was about Knight and all the players who proudly worked their butts off for him and still care about the candy stripes they earned under him.

      Guess what? YOU didn’t earn those candy stripes. I’m only interested in those who did and what they think. They wanted Knight to come back home and it meant everything to them. Sorry they didn’t reach out and take consul some angry crank who can only see soggy fries everywhere he looks.

      1. Oh, never mind….Your anger is contemporary anger. I bet your farts smell sweeter too… Probably something to do with the California sun.

        1. Harv,

          Just realize that you see things how you choose to. I choose to view decades of players who ran, worked, shot, sweat, ran, worked, and earned the values their coach taught them to win. You and I see things similarly when we look to the past, but realize that in the present, I choose to see a celebration of all those human beings who accomplished so much and they earned every star. It was the first time I felt true comfort in seeing those stars on the backs of Indiana apparel when I saw it on the backs those who earned it.

          Bob had the deepest grudge in all of sports held within him. You could see the effects of that grudge in his body and his one whip smart mind. In one weekend, he was able to let go and forgive, because of the love of all those players who surrounded him and cared that we all were able to be together as an Indiana family once again. He came home not to the Fred Glasses and McRobbies, or the Myles Brands or Clearance Donningers….but because of those adults, who as kids absolutely played their hearts out to the last whistle for him.

          We can go back and relive all the missteps of the past, but I hope we learn from them and move forward as a Hoosier family. Let’s move on. This halftime was a chance for all of us to celebrate the greatest game on earth, in the home of the greatest basketball state at the best university in the land. AH felt alive again for the first time in a really long time. Everything that made that cathedral a magical place, were all embodied on that floor for ten minutes on cold, windy Indiana saturday.

          Harv, you’re not wrong, it is just sad that you see the world as nothing but soggy fries in 2020. There’s so much more. Bury your own hatched and let’s enjoy whatever our path will be moving forward. Heal my friend, heal. Forgive.

          Blessings to everyone and to you specifically, Harvard.

      2. I was disappointed to see all the Steves absent. No Steve Risley…No Steve Downing…No Steve Alford (he’ll show up after were done with Archie, I suppose).

        And where was Landon?

  7. No coach or AD is going to “weed out” the culture of this generation. The challenge is to adapt to it and find ways to motivate the players of this generation to set their individual priorities aside and come together to play for the team’s success. That’s what leadership is about. That’s why today’s best college coaches get paid $4 to $7 million a year to do. And many of them are doing that very well and continue to produce successful teams that include several players that have the potential to play professional basketball.

    I do not believe the majority of talented college basketball players are selfish, self centered, narcissistic or realistically plan to play in the NBA. I believe most of them have a strong desire to be a part of a successful team and experience the joy such an experience provides. I do not believe their is any inherent conflict of interest between wanting to be a part of a successful team and wanting to enjoy personal success after one’s college experience is finished, whether that’s for one year or four years. I do not believe TJD displays any of those characteristics, and he’s one of the most talented players IU has recruited in many years.

    But if I was a highly talented HS BB player evaluating IU’s BB team and considering whether to accept IU’s scholarship offer, I’d be asking myself a few really important questions: 1) why are these IU players and this team not getting any better? 2) why don’t they play with any passion or heart? 3) does the coach have the skills to fix the problem, or is he stuck with some intransigent players that simply refuse or are unable to change? I doubt that I would conclude that it was a cultural issue that permeates this generation of players. I doubt that I would attribute IU BB’s problems to a few selfish, self-centered players. I might not be able to answer those questions definitively, but just having the questions would create doubt and leave me to conclude that their are better options for my college BB career.

    Archie’s very lucrative job is to figure out how to get the players on his team to play winning basketball. But as we witnessed yesterday, he is failing to achieve that objective. He even admitted it during the post-game press conference. Two year’s ago, it was a roster dominated with players that Archie did not recruit and the need to learn a new style. Last year, the unprecedented number of injuries to IU’s roster gave Archie a pass. But this season, with the excuses from the two previous seasons stripped away, it’s looking more and more like Archie simply does not have the skills necessary to accomplish the mission.

    I really hope yesterday’s terrible performance was the low point of this season and of Archie’s tenure at IU. I hope the players feel embarrassed about their pour performance and lack of effort, and that they decide, individually and collectively, to improve their performance. I hope they go on to win four more conference games and then catch fire in the Big Ten Tournament, and that earns them a birth into the NCAA. But if they don’t, Archie’s tenure at IU hinges on the 2020/2021 season. And given the money he’s getting paid, that is entirely appropriate. Four seasons is enough to demonstrate that you have the skills to be a successful Big Ten BB coach.

    1. I would suggest you listen to the interview the BigTen did with Lamar Stevens of Penn State…Then tell me the last time we’ve had a kid in candy stripes that was as driven to do something special with his teammates.

  8. He even visited the Bluebird for an event hosted by an IU basketball fan podcast,

    I was wondering about the nose now explained….

  9. I was done with Knight, it seemed that Indiana had done about all they could to mend things. But not to be moved by what we saw Saturday is hard to understand. Nearly every undergrad at the game wasn’t even born when Knight was fired, to them he is old history. Given that, I thought the reception was very good. And to say Crean set up back 20 years is ridiculous.

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