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IU loses a legend



Bob Knight and IU basketball met for the first time more than 29 years ago. The date was March 27, 1971. Bill Orwig, athletics director at the time, hired Knight as the new coach.

Since then, Knight has guided IU to three national championships, 11 Big Ten titles and everything in between.

He is IU basketball.

Well, he was.

Knight was fired Sunday. The decision ended an illustrious career and separated the man and the school that have been known as one for nearly three decades.

"He was that program," said Digger Phelps, basketball analyst and former Notre Dame coach. "He's a good friend of mine, and I feel for him. It's sad for everybody."

Knight started to mold his legendary status as coach of IU in his second season, when the team won a Big Ten title for the first time. The Hoosiers also advanced to the Final Four that year for the first time under Knight.

IU's successes only multiplied during Knight's next few seasons.

The 1973 Big Ten title was the first of four consecutive conference titles for IU, and that conference dominance soon led to national dominance.

In the '75-76 season, the Hoosiers went undefeated during the regular season. They matched that feat the next season, when they went undefeated and won the NCAA title with a perfect 32-0 record, making them the last undefeated NCAA champion.

During those two seasons, the Hoosiers won 37 consecutive Big Ten games, a feat that hasn't been matched since. Knight was honored for his success with Big Ten and national coach of the year awards both years.

Scott May played for Knight during those glory years and didn't want to see his old coach leave.

"It was a tremendous asset to Indiana basketball and Indiana University that they just lost," May said. "It's really a sad day for the program. The guy was first of all a good coach, a good motivator. He taught fundamentals, had no recruiting violations. How many millions of dollars has he raised for the University?

"(He was) just an unbelievable guy to have on your side, so to speak. Is he going to be tough to replace? Yeah. I think it'd be tough to say that they're going to replace Bob Knight easily. I just don't see that happening."

Indeed, Knight won't be replaced easily.

After all, replacing Knight means replacing 661 victories -- 761 if you count his years at Army. It means replacing a four-time national coach of the year, a coach who has won more career games than all but four other coaches and a coach whose name rests atop most lists of coaching accomplishments.

Until Knight became an "inactive" coach Sunday, he had the second most final four victories and topped the list of most 20-win seasons among active coaches. He had the third most 25-win seasons.

But Bob Knight did more than win ballgames.

He made men.

"Well, the first thing I've always said about his program is it goes beyond championships and beyond games won," Sports Information Director Kit Klingelhoffer said. "You look at what kind of basketball program it is. You look at the people that've come out of his program.

"The young men that have come out of the program, they've all gone on to be tremendous successes. Whether it's in the classroom, on the basketball court or on the football field, the object is to turn out good people, and to me, that's what he's done throughout his career"

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