Bob Knight

Bob Knight Biography

Bob Knight is a former American basketball coach who is most known for his time coaching the Indiana Hoosiers between 1971-2000. At the time of his retirement, he won 902 games which was a record at that time. He won three NCAA championships as a head coach, one NIT championship, and 11 Big Ten Conference championships as a coach for Indiana including going undefeated in the 1975-1976 season. He is one of the most innovative coaches in history, popularizing the motion offense.

  • Name: Robert “Bob” Montgomery Knight
  • Nationality: USA
  • Age: 80 years old
  • Birthday: October 25, 1940
  • Hometown: Massillon, Ohio
  • High School: Orrville High School (Orrville, Ohio)
  • Playing Career: Ohio State University, 1959-1962
  • Coaching Career: Cuyahoga Falls High School (assistant, 1962-1963); Army (assistant, 1963-1965); Army (head coach, 1965-1971); Indiana (head coach, 1971-2000), US Men’s Olympic Team (head coach, 1984); and Texas Tech (head coach, 2001-2008)
  • Broadcasting Career: ESPN, 2008-2015
  • Nickname: “The General”

Awards and Accolades

  • Basketball Hall of Fame (1991)
  • College Basketball Hall of Fame (2006)
  • 3 x NCAA Champion as coach (1976, 1981, 1987)
  • 5 x Final Four (1973, 1976, 1981, 1987, 1992)
  • 11 x Big Ten regular season title (1973-1976, 1980, 1981, 1983, 1987, 1989, 1991, 1993)
  • NIT Champion (1979)
  • Gold Medal Olympic Games (1984)
  • Gold Medal Pan American Games (1979)
  • Most wins all time as head coach with 902 wins (at time of retirement)
  • 1960 NCAA Champion as player
  • Naismith Award for Men’s Outstanding Contribution to Basketball (2007)
  • 2 x Henry Iba Award (1975, 1989)
  • Naismith College Coach of the Year (1987)
  • 3 x Coach of the Year (1975, 1976, 1989)
  • Clair Bee Coach of the Year Award (2002)
  • 8 x Big Ten Coach of the Year (1973, 1975, 1976, 1980, 1981, 1989, 1992, 1993)

Bobby Knight’s Early Life and Playing Career

Source: Elevenwarriors.com

Knight was born in Massillon, Ohio and grew up in Orrville, Ohio. He started to play and learn the game of basketball in high school when he attended Orrville High School. In a recent interview at Orrville High School, he confessed to sneaking into the high school to practice his game when he would want to improve highlighting his work ethic for the game.

I would crawl in and shoot baskets by myself

Bob Knight (2018 interview at Orrville High)

Knight went on to play basketball for Ohio State. He was a star in high school, but struggled to get playing time at OSU under future Hall of Fame coach Fred Taylor. He was a reserve forward on the 1960 Ohio State team that ended up winning the NCAA Championship. The team also featured basketball legends John Havlicek and Jerry Lucas. The Buckeyes reached the NCAA Championship games each of the following two years and lost to the Cincinnati Bearcats each of those years.

“Where there’s a great painting, there’s a great painter. Where there’s a great and unique building, there’s a great architect. Where there’s a great team, there’s a great coach. No team ever won a national championship with a better coach than Fred Taylor,” proclaimed Knight.

Source: Neil Leifer/Getty Images

Knight averaged 3.8 points and 2.1 rebounds over the course of his three-year career at Ohio State in his reserve role on the team. He likely would have had a better stat breakdown had there was not such a star-studded team during his time at Ohio State.

There are reports that he also received letters in football and baseball; however, there is no official record of this at Ohio State. He graduated with a degree in history and government in 1962.

Bobby Knight’s Coaching Career

Army

Source: Army Collegiate Images

After graduation from Ohio State in 1962, Knight coached for the junior varsity basketball team at Cuyahoga Falls High School in Ohio for a year. After this conclusion of this year, he enlisted in the Army and accepted an assistant coaching position with the Black Knights in 1963 and at the age of 24 he was named the head coach of the program.

In his six years as head coach, he amassed a record of 102-50 (.671). He reached the NIT 4 times and made it to fourth place in the tournament twice.

