(Photo from Google images)
You either love him or you hate him. No, I am not talking about President Trump. I am talking about the General, one of my hero’s, a Hall of Fame Coach, and one of the greatest basketball minds; Coach Bobby Knight. And just like you can’t change someone’s opinion in politics, you can never change my love for Coach Knight.
On September 10th 2000, Coach Knight was fired from Indiana University under then president Myles Brand’s zero tolerance policy. Coach Knight has a resume of highlights and what some may consider questionable reactions. When Knight was fired, he vowed to never come back. His disgust for that administration was never a secret, but he loved Bloomington and he loved the fans.
Coach Knight went on to coach at Texas Tech and then retired in 2008 with 902 career wins. He worked briefly with ESPN as color analyst. He continued to attend fundraisers, sign autographs, give speeches, and catch other basketball games in the state. He did watch IU baseball, on the road. (For anyone that has read KNIGHT My Story, you know that baseball was his first love.)
Current Athletic Director, Fred Glass, has said the door is wide open for Coach Knight to return anytime. Coach Knight returned to the court where he hung three National Championships for the first time after 20 long years.
No one would say why Coach Knight decided Saturday, February 8th was different from all the all other days over the past 20 years. Most would say the reason doesn’t matter, they just wanted him to come home.
A tribute video played before the slightly hutched, 6’5, 79 year-old beloved coach walked through the tunnel and to center court. The sold-out crowd chanted “Bobby, Bobby, Bobby” as Coach was greeted on the court by the 1979-80 players. “Thank you, coach” was chanted by those in the crowd who could chant while wiping away their tears. For some, this was a moment to walk down Hoosier memory lane. For others, they were witnessing the IU legend they grew up hearing stories about.
There were emotions of pure happiness and tears of joy. Emotions of relief and emotions of peace. All 17,222 fans in the arena were overcome with pure emotions. There was no speech from Coach, just a “Play Defense” yell to the crowd. (I don’t know if there is a coach who believes in the fundamentals of basketball more than Coach Knight.) But the emotional Coach didn’t need to say anything. Indiana University just needed Coach Knight to come home.
Clay Travis said on periscope Monday, “If you live long enough, you become beloved”. Time heals everything. I worry that the slow-moving 79 year-old coach is now playing against time. While his beautiful basketball mind may not be what it once was, I know Coach has never forgot how much his heart has wanted to come home. Welcome Home, Coach Knight.