By Angela Norris
Former Indiana University college basketball coach Bob Knight captured the attention of an audience at Center Grove High School as the coach that was once a hero to thousands of people, young and old.
The Hall of Fame coach, also known as “The General”, spoke to an audience of several hundred people for 90 minutes at the high school on April 4. Knight coached from 1971 to 2000.
Former sports editor of the Bloomington Herald-Times, Bob Hammel, moderated the event and sat beside Knight, helping the coach to remember some of his fondest memories from his time with IU.
“I meant to tell you all earlier, by the way, I’m 82 and Bob is 78. Now, if you have a grandpa or great-grandpa that age, I guarantee you (that) A: his memory isn’t what it used to be and B: probably his hearing isn’t very good, either,” Hammel said, covering for his friend, Knight.
Knight displayed emotion at times and mentioned more than once that the best days of his life were when he coached IU. The first time he said it, he received a standing ovation.
At one point, Hammel said that he was going to read a list of great basketball players who lost their final college game to Knight and IU in the NCAA tournament. Included on the list was Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal and Don MacLean. Hammel started talking about the Olympics gold medal game Knight coached in 1984, when the U.S. beat Spain by more than 30 points.
After that, an audience member asked Knight for his advice on coaching mental toughness; then Knight’s cellphone rang. “Hang on,” Knight said to the audience, and answered the phone. “What the hell do you want?” he said to the caller. “Well, I’m busy. Can you give me a call? Give me a call in about a month. All right, well, call me in a little bit. Well, hell, yes I’m busy. What do you think? You know, I don’t just sit around on my ass like you do.” The audience erupted in laughter and applause at the usual witty banter from the coach.
Hammel then introduced his and Knight’s wives, who were sitting in the audience. Minutes later, after their wives had been introduced, Knight interrupted a story to ask if his wife was there. “My wife is over there; where are you?” Knight said. “Please stand.”
“OK, well, the reason I ask for my wife to show her presence … she’s without any exception the smartest person I’ve ever known and she was a damn good coach and I actually would listen to her.”
He then reflected on the past, time spent with the players and coaches and talked about his appreciation for them.
When asked by an audience member his predictions for the final four, Knight said, “Well, I think it will be the team with the best defense.” The audience cheered.
The former coach’s legacy will be remembered throughout generations of basketball and Hoosier fans alike.