Of note, he was coach for future Hall of Fame head coach Mike Krzyzewski who later became his assistant and most noteworthy as the future head coach at Duke.

Bob Knight started to gain a reputation for having an explosive temper while coach for the Army team. Reports of him losing control, yelling, kicking lockers and verbally abusing officials, coaches and players started to surface at this time.

Indiana

In 1971, Knight was hired as the head coach for Indiana. In his first season, he defeated No. 14 Kansas, No. 7 Kentucky, No. 8 BYU, No. 16 Michigan, and No. 14 Ohio State and reached No.5 at one point during the season. However, Knight’s team reached the NIT and lost in the first round to Princeton.

Knight’s team improved drastically in his second season, reaching the Final Four and losing to John Wooden’s UCLA team that went 30-0. Knight did secure the third place finish with a victory over Providence in the Third Place Game.

Indiana reached the Elite Eight in 1974-1975 with Indiana’s first loss to Kentucky over the first four seasons Knight was coach over their six meetings (4 in regular season, 2 in post-season). This was a disappointment for the Hoosiers who rarely had any close games throughout the whole season and were No. 1 rank from 1/11/1975 till the end of the season. They swept the entire Big Ten by an average of 22.8 ppg. One of the biggest hurdles faced was losing Scott May to a broken left arm in the 83-82 victory at Purdue. Kentucky lost to eventual national champion UCLA.

In Knight’s fifth season as head coach, he ran the table and reached the perfect 32-0 record and Indiana’s third national championship in school history. They went perfect in Big Ten games this season as well. In the preseason, they defeated the reigning World Champion Soviet National Team by a convincing 94-78 margin. They were No. 1 the entire season and played one of the most dominating performances on 11/29/1975 against No. 2 UCLA where they won 84-64 In Gene Bartow’s first year as head coach of the Bruins.

Photo: AP

Knight later recalled telling the team the day before the first practice of the legendary 1975-76 season that the only objective was to go undefeated.

“I told them that winning the Big Ten, winning the NCAA would not be what they were capable of doing. I said, ‘You beat everybody that we play, that would be what you guys are capable of doing.’ I think it will always be their mantra, that they did what they were capable of doing,” said Knight.

1976-1977 was Knight’s most disappointing season as head coach of the Hoosiers. They finished 5th in the Big Ten, did not make post season play and ended with a 16-11 record. They were perceived to have another successful season as they started at No. 5.

Source: AP

The late 70’s were highlighted by another NIT appearance and championship behind Mike Woodson and several Sweet 16 appearances. Indiana had another lofty expectation to excel in 1980-1981 as they started the season at No. 5 but dropped out of the rankings by January. They were invited to the NCAA Tournament as a No. 3 seed. Bob Knight led Isiah Thomas and Ray Tolbert, two first round picks in the 1981 draft, to the post season and Indiana won their fourth championship after defeating No. 6 UNC 63-50.

Isaiah Thomas has openly spoken about his admiration for Knight and once famously said, “Outside of my mother, [Bobby Knight]’s had the greatest impact on my life.”

Photo: Sports Illustrated/Getty Images

Between 1981 and 1986, the Hoosiers did make the NCAA Tournament all years except one including advancing to a Sweet 16 and Elite Eight. In the 1982-1983 season, they were No. 1 and favorites to win another championship behind Uwe Blab, Ted Kitchel and Randy Wittman; however with the injury to Ted Kitchel, they were only able to make the Sweet 16.

In 1985-1986, John Feinstein was given unparalleled access to the program and wrote the best-selling book A Season on the Brink and included insights into Knight’s private life.

Indiana entered the 1986-1987 season at No. 3 and in Knight’s 16th year as head coach, won his third NCAA Tournament title, the fifth for Indiana. They reached an overall record of 30-4, won the Big Ten title, reached the tournament as a No. 1 seed. One of the most famous shots in Indiana and college basketball history occurred in the final 0:05 of the title game against Syracuse by Keith Smart. Steve Alford was awarded Big Ten Player of the Year and was drafted in the second round of the Draft. This team is noteworthy for achieving success without much individual NBA talent as noted by Alford being the top pick for the Hoosiers.

