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Hall of Fame basketball coach Bobby Knight has died at 83

The family of Basketball Hall of Famer Bobby Knight said Wednesday that he died Wednesday at his Bloomington, Ind., home.

His outspoken attitude won over admirers and critics. He was 83. Knight was collegiate basketball royalty.

His record garnered praise and nicknames. His fans called him “the general.” Knight finished with over 900 wins, making him one of the most successful college coaches in the US. He was brash and rude, and his explosive temper often tarnished his successes.

After Bobby retired, John Feinstein, who wrote A Season on the Brink about Knight and the Hoosiers, spoke with NPR in 2008. Bob Knight was the best when he was good. A generous man. Cared about his players. He graduated.

Hall of Fame basketball coach Bobby Knight has died at 83

Feinstein called him the best. “When he was bad, there were few worse.” But Bobby was revered by many of his former players and fans, especially in basketball-loving Indiana, where he spent most of his coaching career. On October 25, 1940, Robert Montgomery Knight was born in Massillon, Ohio, and raised in Orrville, a tiny hamlet 20–30 miles outside Akron.

In 1960, Knight helped Ohio State University win the NCAA championship under Fred Taylor, a future Hall of Fame coach. Knight began head coaching at West Point. He was the youngest NCAA varsity coach at 24. Indiana University hired him in 1971 and kept him for 29 years.

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Bobby taught the team his motion offence, a game concept in which players reacted to the defence, established screens, and passed the ball until a teammate was open instead of using planned plays. He was known for his discipline and hard work. He also encouraged his athletes to study and attend class. Knight graduated about 80% of Indiana students, nearly double the Division I national average.

Mike Woodson, Indiana’s head coach, played for Bobby in the 1970s. Woodson played and coached in the NBA and credits Bobby for his success. “He taught me how to play the game of basketball from a fundamental standpoint,” said Woodson. “He taught me how to be a man on and off the floor, and that was huge for me coming out of the inner cities of Indianapolis.” Knight led Indiana to three NCAA titles in 1976, 1981, and 1987.

 

The team won 11 Big Ten titles and one NIT in 1979. Bobby led the U.S. teams that won gold at the 1979 Pan American Games and 1984 Olympics, in addition to coaching college. Those triumphs earned him several trophies, including four National Coach of the Year titles. Knight was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1991.

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Bobby complimented his assistant coaches and basketball players for his success in his remarks. “I’ve never felt comfortable with the award ‘Coach of the Year’ or coach of anything,” said Knight. “I think there’s a much more appropriate nomenclature that could be used, and that would be ‘Team of the Year.'” The National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame inducted Knight in 2006.

Bobby was content off the court despite his winning streak. He often yelled at referees and players. He was charged with attacking a Puerto Rico police officer during a Pan American Games practice in 1979. He threw a chair across the court against Indiana’s archrival, Purdue University, in 1985.

NBC confronted him about bad calls and stress in 1988, and he answered, “If rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it.” He explained that he was using an ancient phrase and not discussing rape. The comment outraged women’s groups. Knight led Indiana to 662 wins and 239 losses.

After his discharge, Knight coached at Texas Tech for almost seven years before resigning in 2008. He then analysed college basketball for ESPN until his contract expired in 2015. After nearly two decades away from Indiana University, the former coach returned in 2019 in poor health.

The following year, Knight entered Indiana’s Assembly Hall for a standing ovation at halftime against Purdue. He was silent but led the audience in his famous chant, “Defence, defence, defence.” Knight wrote about his coaching philosophy and life application in The Power of Negative Thinking. In an NPR interview, he advised individuals to work for success and a better day.

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The more we believe in doing things better and correctly, the more we should make it happen rather than hope for it. I viewed coaching that way throughout my career.” Knight was discharged from an Indiana hospital in April after an unexplained illness. After thanking supporters and praying, the family announced private services on Wednesday.

“We will continue to celebrate his life and remember him today and forever as a beloved husband, father, coach, and friend,” added the release. The family requested donations to the Alzheimer’s Association or Marian University in lieu of flowers.

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