From 1990 to 1993, Knight’s Hoosiers won 87 victories in the Big Ten regular season games, the most of any team during a three-year span. The Hoosiers spent all but two weeks in the top 10 and 38 weeks were spent in the top 5. In 1991-1992, they reached another Final Four and 1992-1993 an Elite Eight.

As time wore on at Indiana, he saw less success as in 1993 was his last conference championship and 1994 his last Sweet 16 appearance.

Photo: AP

In 2000, Sports Illustrated ran a piece saying that Neil Reed was choked by Bob Knight in 1997. Knight denied this claim, but less than a month later, there was footage of Bob Knight’s hand around the neck of Neil Reed that surfaced. In 2018, ESPN films 30 for 30 series released “The Last Days of Knight” documenting a CNN journalist’s investigation into the story. 

Indiana adopted a zero tolerance policy for Knight’s behavior as a result. A non-player freshman, Kent Harvey showed Bob Knight disrespect by not addressing him as coach and as a result, Knight grabbed his arm and lectured him about respect. IU President Myles Brand relieved him of his duties after this surfaced and students protested Brand in outrage for this action. There were claims that this was set up by Harvey to get this response as his father was a outward critic of Knight.

Texas Tech

Knight took a year from coaching and looked for vacancies. He quickly found a new home at Texas Tech despite much opposition from faculty at the university. Knight quickly improved the program who did not see NCAA tournament play since 1996. He averaged 21 wins per season and 126 wins overall over 7 years. His best year was a 22-11 record and Sweet 16 appearance in 2004-2005.

During his time at Texas Tech, Knight had a reality show on ESPN called “Knight School” where players competed to become a walk on with the Red Raiders.

Knight handed over the head coaching duties mid-season to his son Pat Knight and he continued to live in Lubbock after he retired.

Coaching Philosophy

Bobby Knight was known for popularizing the “motion offense.” Thus, his teams were known for their proficient passing and unselfishness. On defense, Knight was a proponent of tenacious “man-to-man” defense. However, occasionally, he would implement a zone defense to throw opponents off guard.  

His schemes were flexible and could adapt to different styles. Knight also evolved his offenses over the years, incorporating new developments in basketball (such as incorporating elements of the Princeton offense when it became popular). He was also known for giving his players option plays, where they were meant to stand in a particular spot on the floor but had different plays they could run depending on the opponents defense.

Knight was also famous for his pre-game preparation. He often called the will to prepare one of the most important parts of success.

As a personality, He was known as a disciplinarian. He believed in holding players accountable and coaching them with tough love. For some, this was a beloved aspect of playing under Knight while others were uncomfortable with his aggressive style.

Furthermore, Knight was a strong believer in academics. His teams were well-known for performing well in school, as it was a requirement of all of his players. During his entire career, only four of his four-year players did not graduate (meaning 98% did graduate). In fact, while at Indiana, he graduated nearly 80% of all of his players. The national average for D1 at the time was 42%. Knight also tried to lobby the NCAA to adopt a rule where a program would lose a scholarship for every player who does a graduate within five years.

Bobby Knight’s Career after Coaching

Bob Knight was hired by ESPN from 2008 till 2015 to be a studio analyst and occasional color commentator for the network. He called an Indiana men’s basketball game in 2012.

Photo: New York Post

In February 27, 2019, Don Fischer stated that Bob Knight’s health has started to decline, but did not offer specifics. On April 4th 2019, Bob Knight made a public appearance and appeared to struggle with his memory and was stating false memories about Landon Turner and Michael Jordan.

On July 10, 2019 the Indiana Daily Student noted that Knight and his wife Karen have purchased a home in Bloomington for $572,500 suggesting that Knight has returned to Bloomington to live.

Controversies

Besides the choking incident that led to his eventual departure from Indiana, Bobby Knight has been no stranger to controversy over his career.

Knight reportedly got into a altercation with IU wrestling coach and 1960 Olympic gold medalist Douglas Blubaugh after Knight yelled at him for jogging during basketball practice. Blubaugh is said to have pushed Knight up against the wall.

In 1974, Knight hit Kentucky coach Joe B. Hall in the back of the head near the end of the Indiana-Kentucky game. Kentucky assistant Lynn Nance (a former FBI agent) was so angered by the incident that he had to be restrained. Bobby Knight said the slap was done “affectionately” and that “if it was meant to be malicious, I’d have blasted the f*cker into the seats.”

In 1979, Knight was accused of assaulting a police officer during the Pan-American Games in Puerto Rico. He was later convicted to a six-month jail sentence but Puerto Rico was unable to extradite him.

During a January 1981 game between Indiana and Purdue, IU’s Isaiah Thomas got in an altercation with Purdue’s Roosevelt Barnes. There was a great deal of back-and-forth regarding who instigated the incident. While protecting Thomas, Knight said he and his wife were the subjects of several vulgar statements from the Purdue crowd. Bobby Knight then invited the Purdue athletic director George King onto Knight’s weekly television show to discuss the matter. When King declined, Knight brought out a male donkey named “jackass” wearing a Purdue hat and said the donkey was Purdue’s representative during the show.

The infamous “chair game” was on February 23, 1985. Knight became incensed after two quick fouls were called on Indiana players. He grabbed a red plastic chair from the bench and flung it across the court. He apologized the next day but was given a one-game suspension, as well as two years probation by the Big Ten.

In 1988, he received immense criticism for comments he made in a television interview with Connie Chung. While discussing what he considered multiple poor calls against Indiana made by referees, he said “I think that if rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it.” Many condemned his flippant comment, particularly women’s groups.

Prior to a 1991 game against Purdue, Knight unleashed an expletive filled rant in front of his players. Behind the scenes, someone was secretly recording the practice and leaked the video. While it is unknown who was secretly filming, many believe it was then-IU manager and future NBA coach/executive Lawrence Frank. Many players have since stated that this was not a rare occurrence and was actually more of the norm for his practices.

In 1992, Knight received criticism once again for practicing antics. During the NCAA Tournament, he pretended to whip players Calbert Cheaney and Pat Graham. Many criticized this action for being racially insensitive, particularly considering Cheaney himself was black.

There were also several incidents involving Indiana University employees and students. Knight reportedly berated a university secretary and threw a potted plant at her. The pot shattered, covering her in glass. Another incident reportedly involved assistant coach Ron Felling. Knight is rumored to have thrown him out of a chair after hearing him disparage the Hoosier program in a telephone conversation. In 2000, Indiana freshman Kent Harvey told campus police that Knight yelled at him for speaking to Knight disrespectfully. Harvey also alleged Knight grabbed his arm violently.

In 2007, a Lubbock, Texas resident claimed that Bobby Knight fired a shotgun in his general direction after the resident complained that Knight was hunting too close to his house. Knight refuted his allegations.

After his coaching career, Knight was still finding himself in trouble. In 2009, he ignited the Indiana-Kentucky rivalry by disparaging UK coach John Calipari at a Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame fundraiser, saying, “We’ve gotten into this situation where integrity is really lacking and that’s why I’m glad I’m not coaching. You see we’ve got a coach at Kentucky, who put two schools on probation and he’s still coaching. I don’t really understand that.”

In 2011, Knight once again went after Kentucky players saying they didn’t even have to go to class. However, it turns out that UK’s stars that season actually did particularly well in class. In particular, Kentucky pointed out Patrick Patterson graduated in three years and John Wall had a 3.5 GPA. Knight later apologized for making the comments personal and instead claims he was making an overall criticism of the “one-and-done” trend.

In a 2016 book, former Indiana player Todd Jadlow alleged that Bobby Knight punched him in the face, broke a clipboard over his head, and squeezed his genitals as well as those of his teammates. However, despite these accusations, he still was a Bobby Knight supporter and even criticized the Indiana administration for Knight’s departure, saying they should have erected a monument of him.

In a 2017 interview on “The Dan Patrick Show,” Knight said he had no respect for Indiana’s administrators and he “hoped” they were all dead.

Bobby Knight Videos

Featured Photo: MANNY MILLAN/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED